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Policy conference - day one roundup

NAHT’s policy conference kicked off in style this morning (Friday 8 October) with general secretary Paul Whiteman telling delegates that their union has ‘never been stronger, larger or more influential’.

The conference, the first to be held in the same room as delegates since 2019, also heard the general secretary challenge the current government to be more ambitious and think beyond simply helping schools to recover.

“There has been intense debate about ‘education recovery’ in recent months: what form it should take, what pupils have missed out on, and what it will cost,” Whiteman told delegates. “What worries me about this is how narrow that discussion sounds when you think of what young people will really need from schools and colleges in the coming months and years.”

Whiteman also paid tribute to school leaders, reminding delegates that “they had been on the front line of this pandemic”, adding they “had not been given enough credit for that”.

Paul Whiteman’s speech followed an opening address by this year’s president Tim Bowen, who also reflected on the sacrifices made by those in the profession: “You put yourself directly in harm’s way to keep your schools open to support the children of critical workers and those who were most vulnerable, along with the staff working with them. When little was known about the virus, other than that it was a killer, many school leaders I know were in school every single day”.

Bowen went on to consider the important contribution schools made to wider society during the pandemic, telling delegates that: “in many cases schools, have been the only source of support available to pupils and their families. The hard work and courage of school leaders and their teams have protected some pupils from the worst excesses of the last year and a half.”

Delegates were reminded of the president’s chosen charity for this year, Education Support, an organisation dedicated to supporting the well-being of teachers and education staff.

After the general secretary’s address, delegates proceeded to get on with the business of passing policy, debating a number of motions on school funding, developing NAHT’s equalities work, and preventing violence and aggression against school staff.

NAHT’s policy conference will resume at 9am tomorrow and you can catch all the action, including an address from the new secretary of state for education Nadhim Zahawi, by heading over to our Facebook page to watch our live stream. You can also follow the conference on Twitter by using the #NAHTconf hashtag and check out our Flickr stream to see the latest photos from today.

First published 08 October 2021