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Paul Whiteman praises members for leading in challenging times

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Paul Whiteman opened his address to delegates by praising the tenacity and determination of members in the most challenging financial climate schools have known. “Despite the chaos, despite the frequent heart break, despite the hard work, despite the toll taken on you and your family you carry on.  Not only do you carry on, but you find solutions and push for improvement. You don’t just throw criticism from the side-lines you take part; you step up.”

Paul reflected on the growing strength of the union and the number of women in senior roles: “NAHT’s 30,000 membership is overwhelmingly female. Look at the conference platform and you will see the three most senior elected roles: treasurer, vice president and president are all now held by women. Women are at the heart of this association. They always have been. They always will be.”

Reflecting on the nation’s current political crisis, Paul said: “Our politicians have left our country in chaos. Our international standing is at its lowest ebb. Our future is uncertain. Let’s be honest, no matter if you are a brexiteer or a remainer we can all agree our political leaders have been found wanting on this one. Whatever the outcome, it will be the generation being educated now that we will depend upon to repair the damage.”

Whatever the outcome of Brexit, Paul says the UK will “need the best educated and productive generation we have ever known. They will need to be equipped to undertake roles that we have not yet even imagined. We will need school leavers confident in reading, writing and recalling their times tables but if we limit our measure of achievement to this, we will cheat our children and our future. We need young adults leaving education confident of their place in the world.”

On our calls to end child poverty, Paul said, “The issues that underpin inequality reach far beyond the school gates and exist throughout the communities that schools serve. It would be wrong to expect schools to carry the can or fix the problem on their own. I won’t allow the government to make that mistake.”

Paul closed his speech and the conference with his vision for the future of the union, saying: “The quality, delivery and standards of education in schools across England, Wales and Northern Ireland rests upon the shoulders of school leaders, NAHT members. Our task is simple to describe. To create the best conditions within which school leadership can succeed. In doing so, children will receive the very best education possible. Growing the union will create strength and security. Promoting professional communities will create belonging, confidence and professional growth. Our voice will be credible and powerful, delivering the influence necessary to succeed. We will work with government, we will advise, and we will campaign with all vigour to highlight what is wrong in the system and encourage those in power to make the right decisions, we will use our voice.”

Watch the full speech below.

First published 09 May 2019