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#NAHTconf: General secretary Paul Whiteman’s speech

Paul Whiteman, NAHT general secretary, closed the association’s Annual Conference in Telford today (Sunday 5 May) praising the tenacity and determination of members in the most challenging financial climate schools have known.

He said: “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.”

Mr Whiteman 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 – the first time this has happened for 22 years. Back in 1997, Liz Paver was President, Margaret Morgan was Vice President and Esme Corner was the National Treasurer. Women are at the heart of this association. They always have been. They always will be.”

Reflecting on the nation’s current political crisis, and school leaders’ role, Mr Whiteman 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 brexiter or a remainer we can all agree our political leaders have been found wanting. Whatever the outcome it will be the generation being educated now that we will depend upon to repair the damage. If we short-change them now, and cut back on their education now, we do so at our own risk.”

Whatever the outcome of Brexit, Mr Whiteman said he believed that the UK will “need the best educated and most 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 just these things, we will cheat our children and our future. We need young people leaving education confident of their place in the world.”

On NAHT’s calls to end child poverty and make the society we live in fairer, Mr Whiteman 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 for this or fix these problems on their own. I won’t allow the government to make that mistake.”

Press and Media contacts:

Steven George
NAHT Head of Press and Media
01444 472886
07970 907730

Rose Tremlett 
Senior Press Officer 
07545 354363

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