Chairman’s Speech In Full

It is with trembling hands that I must confess to my lack of confidence in public speaking. The upcoming moments may prove to be a challenge for me, but I hope it will not be too taxing for you. I admire those who can command an audience with such ease and grace, especially after witnessing a gentleman who had just that kind of authority when I chaired a meeting. Afterward, I asked him for his notes to create a press release and he had actually written only a handful of essential phrases on the back of a bus ticket.

Despite my admiration for great orators, I must admit that I struggle with sticking to a prepared script. In the words of one of my former drama teachers, "Write your own play, but until then, stick with the author’s words." Therefore, to all the press members reading this speech, do not expect me to stick precisely to the script in front of you.

I received advice from others to plan this speech ahead of time, which I did. However, the final draft is quite different from the beginning. There are a few reasons for this, the main two being that what I want to say is interconnected, making it difficult to compartmentalize, and that changes in education continue to occur rapidly, with government "initiatives" happening almost too frequently.

My speech is based on our conference’s theme, "Privileged and Trusted," but I must admit that there will be an aspect of "Pressurized and Traumatized" as well, despite the risk of sounding like a complaining teacher.

Years ago, I had the privilege of traveling with a group of educators to Saarland, Germany, where I saw a stained glass window of three pillars of society: a Lawyer, a Physician, and a Teacher, each representing a vital aspect of society. It is our privilege to work in education, and I believe it was Professor Michael Barber who said, "To be a teacher is to touch tomorrow." Quality education is essential for future generations, and it is a sign of a developing and civilized society. As one of our seminar leaders put it, “One fifth of the population is one hundred percent of the future,” and it is our duty to ensure that we educate these young people correctly, both as part of society and as individuals.

I had the privilege of teaching during the 70s and 80s when education was innovative and exciting. We, as teachers, had the freedom to try new approaches, methods, and even subjects such as primary French, which was later deemed ineffective and dropped. It’s ironic that now schools are encouraged to reintroduce French at the primary level. We were trusted to do what was best for our students, and although we did not always get it right, we had the support of those around us.

As educators, we have the responsibility to speak up about what is wrong in education while highlighting its strengths and successes. This is not whingeing but rather a way of protecting the interests of our children and securing our future. Doug McAvoy of NUT puts it succinctly when he reminds us that everyone, including MPs, can get things wrong.

The current education system has drastically restricted the freedom that once existed for teachers. While some measures were necessary to curb excesses, the over-constraining nature of the system has left little room for initiative and excitement in the classroom. While the idea of a national curriculum was a sound one, its implementation, along with inappropriate provisions, has caused a number of complications. Nowadays, there is little time within the constraints of the school day for anything outside of lessons. The pressures on children today to succeed, succeed quickly and conform to trends is overwhelming. There is little opportunity for them to enjoy the true innocence of childhood, which we ourselves once had. The constant testing and expected maturity of young children is disheartening, and the introduction of sensitive topics such as sex education and drugs at such a young age is concerning. As educators, it is critical that we protect the rights and well-being of our young people and view them as little beings with their own unique personalities and requirements for holistic development.

Who else has the power to shape the minds of the youth besides parents and teachers? The answer lies in society and the mass media. Last year, the PAT received backlash for expressing concerns over specific television programs and pre-teen magazines and their detrimental impact. However, we are willing to take that risk again this year to address the gradual decline of standards in our society. We are not alone in pushing for change. The Broadcasting Standards Commission has released a final report that has called for an investigation into the impact of violence on our screens. Another report notes that the excessive use of profanity on television has rendered it ineffective and widely acceptable. It is undeniable that the media holds tremendous power, evident in the number of individuals emulating David Beckham’s signature style and attire. The Children’s Minister should prioritize enforcing more stringent guidelines and the nine o’clock watershed.

The last member of the "Privileged Position Club" is the government, tasked with overseeing the development of 20% of our present. It falls on them to bear the greatest responsibility in this regard, yet they have succumbed to a vicious cycle of initiatives, confusion, and crisis. The Department of Education’s paperwork has increased significantly over the years, and despite numerous changes to existing plans and systems, there seems to be no end in sight. Last year’s exams fiasco and the current funding crisis have led to redundancies in many schools, which may not even be accounted for by the government. The blame game shifts from one entity to another, with the headteacher and the local educational authority taking the brunt of it. Suggestions to reduce the salary bill by either refusing salary increases or firing staff only contribute to a decrease in morale and standards. The government’s promises of cash injections into schools have been met with cynicism due to instances of "creative accountancy" as seen in the case of one school receiving a mere £18K increase instead of the much-touted £90K. Despite all this, the government continues to intensify the pressure on staff and students to meet their targets.

It has been observed that monitoring the developments is crucial to ensure that resources are sufficient, and that all those involved have access to appropriate training opportunities, particularly HLTAs (Higher Level Teaching Assistants). Unfortunately, the DfES (Department for Education and Skills) is currently falling short in providing clear and adequate publicity about what these changes entail. Michael Barber has acknowledged that the government needs to learn an important lesson in order to dispel the negative attitudes towards their policies. The Workforce Remodeling presents an opportunity for the government to initiate this change if they choose to do so.

In conclusion, there is a quote that I am unable to attribute to its writer due to my illegible handwriting which states that, "the future is not a destination that we arrive at, but rather one that we are creating." I wish you success in creating a bright future within your classrooms.


  • kaylarusso

    Kayla Russo is an educational blogger and volunteer and student. She is a 27 yo educational blogger and volunteer and student who loves to help others learn.



Kayla Russo is an educational blogger and volunteer and student. She is a 27 yo educational blogger and volunteer and student who loves to help others learn.

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