Teachers ‘made ill because of impossible targets’, union president warns

Too many teachers have been “made ill” chasing impossible targets and have “lost confidence” in their work, the president of a leading teaching union has said.

Teachers were also being made to feel they were “the cause of all that is wrong in this country”, Kathy Wallis said in a speech to the NASUWT teaching union’s annual conference in Birmingham today.

Ms Wallis, who takes over the NASUWT presidency today, told delegates they were making a “real difference” to their students’ lives.

She said: “What makes you even more extraordinary is that you are doing it in the face of a daily onslaught telling you that you are the cause of all that is wrong in this country.

“I am fed up with the problems of the world all being laid at the feet of some of the most talented and inspirational people in the UK.

“Well, colleagues, it’s about time we looked at what we really have done and started to shout out loud. It’s time to take back the classroom and take back our profession.”

Ms Wallis said too many teachers had been “made ill because of impossible targets imposed on them” and had “lost confidence in themselves as teachers.”

She said: “This is why I am a trade unionist and why unions are, and must remain, relevant today.”

Ms Wallis, a special educational needs and pupil behaviour specialist from Cornwall, urged teachers to focus on caring for their pupils rather than bureaucratic tasks.

“How will your students remember you?” she said. “Will they remember the teacher who sits up half the night deep marking in six different colours? Or will they remember the teacher who showed they cared for each and every pupil , the teacher who had the courage to build a connection with their students?”

“We care enough about them to help them make their dreams come true. Politicians may have written them off but teachers never do.”

During her speech to the conference, Ms Wallis paid tribute to her grandmother Emma Davey, a suffragette, calling her “an amazing woman who left me a huge legacy and a glass ceiling to break.”

Ms Davey was “a woman who demonstrated on the streets, who chained herself to railings and who defied those around her who said ‘women can’t and women shouldn’t,’” Ms Wallis said. “That’s how our human rights were won. By ordinary people coming together.”

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