The section on education signalled in a few brief sentences that Michael Gove, the education secretary, would not be giving way to the concerns of the profession or others in driving forward his plans.
There were four main references to education, including the implementation of the new national curriculum and the wider examination reforms at GCSE and A level, which will see the move to terminal examinations among other changes.
Also included was the controversial move to performance-related pay for teachers, which comes into effect from September 2014.
The speech also referenced the government’s ambition that it “becomes typical for those leaving school to start a traineeship or an apprenticeship, or to go to university”. Traineeships are six-month courses run with employers that are intended to form a “stepping stone” to Apprenticeships and other jobs for students aged 16 to 19. They are to be introduced in August.
The speech drew criticism from teachers this week, who are concerned at curriculum and pay reforms. Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: “Many teachers are genuinely in despair about the curriculum proposals and many others outside of the classroom, including the business sector, have also expressed concerns.
“The education secretary’s haphazard examination reform and the lack of recognition of vocational subjects is just one example of how little Michael Gove understands the career paths and life chances that are open to pupils through vocational subjects.”
Ms Blower added that plans to deregulate teachers’ pay would “create unnecessary work for individual schools and headteachers” and would be “chaotic”.
Meanwhile, Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said it was “yet another glaring example that we have a government in a hurry, which is more interested in imposing its ideology than making sure any changes will benefit children”.
“This government risks doing immense damage to children’s education by rushing through ill-thought-out and deeply flawed plans which lack any evidence that they will improve children’s education,” she added.
Dr Bousted said the draft curriculum was too detailed, often inappropriate for pupils’ ages and risked narrowing opportunities for many. On exam reforms, she added: “This government’s knee-jerk response to a perceived fall in exam standards belittles the hard work of the young people about to sit their GCSEs and A levels.”