NAHT Annual Conference: Hobby urges members to ‘continue the fight’ as he steps down after seven years

Written by: Dorothy Lepkowska | Published:
Fight on: Out-going NAHT general secretary Russell Hobby during his final address to the union's annual conference

The out-going leader of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) used his farewell speech to members to urge them to continue the fight for state education.

Russell Hobby, the NAHT’s general secretary for the past seven years, said school leaders could be called upon to take industrial action over “massive cuts” which would harm standards of education.

He told delegates on the final day of the union’s annual conference in Telford that it was not the proposed new National Funding Formula that was the problem, but the amount of money the government was making available for state schools.

He mocked the Department for Education’s advice to schools to seek new deals on photocopiers to save money. “You can’t find
£3 billion by renegotiating a few photocopier contracts,” he said. “The bulk of education spending is on people. These cuts will mean cuts to staffing.

“The majority of our members tell us that they will not be able to balance their books without significant cuts. School business leaders aren’t sleeping at night.”

He blamed government “vanity projects” such as free schools and the expansion of grammars for diverting funding “from the many”. Mr Hobby said grammar schools were “a little gift to the elite disguised in the trappings of populism”, adding that the expansion of the policy would make things worse for a majority of students.

Mr Hobby said that he was proud that it was during his tenure as general secretary that the union had taken its first industrial action, and warned they might have to do so again in the future.

He also raised concerns about the use of assessment in school accountability: “Increasingly I am of the belief that the fundamental problem in our system is not so much assessment itself but the accountability attached to it,” Mr Hobby said.

“A well-designed assessment can be a vital tool for teachers. It is crude accountability which distorts and corrodes the integrity of assessment.”

The NAHT has said this week that their preferred replacement for Mr Hobby is Paul Whiteman, the union’s current director of representation and advice. If there are no challengers, Mr Whiteman will be confirmed as NAHT general secretary on May 17.


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