The following speech was delivered on April 9th, 2007, during the National Union of Teachers‘ Conference in Harrogate, North Yorkshire.
President, General Secretary, distinguished guests, comrades and friends.
It has been a privilege and an honour to work with the Union in bringing together students, teachers and parents to create this Charter. It has been a pleasure working with Steve Sinnott, John Bangs, Samidha Garg and other colleagues in the production of it. It is a measure of Steve Sinnott’s personal commitment and responsible leadership that, despite his punishing schedule as General Secretary of the Union, he found the time to attend each of the round table sessions and share his vision, his experience and his aspirations with school students, parents, teachers and community activists. For that, he has my personal thanks and admiration. Judy, your outgoing President and Baljeet, your new President, both made the space to attend Round Table sessions and show their respect and give their support for what students, parents and teachers were doing in partnership with theUnion, and for that I am grateful to them, also. Thank you, therefore, for inviting me to help launch the Charter at your conference.
Next year, 2008, will be 60 years since the iconic Empire Windrush first brought several hundred descendants of enslaved Africans toEngland to join the ranks of those who had constituted the black presence in Britain for centuries before them. They had come from that huge reserve of labour in the colonies of the Caribbean that had been made surplus to the requirements of the plantations and of the merchant and trading classes. They had come from a culture where schooling and education provided every child with the possibility of advancement out of poverty and ignorance, irrespective of background and social status; where everyone was entitled to have high aspirations and where there was ample evidence in our communities of those high aspirations being fulfilled; where children would willingly walk for miles to and from their primary and secondary schools; where teachers were respected personalities in their communities, had high expectations of their students and felt they had a responsibility to deliver on the high expectations parents and communities had of schools. Read the rest of this entry →