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Friday, 5 April, 2002, 05:12 GMT 06:12 UK
De Gruchy's parting swipe at Blair
Nigel de Gruchy
Mr de Gruchy believes most MPs are rogues

A teachers' leader has said that politicians have been the biggest problem facing teachers in his 33 years as a union official.

Nigel de Gruchy of the NASUWT said most of them were "ambitious, self-seeking, self-opinionated rogues".

In an emotional speech to his union's conference on his retirement as its general secretary, Mr de Gruchy accused the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, of running a dictatorial system dependent upon the "fawning ambitions" of underlings jostling to succeed him.

He broadened his attack to take in "all political parties, in power and in opposition", ridiculing the Conservative leader, Iain Duncan Smith's claim to be "the champion of the sick and underprivileged".

"Really, what fools do they take the nation to be?" he said.


"Politicians create the problem, then they blame schools, then they demand that teachers solve the problem," he said.

"Then they wonder why cynicism is rife."

Eamonn O'Kane
Eamonn O'Kane: The new head of the NASUWT
He called on Mr Blair "to restore democracy" to his party, Parliament and the Cabinet.

"Then perhaps citizenship might just be worthwhile teaching in schools."

He did make an exception - "maybe" - in the case of the current Education Secretary, Estelle Morris, but said successive education ministers all felt they had to make their mark.

And he asked her: "Is your memory so short?"

Industrial action

In the past she had boasted about once having been a teacher. In the 1980s she had taken part in pay strikes.

Would she still be saying the sorts of things she had been saying about teachers in recent weeks if she were still a teacher?

Mr de Gruchy made his speech shortly after the union had voted to call a strike if there was not a satisfactory outcome to the dispute with the government about the under-funding of their performance pay.

He said it was all very well for Ms Morris to condemn industrial action, but her predecessor, David Blunkett, had initially refused to commission an independent study into teachers' workloads.

"After about 10 days of industrial action he agreed to it."

Nigel de Gruchy
Nigel de Gruchy bows out as general secretary

And he said "good, solid industrial action by teachers" had led to the Dearing Reports that resulted in the slimming down of the national curriculum from 1993.

The government rejected Mr de Gruchy's attacks.

A spokesman for the Department for Education and Skills said: "I think we are all used to intemperate remarks at the Easter conferences.

"The government's record on education speaks for itself, with 540 extra per pupil and 12,000 more teachers than in 1997.

"The key point is that these conferences, with their repeated threats of industrial action, do damage to the image and reputation of teachers."


Mr de Gruchy said he had made a point throughout his 12 years as the union's general secretary of trying to remember what it was like to be a classroom teacher.

With his wife, Judy, at his side and son, Paul, in the audience, he was given a standing ovation.

At the age of 59 he leaves the NASUWT, hoping to become the next president of the Trades Union Congress.

He is succeeded by Eamonn O'Kane.


In a tribute to him, Mr O'Kane said he had done a tremendous amount to raise the morale of the teaching profession.

And his "clear, cogent thinking" manifested itself in his mastery of the pithy soundbite.

Jim Hughes from Bexley recalled some of his one-liners:

On a work-to-rule over rising bureaucracy: "It is industrial action with a halo."

On parental responsibilities: "A school homework club is a contradiction."

On a government recruitment slogan: "No-one forgets a good teacher, they just forget to pay them well."

NASUWT leader Nigel de Gruchy addresses conference
"I've tried to stand up for the rights of the teacher"
See also:

17 Nov 01 | UK Education
15 Jan 01 | UK Education
05 Nov 01 | UK Education
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