Nicky Morgan was repeatedly heckled by a hostile audience of head teachers at their national conference in Birmingham this morning.
Nicky Morgan had already been heckled, with cries of “rubbish” and “you’re not listening” greeting her speech defending the plan for all schools to become academies by 2022.
But the biggest flashpoint came when she was asked a question by Simon Kidwell, head teacher at Hartford Manor Primary School in Cheshire.
He said he and many of his colleagues believed the writing assessments for Key Stage 2 tests, due to be brought in on May 20, are discriminatory.
He asked Nicky Morgan to move towards what he called a ‘best fit’ judgement for writing assessments, a plea met with applause from other delegates.
“If you make this positive move you will prove you are listening to teachers, ” said Mr Kidwell.
Nicky Morgan said she heard the strength of feeling in the hall, but was reluctant to make further changes to the new tests.
Mr Kidwell responded by saying: “So you have three weeks to change one word, secure fit to best fit.
“Are you in charge of the (education) department or is Nick Gibb (the schools minister)?”
Nicky Morgan said she would not dignify what she said was a sexist remark with a comment.
Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT, said he had “no idea” why Nicky Morgan thought the question was sexist.
And Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said she could not see how the question could be classed as sexist.
Ms Blower said she thought it was a “completely valid” question.
She added: “It seems to me that if something goes spectacularly wrong, like the putting of that test on the website, then it should be the person, hierarchical though it is, at the top who apologises and not her deputy, so I don’t think this is about sexism, this is about the buck stopping where the buck should stop,” she said.
NAHT president Kim Johnson told Sky News: “I think the feeling that was in the hall shows there are very real concerns about assessments and academisations, and so what you have got there is that heartfelt remark that has been made by an individual.”
“It’s clear as well that the gap is too big and we have to bridge it,” he added.
Headteachers at the NAHT conference later voted overwhelmingly against schools automatically being converted into academies – making industrial action possible.
Campaigners against the academies plan argue that they will not raise standards and have unfair admissions policies.
Opposition has come from teachers and parents, as well as some MPs from the Education Secretary’s her own party, who fear it might lead to schools in rural areas being shut down.
But Nicky Morgan believes academies provide head teachers and schools with the autonomy they need to make their own decisions, and they will improve education standards.