(Original script, may differ from delivered version)
Thank you for that kind introduction.
It is a real pleasure to be here at the 15th annual Teaching Awards.
Now I know I’m in a very dangerous position here, because for a politician to stand between a hungry audience and their dinner is a fairly unenviable place, so I promise I will keep my remarks brief but I did just want to pay tribute to all of the nominees, the award winners this evening and the organisers of the award.
When I was given the chance to come along this evening I had no hesitation in saying yes.
Because one of my major priorities as Secretary of State is to celebrate and recognise the invaluable work of the teaching profession.
There is no better place to do this than at this ceremony surrounded by all of you. And let me pay tribute to all those who work so hard to make this great event possible:
to David Puttnam for the idea and the inspiration
Pearson for their continued sponsorship and support
all the judges for giving up their time to sift through the nominations
and the president and trustees of the Teaching Awards Trust for everything they do throughout the year to celebrate the transformative power of teaching
Of course, I don’t need to tell anyone in this audience about the real meaning of the word sacrifice.
I know how hard you all work. I see it in the example of teachers within my own family. It’s evident in my own son’s education in his primary school in Loughborough.
And of course, one of the privileges of this job is to be able to visit a whole range of different schools every week with the opportunity to spend time with the teachers there.
So I know that when the children leave at the end of their day, your day is often only halfway through.
And I know that there is more we as a government can do to help make your lives more manageable.
As I said in my recent speech to the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham, I am utterly committed to doing everything I can to reduce the overall burden on teachers and to ensuring that you are able to spend more time doing the things you came into the profession to do.
But this is easy to say and more difficult to do. If there were an easy answer then we wouldn’t still be facing the question.
That’s one reason why I launched a new Workload Challenge last week: asking teachers to write to me and help me identify what the real challenges are and what the solutions might be so that I can draw up an action plan that starts to get a grip on this problem as soon as possible.
We have already received more than 20,000 responses in just the first few days - which has certainly guaranteed a heavy workload for some people in my department, I can tell you.
But tackling this issue is part of the new deal I want to make with teachers.
And because I truly believe that a school is not a building, or a nameplate - or as can often appear to be the case within my department, a funding agreement or request for money.
A school is one child and one teacher. Wherever there is a child willing to learn and a teacher willing to teach, there you will find a school.
Look around the world and see where children are being educated today - from the mountains of Afghanistan, the village in Africa, the leafy suburbs of Surrey - and you will find that those are the only real constants.
The teacher and the headteacher are the heart of the school. Setting the culture, inspiring the child, instilling them with knowledge, and nurturing their character.
It is hard to think of a more important or inspiring responsibility than this.
Children in England now have more chance of attending a good or outstanding school than ever before - and that’s due in no small measure to the hard work of teachers and school leaders throughout the country.
It’s absolutely right, therefore, that we take every opportunity to recognise and reward the outstanding teachers we have in our classrooms.
Because essentially our plan for education is about trusting teachers to get on with the job they know best - creating the best lessons and experiences for children.
We are attracting more and more high-quality people into teaching - and keeping them in the profession.
These new teachers are getting the right training to prepare them to succeed in the classroom through School Direct, Teach First and school-centred initial teacher training - teachers in our best schools are now in the driving seat to train the next generation of their profession.
But I know there’s still more to do to ensure teachers new and old, and all those considering the profession, can be confident that they have a career to be proud of.
There is more to do to raise the profession’s status, but that is what I am determined to do.
Events like tonight will help – and I would like to congratulate all of those who have picked up awards this evening and to all those nominated too.
It has been a real pleasure to be here, truly inspirational to see all the videos, to hear all the tributes and to realise that in this room we have a huge number of people who have changed children’s lives and continue to do so.
Thank you very much for everything that you do and I hope you have an enjoyable rest of the evening.