Schools Week has been “barred” from a teacher’s union conference next week following stories on the organisation’s “internal strife”, a chief reporter at the education trade website has claimed.
Freddie Whittaker (pictured) told Press Gazette he felt the move by the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) had set a “dangerous precedent”.
But NASUWT has said it is “nonsense to say Schools Week has been blocked” from its conference at the Belfast Waterfront conference centre, Northern Ireland, which is set to take place between the 19 and 21 April.
Whittaker claimed in a Twitter thread that NASUWT had denied him a press pass for the conference as they said all available passes had already been given out to the media.
He said that Schools Week’s recent coverage of the union may have been linked to the decision.
The news website has reported on NASUWT being ordered to reinstate a sacked employee following an employment tribunal, and covered accusations that it tried to use an “anti-union law” to break staff strike action last year over pensions changes.
Whittaker said he had contacted NASUWT on 18 March to ask for accreditation to the annual conference, which he had not been able to attend for the previous two years.
He said Schools Week had not been contacted to ask if they would attend the event this year, unlike in previous years.
Speaking to Press Gazette, he said: “As far as I know, we are the only publication that’s barred from attending this year, and at the same time we’re the only publication that’s arguably produced the most in-depth coverage of current internal strife at the NASUWT.
“And I don’t believe that’s a coincidence. I don’t think this is a response to coverage over the years that we’ve been running. I believe it’s about stories we’ve run in the last few months.”
In a statement, NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates said: “It’s nonsense to say Schools Week have been blocked.
“We have prioritised invitations and briefings this year, as we are in Belfast, to the media who have been either regular attenders or given the conference coverage in the past.
“Despite opportunities to [do] so for the last two years, Schools Week have not attended our conference and have not given coverage to the NASUWT Conference during this time.
“All media outlets, whether they are present or not, will get the union’s press releases and are free to contact the NASUWT media team at any time.”
NASUWT did not reveal, when asked by Press Gazette, how many journalists had been accredited to attend its conference or the expected overall attendance figures.
The website for the ICC Belfast Waterfront conference centre says that it has a 2,000 seat auditorium. NASUWT claims to have 300,000 members.