01/10/2014 12:20 BST | Updated 20/05/2015 10:12 BST

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan Describes Teachers As 'Heroes'

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan addresses delegates on day three of the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham in central England on September 30, 2014. British Prime Minister David Cameron is bidding to rally his Conservatives for victory at next year's general election at their annual conference, with the party reeling from a defection and a sex scandal. AFP PHOTO/LEON NEAL (Photo credit should read LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images)

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan has tried to build bridges with teachers by hailing them as 'heroes' at the Tory Party conference.

Michael Gove's successor went out of her way to praise classroom staff for their efforts – and pledged to cut their workload.

Her 'warm words' were in stark contrast to Mr Gove's tough stance on teaching unions, which led to many a spat during his tenure in the education hot seat.

But Mrs Morgan seems to have called a truce after taking over from Mr Gove in July, with a speech praising Britain's 'dedicated and inspiring' teachers, adding: "If our school story has a hero, it is them."

She told the conference she would offer them a 'new deal' designed to cut their workload – a key demand of the unions.

She added: "When I hear of teachers working late into the night marking books, planning lessons, preparing for inspections that may or may not come, I do two things: I marvel at their dedication; but I also think, there must be a better way."

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Mrs Morgan said ministers would work with the unions and carry out a wider consultation among teachers to 'craft a new deal for teachers that treats them as the professionals they are'.

She also signalled a slight shift away from Mr Gove's focus on academic rigour, which some critics had claimed was too narrow.

Unions welcomed the change of approach and praised Mrs Morgan for her 'warm words'.

The Education Secretary began her speech by saying: "For too long there has been a false choice between academic standards and activities that build character and resilience. But the two should go hand in hand."

She said she wanted schools to help young people 'develop character, resilience and grit', adding: "As much as I want the next generation to be able to solve a quadratic equation, I also want them to be able to make a compelling pitch for a job and to be able to bounce back if things don't work out."

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT union, welcomed Mrs Morgan's approach, but said her words needed to be turned into action.

She said: "This was a well-delivered, well-crafted speech with welcome warm words for the teaching profession.

"Teachers will welcome the recognition that their professional lives are blighted by excessive workload."

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