How to Blog For @LabourTeachers

We are always looking for contributions to this blog. While there are times when we’ll want something different, we’re always happy to be sent a blogpost that:

  1. Is by a teacher who is a Labour Party supporter (or even better member);
  2. Is less than 700 words long;
  3. Has content relevant to Labour supporting teachers (regardless of the point of view);
  4. Has not been published anywhere else beforehand.

There is more detailed guidance here. Some suggestions are here. Some advice about writing is here.  Advice for new bloggers is here. I will update this post with links to further guidance whenever I add any to the site. You can email content  to me here. It will be easier for me if you include it in the main text of the email rather than as an attachment.

Thank you.

The wheels keep on turning… | @dlrobin

IMG_2092David Robinson is a primary school teacher and Labour Party member in the North East of England. He tweets with the handle @dlrobin 

Thundering down the road, the pelaton was impressive. Bedecked in blue and yellow, it roared past the crowds who had been waiting patiently for hours. Despite the weather, hundreds had gathered to cheer on the riders, who were drenched yet had over 180 kilometres to go. The speed of its passing was enough to push back adult and child alike. Pavements were crowded. Homemade banners soared high over a beautifully decorated local primary school. One minute of pure energy, passion and community. Then, nothing. The pelaton passed. Traffic resumed on the roads which had been closed.

I stood there, a teacher of almost 5 years, with colleagues, feeling elated. Amongst spray painted yellow and blue bikes which we had decorated, I felt a sense of achievement. The children of our school could be proud. They had put so much effort and time into making our school stand out. It was one of the few schools Le Tour passed en route.

We found out later that the television cameras had not filmed our school, with its blue and yellow banners. An advert break had started just as it reached our fence. I felt a small pang of sadness. Not for myself, but for my school community. Those children who were lucky enough to be there on a cold Sunday morning had the opportunity to  make a memory. Something to keep that was their own about a special event. Those who were not fortunate enough to be there had been left behind. More than that, our community, the school at its heart, had been left behind.

The event itself summed up all the greatest parts about teaching: enthusiasmnew experiencesexcitement and challenging yourself, just like the brave Le Tour riders. The aftermath of the event came to symbolise all the changes and anxiety that the current government wants to inflict on our education system. The greatest of these sins: ignoring the children who schools care and provide for.

If we compare a class of children to a speeding peleton we will see some children set  a steady pace, others speed off into the sunset happily and a group who need a helping hand to keep on going. This is normal. Education isn’t a race and shouldn’t be treated like one. Not every child can be expected to keep up all of the time. Just like the hill climb up Sutton Bank in Le Tour this morning – each rider took the steep incline at their own pace… every rider got there eventually.

Yet, current government proposals including the now established introduction of performance related pay make education into a race. They incentivise academies to ‘move on’ children who are not in the age-related expectation peleton. They tell children as young as 6 and 7 that because they were not first up the learning hill, then they are not up to scratch, all of this judged by tests which have no place in the curriculum.

Cycling, just like learning, should be fun, exciting and engaging, it should leave us waiting to see what’s over the next metaphorical hill, dale or mountain. Cyclists are a determined bunch, just like teachers and their classes. But if all the joy and pleasure of learning is removed, why would either group do it anymore?

IMG_2085

Posts for the Week Ending 29th April 2016 on @LabourTeachers

You may have noticed that we have been struggling for posts recently. To be honest, the main cause seems to be how busy teachers at this time of year, and a lot of usually reliable contributors have given their apologies. Obviously, we are really keen to hear from anyone who can contribute.

However, I have decided that it is probably time to stop looking for 7 new posts a week, and settle for 6. On Saturdays, instead of a new post, we will publish a round-up of that week’s posts.

Fortunately, while being short of posts we haven’t been short on readers. Yesterday’s post (see below) has broken all records, having been viewed more than eleven and a half thousand times.

Anyway, here are last week’s posts:

Saturday

5 Tips for the DfE | @JulesDaulby

I’m not a wise old owl but I am old and have some experiences.  I’ve done lots of jobs and I’ve been a parent, I’ve moved around the UK and lived abroad a number of times.  That does not make me an expert, I realise that. Over the years however, there are a few things I’ve learned, so I think I can offer some tips to the DFE which might help them refocus…

Sunday

Criticise the government, not academies | Anonymous Headteacher

This is rushed…an SOS blog.

I’m sat in Hotel Russell waiting for a recruitment event tomorrow. Mine is a school that has historically attracted something as rare as ‘a field’.  And yet there is no recruitment crisis.  Last year I had to implement a severe round of cuts and redundancies. And yet I am told there is no cut in funding.  I am thinking about a curriculum narrowed by government policy and set to restrict choice.  And yet I am told the government values the arts…

Monday

How we got in a policy muddle | @RosMcM

The initial academy programme was an attempt to address disadvantage and failure where it had been endemic for generations. It was an example of “taking a preferential option for the poor” – something that many of us on the left could immediately sign up to. What’s not to like about spending more money on the disadvantaged and putting skilled and proven educational leaders in charge of schools?…

Tuesday

Why defending teachers who work in academies is not betraying the Labour Party | @oldandrewuk

You may recall that last week, when we ran out of posts – we are still a bit short of posts now, if you’d like to write for us –  I wrote a post called “Stop Demonising Academies” about some of the rhetoric being used in response to the government’s plans to force all schools to become academies. I started by making it clear that I don’t support those plans:…

Wednesday

In praise of academisation, but… | @kevbartle

Five years ago, the school of which I am now Headteacher, became an academy along with six other local secondary schools in what was not quite the first wave of Michael Gove’s converter academies. At the time I was a Deputy Head at the school and – as I remain now – very much of the left. Both my role and my politics led me to fight a determined and concerted fight for remaining a maintained school during a number of challenging, hard-fought SLT and Governor meetings. But convert we did, in spite of this rearguard action…

Thursday

The great tax swindle | @ashleypearce84

I viewed my (now online) payslip yesterday and was pretty annoyed. My pay had been cut. Well, to be more precise, my tax burden had risen which meant what I take home has fallen. I have to say I was pretty demotivated for the rest of the day. To most people the composition of tax they pay is not a concern to them. I don’t care which taxes I am paying but I do care how much tax I am paying overall. I should also put this into my personal view, I don’t actually mind paying more tax, I’m happy too if this is funding public services to help others…

Friday

Historical Truth | @johndavidblake

Historical truth is a funny thing – it lives in the whole, not in the parts. Any relatively knowledgeable reader of the above paragraph would spot instantly that it is a terrible perversion of the historical truth of events in Europe in the 1930s and 1940s, yet no individual part of it is factually inaccurate…

Historical Truth | @johndavidblake

johndavidblakeJohn Blake is a London-based history teacher and writer on education. He founded and co-edited Labour Teachers from 2011 to 2014. He blogs here and is on Twitter here

“In 1933, after competing in several democratic elections and finally becoming the leader of the largest party in the German parliament, Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany. In the subsequent election, his party went on to achieve a higher percentage of the vote than before his appointment. In the following years, he made attempts to reverse the details of a treaty imposed on Germany in the wake of the First World War that was agreed internationally to have been unjust. However, Germany’s neighbours, France and Britain—rulers of the two largest empires in the world—were unhappy about these attempted revisions and declared war on Germany in September 1939. In 1941, both the USA and Soviet Union joined the conflict, despite both having promised to stay out of it. The war was terrible, including the fire-bombing of German cities, the horrendous mistreatment of German prisoners of war by the Soviets, until ultimately the forces of totalitarian Russia invaded Germany, precipitating mass forced migration of Germans in Eastern Europe and destroying the capital, Berlin.”

Historical truth is a funny thing – it lives in the whole, not in the parts. Any relatively knowledgeable reader of the above paragraph would spot instantly that it is a terrible perversion of the historical truth of events in Europe in the 1930s and 1940s, yet no individual part of it is factually inaccurate. The Nazis were indeed the largest party in the 1933 German election, though missing here is the important context that this was an election in which the polling booths were surrounded by Nazi stormtroopers; both the USA and the USSR did join the war having attempted to stay out, but in both cases it was because Hitler had declared war on them. Genocide is entirely absent. Important context and relevant evidence has been missed, to render these individual accurate facts into a something that no one remotely familiar with the period concerned could call “the truth”.

This is why, when Ken Livingstone announces he can’t have offended anyone because he’s told “the truth” about relations between pre-war Zionism and the Nazis, or when his online supporters spam everyone with links to the Wikipedia page on the Haavara Agreement as though it is game, set and match to their hero, they are perverting the truth, even whilst they are offering facts. There are fascinating, tragic and terrible stories to be found in the events they are selectively attentive to: one about the desperation of parts of the German Jewish community in the face of a regime besieging them in their own homes and workplaces; another about the confused and contradictory sinews of the Nazi state, working to a Fuhrer who made clear how much he hated the Jews, but ran a government so determinedly dysfunctional it could commit multiple contradictory evils at the same time, planning for the same victims both wholesale forced emigration and industrialised mass murder. But anyone with a smattering of historical learning and even a shred of integrity can see these facts cannot bear an interpretation that Hitler was a Zionist. The often arbitrary survival of evidence from the past into the present does generate valid disputes about historical details, and sometimes makes it impossible to conclude a “right” answer. However, any narrative that deliberately ignores obviously relevant evidence is very clearly a wrong answer.

Toxic inattentiveness to the rules of the historical discipline is the stock-in-trade of the grievance-mongers of the Far Left and the Far Right, the breeding ground for the conspiracy theories that frame their understanding of how change is achieved (as well as explaining why, despite them having seen the truth, they are singly unsuccessful in changing much themselves). These parasites on the past find a nugget of fact, rip it from any sensible context and build atop it whatever deranged narrative pushes their cause the best: Mein Kampf, for example, is full of it, and in the hands of the sectarians of the modern Trotskyite left, Marxism offers little more than a conspiracy theory with numbers, dressed up with occasional infusions of the word “hegemony”. The highest form of such pernicious abuse of evidence is Holocaust denial, in which not just the physical evidence of the destruction of a people but the words of the all-too-few survivors who walked out again from the places the Nazis had fated them to die, are dismissed on pretexts as flimsy as the alleged silence of the memoirs of others.

Livingstone has been suspended from Labour. If there is any decency left in this party, he will never be permitted to return. But he is not alone in indulging and endorsing this malignant conspiracy theorising, and the distortion of the historical record he has publicly engaged in and thus validated has, I fear, already found some parts of the public consciousness in which to dwell. It is clearly taking hold in parts of the Labour movement and party and this should be challenged robustly: historical distortion of this sort is a fraud upon the living and the dead, and it has no place in a decent and principled Labour Party, and no party that entertains it has a place in a humane and educated society.

The great tax swindle | @ashleypearce84

AshleyAshley Pearce is a secondary school economics teacher in a comprehensive school just outside of Reading.  Last year he was elected as a councillor for the Labour party for an area in South Reading.  He is also a Reading FC fan and keen reader of educational literature.

I viewed my (now online) payslip yesterday and was pretty annoyed. My pay had been cut. Well, to be more precise, my tax burden had risen which meant what I take home has fallen. I have to say I was pretty demotivated for the rest of the day. To most people the composition of tax they pay is not a concern to them. I don’t care which taxes I am paying but I do care how much tax I am paying overall. I should also put this into my personal view, I don’t actually mind paying more tax, I’m happy too if this is funding public services to help others. What has angered me so much this week is that my tax burden has risen in the same week that NHS staff are on strike due to its funding being choked and the Government decided we couldn’t afford to take in 5000 Syrian child refugees. So my tax has gone up, public services (including schools) are being squeezed of funding so where is this money going? National debt is still rising and deficit reduction faltering but we can afford to cut corporation tax for the UK’s biggest firms and lower income tax for millionaires. These are not “tough choices” as the Government keeps telling us; they are conscious choices to redistribute from poor to rich and to make public assets sellable to private firms.

Let’s go into the Government’s tax changes in more detail. They are keen at every turn to tell us that the income tax allowance has risen to £11,000 taking the poorest out of income tax altogether. This is very misleading. Firstly, the poorest earn under £11,000 a year so this is irrelevant to them. Secondly, one of the first things the Government did when it was back in power as a coalition in 2010 was to raise VAT to 20%. This is a regressive tax meaning the poor are hit more by this. So great, I get to “keep” more of my money after income tax so that I can give it back to the government in VAT. No change to me. The Government also stopped the national insurance rebate this month. national insurance is just a tax like any other in reality, and stopping the rebate just means I pay more out. Put simply, it is a tax rise.

Teachers (and other public sector workers) have been hit particularly hard by the Government’s policies in the last 6 years. Firstly the pension changes which occurred in the first couple of years of the coalition. Now there was some industrial action in terms of work to rule and a strike. But unlike the BMA and the Junior Doctors strike, the government won this battle easily. Pension contributions were almost doubled in most cases, working life extended and final salary became average salary (note MP’s still enjoy their final salary pensions). For a teacher earning £35,000 a year that meant paying £100 a month extra, a not inconsiderable amount. Added to this were the years of “pay freezes” or “pay restraint” of 1% rises. These of course are not freezes at all, they are cuts. Inflation across the last 6 years has been as high as 5% despite its low levels now. The Government also uses the CPI measure of inflation for this 1% rise not the RPI level which includes housing costs. Now most teachers have housing costs so this is the actual measure. I would estimate the combination of pension increases and pay cuts have lost teachers around 25% in income over 6 years.

This needs a comparison to the people that inflicted this upon us, namely, members of parliament. The “independent” (I’m sure there is no Government influence here at all) School Teachers Pay and Review board decided that a 1% pay increase for teachers was appropriate and fair. The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority that decides on pay rewards for MP’s, decided that a 10% increase was appropriate for them however. This took their pay to £77,000 basic plus their lovely expenses and final salary pensions. These same MP’s that preach pay restraint, of course happily voted this through. So my 1% pay rise will help massively to cover the 10% increase in my housing costs, rising energy bills and food costs.

This Government is ignoring the recruitment crisis in teaching, no wait, it’s actively encouraging it. Nicky Morgan recently said “If I were a young person making a decision about my future career and I saw some of the language coming out from the NASUWT as well as some of the other unions, would I want to become a teacher?”

Ms Morgan went on: “If I read about a profession ‘standing on the precipice of a crisis’, would I consider a life in teaching? – No I would not.” If our Government really believes Union rhetoric is the reason graduates are not going into teaching rather than the long hours, poor pay and constant Government meddling, we will have a crisis for a long time yet.

In praise of academisation, but… | @kevbartle

SubstandardFullSizeRender (1)Keven Bartle is the Headteacher of Canons High School in Edgware, NW London, which is a Teaching School as part of the Canons Park Alliance. He is a lifelong Labour supporter from one of the few remaining bastions of Labour support, the North East. He tweets as @kevbartle, blogs here and does so in very much a personal capacity.

Five years ago, the school of which I am now Headteacher, became an academy along with six other local secondary schools in what was not quite the first wave of Michael Gove’s converter academies. At the time I was a Deputy Head at the school and – as I remain now – very much of the left. Both my role and my politics led me to fight a determined and concerted fight for remaining a maintained school during a number of challenging, hard-fought SLT and Governor meetings. But convert we did, in spite of this rearguard action.

Of all the arguments lined up on the ‘academise’ side of the debate, the one that most bothered me then was that this wasn’t a choice between the status quo and a new status. It bothered me because it seemed, at the time, to be a ‘having your cake and eating it’ argument that insisted that because change was inevitable in some form or another we should accept the DfE imposed change.  Having moved through middle to senior leadership under the New Labour years of plenty, a plenty that was usually channeled to schools through the local authorities, it was hard to give credence to the view that things would get so much worse even in the face of swingeing cuts to LA funding. More to the point, the unknown unknowns of being an academy under the direct control of the Secretary of State generally – and Gove in particular – did not inspire confidence. Thus, when the local unions came to talk with staff about the possible impact on terms and conditions, in spite of TUPE, I was there and fully supportive. When SLT meetings were convened I was abrasive. When governing body meetings were called to decide upon our fate I was persuasive, although clearly not conclusively so.

And now, as I consider my thoughts, words and actions with the de-fogged benefit of hindsight, I can see that I was completely and utterly wrong!!!!

As an academy our school has benefitted hugely in terms of finances, has played an improved role in supporting other schools (and has in turn been better supported by them), has maintained national benchmarks for pay and conditions (why on earth would we have done otherwise?), has taken control of its site strategy and maintenance, has engaged with the LA in clear-eyed and clear-headed relationship of mutual benefit and has gone from strength to strength as a result of all of the above and more.

Of course, it didn’t have to be that way. We could have tried to follow a different path and use our new-found freedoms to do all sorts of pernicious things: rip apart terms and conditions for our own staff; disengage from local relationships; remove local and representative groups from our governing body and suchlike. But we didn’t because, when push came to shove, academisation did not change who we are and why we do this job. It may have strengthened our school but it didn’t do so at the expense of our school community, like some zero-sum game. Instead, as we have strengthened, so has our school community of staff, students, families, feeder schools, TSA partners and local employers.

In light of this, and sensing that the DfE would enforce academisation at some point this parliament, we have even gone so far as to establish a Multi-Academy Trust (although we remain at presence the only members of that trust). Quite a turnaround for the non-believer from just half a decade ago. Perhaps it’s a case of power corrupting?  Perhaps it’s a case of empire-building?  Perhaps it’s a case of pragmatic capitulation of once-cherished values?  I think it’s none of these, but then I’m biased when it comes to judging my own actions.

What I do know is that, in spite of this mea culpa, I fundamentally disagree with Nicky Morgan that academisation is a panacea that needs to be enforced by diktat. It is far from that. At its best it is bloody rewarding hard work at a scale and of a type that not every school leader wants or needs. At its worst it is bloody unrewarding hard work at a scale and of a type that not every school leader wants or needs. But even if it were the aforementioned panacea, why not let successful converters do the job of persuading the reluctant would-be converters anyway?  That way we might get the school-led system the government has rightly prioritised and wrongly White Papered.

The truth is that in spite of all the benefits our school has experienced since academisation, there is still no coherent middle tier that was needed to complete the job and this is where the energies of government should be going. The answer does not lie in MATs because of the perverse incentives and potential conflicts of interest that creates. The answer does not lie with RSCs because of the lack of democratic and local accountability built into their currently conceptualised role. But nor does the answer lie in local authorities because their infrastructure for educational improvement has been swept away and because the limited and sometimes dubious outcomes of investment from the New Labour era proved that they themselves were not a panacea.

I don’t know if there is a panacea to be found, but I do know that this government, or its Labour successor, need to grapple with the issue of a coherent middle tier in a more coherent way if they are to even get close to finding one. The responses to academisation by our two dominant political parties – either wholeheartedly for or wholeheartedly against – miss this point, and do little to unify the staff of schools who, academy or maintained, simply want to improve the lot of the students and communities we serve.

Why defending teachers who work in academies is not betraying the Labour Party | @oldandrewuk

photo (10)Andrew is a teacher and editor of Labour Teachers (and writing in a personal capacity). 

You may recall that last week, when we ran out of posts – we are still a bit short of posts now, if you’d like to write for us –  I wrote a post called “Stop Demonising Academies” about some of the rhetoric being used in response to the government’s plans to force all schools to become academies. I started by making it clear that I don’t support those plans:

The government’s plan to make all schools convert to academy status over the next 6 years is an example of the sort of policy-making that gives politicians a bad name. It creates huge disruption and uncertainty without having any clear benefits.

I then complained about the willingness of some on the left to talk as if all academies were behaving badly, and to be completely indifferent to what those accusations might feel like to those teachers working in academies. I gave two examples of that rhetoric, neither of which came from official Labour sources, although one of them was shared on Twitter by Lucy Powell, the shadow education secretary. I did not defend forced academisation and I did not oppose Labour policy.

The post got one of the most positive responses I have ever had to anything I’ve written on here. It very quickly became our top rated post of 2016, mainly through being shared by teachers on social media. It turns out there’s quite a few teachers working in academies, or other types of schools that are being demonised for not being LA controlled, who felt the same way I did. No teacher likes being told they are less caring than other teachers just because they work at a type of school somebody has an ideological grievance about.

I was reassured though, that when the post was brought to the attention of Lucy Powell on Twitter, she distanced herself from that rhetoric, denying a claim that Labour’s response to white paper has been “relentlessly anti academy”, saying:

that’s not come from us… we’ve always reiterate[d] that many academies are good or outstanding. Read my speeches & comments.

Which brings us to yesterday, and the following exchange during education questions:

Lucy Powell (Manchester Central) (Lab/Co-op)This weekend, the Conservative-led County Councils Network added its very strong opposition to the Secretary of State’s plans to force all schools to become academies, adding to that already expressed by the National Association of Head Teachers, the Association of School and College Leaders, parents, the National Governors Association, leading names in the academies programme such as the chief executive of the Harris Foundation and the Freedom and Autonomy for Schools National Association, as well as a growing number of her own Back Benchers. It is hardly a list of what she might call—or, in fact, what she just called—the vested interests. Can she therefore clarify today for those who have these very serious concerns whether she will bring forward legislation to force good and outstanding schools to become academies against their wishes?

Nicky Morgan I have already set out very clearly our desire to make sure that every child gets the best start in life. We believe that academies, as the House has heard from other Conservative Members, are absolutely the right vehicle for innovation on curriculum, pay and freedom for headteachers. I wonder whether the hon. Lady in her vocal opposition has taken account of the writer on the Labour teachers blog, who said that

“we have people on the left describing thousands of schools, in fact a majority of secondary schools, and the hundreds of thousands of teachers who work in them, in terms that are so unjust as to be deceitful.”

Is that how the hon. Lady wants to be taken?

Mr Speaker Order. I simply point out to the Secretary of State that she is not responsible for what is written on Labour blogs and that there is a shortage of time on topical questions. We must press on, without extraneous matters being introduced.

I was not particularly pleased to be quoted as if I was talking about Lucy Powell, although, to be fair to Nicky Morgan, she did phrase that part as a question. The immediate social media response was predictable. Not for the first time Labour Teachers was attacked for failing to censor ideologically impure contributions, for claiming to speak for the party (we don’t) and for disagreeing with party policy (I didn’t). Despite the positive reaction  to the original article from so many Labour supporting teachers, people who may have never been inside an academy told me that I had betrayed the party by daring to suggest that myself, my colleagues, and 1000s of other teachers working in academies are not evil. That Lucy Powell had denied the party had an anti-academies position seemed irrelevant to those convinced that to oppose such a position was to attack the party. Nor was the fact that I am a teacher working in an academy considered relevant, the only possible agenda behind my post was that I was a Blairite attacking Jeremy Corbyn and I should be stopped.

Obviously this changes nothing for us. The Labour Teachers blog will still be open to all Labour supporting teachers. Posts will still only represent the author, not the party, nor any organisation called “Labour Teachers”. We still exist to allow debate among Labour supporting teachers. The extra irony here is that I had not even disagreed with the party, only with a Twitter account that explicitly says “Please note, we don’t speak for @jeremycorbyn or @UKLabour” and with an article on The Independent website.

Unfortunately, we seem to have reached a situation where, on a number of issues, opposing even the rhetoric of extremists is seen as disloyalty. Years of campaigning for the party, the strength of one’s argument and the actual details of Labour Party policy are all seen as irrelevant compared with one’s loyalty to particular factions, including ones operating largely outside the party. If the party cannot distance itself from those who would remake Labour in the image of the SWP, we will only have ourselves to blame when the Tories win an inevitable landslide in 2020.

How we got in a policy muddle | @RosMcM

JpegAfter 31 years of teaching, 15 of them as firstly  Headteacher, then Principal, and latterly as Executive Principal and CEO of an Academy Trust, Ros is now working independently in the sector.

The initial academy programme was an attempt to address disadvantage and failure where it had been endemic for generations. It was an example of “taking a preferential option for the poor” – something that many of us on the left could immediately sign up to. What’s not to like about spending more money on the disadvantaged and putting skilled and proven educational leaders in charge of schools?

Sadly many in the party chose to see this highly pragmatic approach as a personal attack on their right to run schools (and allow them to fail) through local authorities. This “anti-academy” mantra made it impossible to do 2 things: celebrate the success of the Labour academies, and defend the policy from its later corruption.

Difficulty with the initial sponsorship model led to the first corruption of the policy – outstanding schools could “convert” and be sponsors. This put the heads and governing boards of schools with no experience of challenging circumstances and disadvantage in charge of some of the toughest schools. Remarkable decisions were often taken on sponsors and some chains were encouraged to expand despite evidence that their capacity and model couldn’t deliver success. Many of us watched in horror as the inevitable happened and embarrassing failures occurred. Where was the Labour Party. Were they able to credibly fight these crazy decisions? No, because they were still unclear on their own academy policy.

As “conversions” to academy status grew, surprise, surprise the “freedoms” diminished, the money dried up and we certainly no longer had a preferential option for the poor. Where were the Labour Party? Nowhere. Locked back in an anti-academy mantra they were unable to defend the early academy policy. This left the door wide open for the Tories to claim the academy successes as their own. Not only did they thoroughly corrupt the initial vision of the programme, but they were allowed to get away with taking credit for the original academies. The academy debate is no longer about social justice and that is our fault – we allowed that to happen.

This is what the academy debate is about now:

  • It is not possible to have such divergence in the middle tier (choice and diversity anyone?) DfE cannot cope with a mish-mash of LAs, MATs, standalone Boards, Diocese etc. They have decided their preferred model is MATs.
  • There is no money but there are substantial reserves in many schools and academies. An LA could not get schools to share, but a MAT Board is in charge of all money within the MAT.
  • DfE attempting to cover up / make up for earlier mistakes regarding sponsorship and MAT growth, by putting the RSC network and headteacher boards in charge of the system.

Labour leaders and education spokespeople for the party have spent so long “trying to keep the party happy” by not coming out loud and proud about the early Labour academy policy they have left the party with a policy vacuum. They cannot promote a return to an LA model (unless insane), they have failed to seize the social justice agenda, they cannot even deal with the nonsensical Tory rhetoric effectively it seems. (Cameron announced for the second week running that 80% of converter academies were “good or outstanding”; given that this was a criteria for being allowed to convert it represents a 20% failure! Surely after the first time of his saying this we could have ensured the point was made!)

Is there a way out of the muddle? Yes, of course – but it involves being brave and doing what the Labour Party seems to have forgotten to do:

  1. Talk to those of us who are experts
  2. Forget party sacred cows and be pragmatic
  3. Have social justice at the top of the agenda

Criticise the government, not academies | Anonymous Headteacher

anonymous headteacherThe writer of this post is an anonymous headteacher who offered up the post at the very last minute. As described earlier, we are suffering a severe shortage of posts at the moment, please help if you can.

This is rushed…an SOS blog.

I’m sat in Hotel Russell waiting for a recruitment event tomorrow. Mine is a school that has historically attracted something as rare as ‘a field’.  And yet there is no recruitment crisis.  Last year I had to implement a severe round of cuts and redundancies. And yet I am told there is no cut in funding.  I am thinking about a curriculum narrowed by government policy and set to restrict choice.  And yet I am told the government values the arts.

I am sure on very few things and, unlike excellent Heads like John Thomsett, I know very little. But on this I am sure, on this I know: reality and rhetoric are very different.

And so it is with academy status. My school is an academy and guess what?  The world still turns! Colleagues are treated fairly – even with a quality as rare as compassion!

While I agree with the movement to challenge rapid academisation, I would ask two things:

  1. In the language that is used let us not undermine good trusts seeking to work with integrity;
  2. Let us be careful not to give false hope and leave schools vulnerable – not there yet, but care required.

I was brought up a matter of miles from the good farm labourers of Tolpuddle.  I’m not too sure the move to academisation represents a challenge all they fought so hard to achieve.  If it was – I would not have agreed to support the move.

5 Tips for the DfE | @JulesDaulby

unknownJules Daulby is an advisory teacher for SENSS (SEN Specialist Service) in Dorset. Originally a Secondary English and Drama teacher, she has also taught in Further Education, Higher Education and for Parent Partnership.

I’m not a wise old owl but I am old and have some experiences.  I’ve done lots of jobs and I’ve been a parent, I’ve moved around the UK and lived abroad a number of times.  That does not make me an expert, I realise that. Over the years however, there are a few things I’ve learned, so I think I can offer some tips to the DFE which might help them refocus.

Tip 1 – Patience is a virtue

This is difficult for people who are naturally impulsive; they want to do everything and they want to do it straight away.  They think of something during breakfast and announce it by lunch.

While occasionally making a quick decision is vital, particularly in a school, on a structural level taking time to think things through, ask for opinions, tweak things before finally launching an idea is good practice.  The less you plan the more likely something which you hadn’t thought of but which seems glaringly obvious once it’s been pointed out to you will be pointed out to you, by the person you didn’t ask because you couldn’t wait.

Tip 2 – Check details published online should be published

In a large institution, it should not be possible to publish anything online without it being agreed by various levels of authority.  Red tape is annoying but it’s there for a reason.

Tip 3 – When lots of people are against an idea don’t become even more determined to implement it

OK, sometimes unpopular decisions have to be made.  It may be due to money, due to a safeguarding issue, even a disciplinary one. But, when you force an idea on lots of people when it has obvious flaws and is even unpopular with your allies it might be best to back track a little or change.  Stubbornly insisting an idea should go through backed up by dodgy reasoning does not make you look stronger, it makes you look like an idiot.

Tip 4 – Research is finite

Research can show varying results:  it might show this, or it could mean this, however, other research says this.  Weighing up all research is good.  Using research to suit your own argument is bad.  We all do it to a certain extent but when you have to make massive decisions, it is probably good to speak to people who disagree with you too and find a workable solution.

Tip 5 – Take your staff with you. 

You can be a strategic genius but if you don’t bring your staff with you, you will fail.  They have to carry out your brilliance; they have to make your innovative creations come to fruition.  If you annoy them, don’t respect them and make constant changes they will eventually tell you to shove it and leave.

Labour Teachers STILL Needs You | @oldandrewuk

photo (10)Andrew is a teacher and editor of Labour Teachers (and writing in a personal capacity). 

It’s me again.

I haven’t had any new blogposts in, despite making many requests this week. I’m not planning to write a post every day until I do get some new posts, but I figured it would at least be worth making an appeal before giving up.

My first thought was to call this post “Labour Teachers Needs You” and then I realised that I had used that title almost exactly a year ago in a similar crisis.  It’s probably fair to say that this is the worst time of the year for getting posts for this blog. The return to work after Easter is quite demanding, with lots of teachers desperately preparing their classes for exams in a few weeks, and at the same time there is also campaigning to be done for the May elections.

There are also a few other trends causing us problems. Some of our regulars are no longer teaching (although they have mainly stayed in jobs in education). A lot of people have told me they either no longer support the Labour Party, or at least no longer want to be actively involved with anything Labour, after the events of the last year. Others are just busy, or, perhaps, have run out of inspiration.

Perhaps more worryingly for Labour politics is that there seems to be an increased hostility on the left to open debate, and every few weeks somebody seems to pop up to attack Labour Teachers for publishing something they consider to be ideologically impure, or to take revenge on Labour Teachers for something I have said in a personal capacity. This is despite the fact that there is no editorial line beyond the requirement to be a Labour supporting teacher, and I have literally never turned away a post because I disagreed with it. If you do disagree with something written here, then I welcome posts  written as a response to other posts. If we can’t tolerate the views of other supporters of the same party then I do wonder how we are meant to engage with and convince the public.

I hope we can overcome these obstacles. Just to remind you what we need:

  1. Posts by Labour supporting teachers about any issues of interest to Labour supporting teachers (not exclusively education).
  2. Volunteers who can agree to write a post on a regular schedule, either every month or every two months.
  3. Volunteers who can write posts in emergencies (like now) at short notice.

We can suggest topics if you are short of inspiration. If you can help please get in touch. If you know anybody who might be interested in helping, please send them the link to this post.

Thanks to everyone who has written for us in the past. Please email me here if you can help in the future. There has been a post on Labour teachers every day for over a year. However, I will not be writing another one tomorrow. Could you?