As you should know, we want 700-word pieces of writing from Labour supporting teachers. Details are here. Occasionally we might want something different, for instance, for Floating Voters Week or posts collecting views together (like this one). It is now almost two months since the relaunch and it’s been possible to see what does or does not work. Here is my advice on what makes for a good blogpost. Obviously this is just my opinion, not rules for submissions or a judgement of what has gone before.
- Read Politics And The English Language by George Orwell. This is unbeatable advice for writing about politics.
- Be original. The top ten most viewed posts since the relaunch include ones on the attitudes of private tutors; teaching about homosexuality in a majority Muslim school, and the need for subject specialist teachers in primaries. Don’t worry about being obscure, people are more likely to read what they haven’t read blogs about before.
- Write about what you know. Specific experiences in school that you have had that can be tied into policy bring the issues alive and start debate. It also provides the insight other political blogs won’t.
- Promote your post on social media. Make sure that you don’t mind sharing what you have to say to everyone who knows you.
- Be controversial. Argue with other posts. Raise points that you don’t think others will agree with. Have you seen our most popular post?
- Use jargon or clichés. Familiar phrases prevent thought. The terms I hate the most in education writing are “regurgitate facts” and “political football”, but there are so many others and they appear more often the weaker the argument presented is. For a definitive list of education babble, I refer you to the following masterpiece.
- Assume that because an argument is widely used it isn’t stupid. There’s not actually a problem with having British values that some other countries share. Schools do not really resemble factories. Children don’t only misbehave in badly taught lessons. Think through what you are saying; is it something you would say if you’d never heard others say it? And never get your argument out of the Guardian, or any other publication that isn’t written by teachers. If we wanted the content of those publications we can find it for ourselves.
- Use facts you haven’t researched for yourself. Whether it’s the claim that 40% of new teachers leave within a year; misquotations of everyone from Einstein to Wilshaw; bogus attempts to present current arguments as a constant throughout history, or dodgy etymologies of words we use in education, there’s is no lack of bogus “facts” in education. Always check. Just Googling an alleged fact but with the words “misattributed” or “debunked” added will sort out most cases.
- Get carried away with your own narrative. Personal experiences are interesting; your autobiography probably isn’t. Context for your opinions is useful; a commentary on education policy over the last 40 years isn’t.
- Write about the “who” rather than the “what”. You may well prefer the decisions of educationalists to those of politicians, or the priorities of local authority officers to those of headteachers. However, there’s no reason for anybody else to share your preference unless you can tell us what those people you would give power to are actually likely to do and why we should want it done. And if we’re discussing that, then who does it is less interesting and less relevant than what they would do.
Beyond these points the best advice I can give you is to ask for help or ideas if you need to, and to be aware of what is actually wanted.
Thanks in advance. I look forward to hearing from you.