In Floating Voters Week we are presenting views from teachers who didn’t vote Labour at one, or both, of the last two general elections. This one is by Stephanie Keenan, an English teacher responsible for KS3 and whole school literacy. She tweets as @stephanootis and blogs here.
Labour Dos and Don’ts
Don’t continue the negative rhetoric of the Tories – show how you will support schools, students and teachers to improve rather than attack them for failing.
Do ask for evidence for the success of academies: if forced academisation is the plan, there must be evidence it benefits students.
Don’t attack free schools per se – many are set up by the communities they serve, are appreciated by parents, teachers and students alike and offer opportunities for effective education appropriate to local context
Do investigate the funding and friendships behind contracts given for academies and free schools. Reveal cronyism where it exists and highlight issues with rapid academy chain expansion.
Don’t make smaller class sizes a major part of your manifesto: it’s not the main issue and will be almost impossible to deliver (fewer teachers, more pupils!). Seek out and listen to real-life classroom teachers, students and parents and use education research to find out what the main issues really are.
Do have a plan for how to ensure sufficient quality school places for all children. Ask how Conservatives intend to achieve this: ensuring primary provision was a key manifesto pledge.
Don’t focus purely on the ‘unqualified teacher’ issue. Develop a coherent plan to address the fragmented nature of current teacher training. Bring back and value the role of the universities in ITT and offer life-long CPD for all teachers, not just trainees.
Do actively facilitate partnerships between schools and universities for teacher training, student pathways and developing educational research and ‘teachers as researchers’.
Don’t allow the Conservatives to get away with promising 3 million new apprenticeships and more maths, engineering and science teachers without explaining how they intend to achieve this.
Do explain your own plans for alternative vocational routes, valued equally to academic success, but which cannot be used to ‘game the system’.
Don’t let Tories get away with placing responsibility for closing the gap between rich and poor and for social mobility entirely on the teaching profession.
Do meticulously show where the poorest have been hit, how funding for social support has been stripped away and offer your own alternatives eg. bringing back Sure Start as your manifesto suggests.
Don’t change the curriculum any more: we are reeling from constant change and will have only just planned our new schemes of work and taught a few cycles by the time you get back in.
Do ensure an alternative support system for schools, due to the fragmentation of the school system: move away from punitive inspections towards supporting schools to improve through continued teacher training. Put teacher CPD at the heart of your school improvement plans. Give us lifelong teacher training and time to improve our practice.
Finally, do encourage unity in the teaching profession: you have many natural supporters here. Get the unions working with the new College of Teaching for a truly representative body. Don’t let Tories get away with talk of ‘union barons’ when we should be examining the practices of ‘academy barons’.