Don’t forget to live! | @joirritableowl

jogartonJo Garton is a primary headteacher and has been for eight years. In a former life she was a Labour local councillor for five years, chair of the education committee and a parliamentary candidate.

We are all a blend of different faces. What defines us, on this blog, is that we are educators and we are part of the very broad church of Labour. A church that currently stretches from Jeremy Corbyn to Tony Blair- but who knows how long that will last? Teacher and Labour is the point where the circles of our venn diagrams intersect.

But what of the other circles? Many of us are parents, children and partners too. This means that we combine our responsibilities of being passionate about the education of children or young people with whom we work and caring for the folks at home. In term time, those responsibilities are hard to juggle and sometimes, we lose ourselves. I’m at least as guilty as the next woman in this.

So my plea to you is to take five minutes of your well-earned summer break (yes I know you have planning to do, you have the summer clean to sort, you have all the home life stuff that you have put off for the summer holidays) to check your bits and think about your own physical and mental health.

I know I’m coming across as a bit preachy but let me explain why. A few years ago my elderly mother-in-law began a journey into mental and physical decline. As for so many people, it was not clear whether it was the physical (blood pressure problems) or the mental (depression and dementia) which was calling the shots. Eighteen months later, she died after being in hospital for three months,living with us for seven months,moving into supported living for five months and being in a care home for three months. We loved her very much, but it was incredibly hard, particularly for my husband- an only child.

Of course, the world keeps spinning and my wonderful colleagues at work were hugely supportive. It was December by the time we were over the funeral and then into the mad rush of tea towels and tinsel in a primary school. It wasn’t until Christmas Eve that I had a chance to draw breath. I glanced at the mirror after coming out of the shower (never good after the staffroom treats of the festive season) and noticed something. I had some puckering of the skin below the collar bone. Not good.

In fact it could have been much worse. It turned out I did have breast cancer; but if you have to have cancer, go for one with an excellent survival rate! I had surgery and radiotherapy and thanks to a new genetic test I managed to avoid chemotherapy, of which I was more scared than cancer.

I could have missed it; I nearly did. I know you put off going to the loo, because when you’re teaching, you have to hold on forever. I know that at times, you feel guilty about having too long in the shower because you really need to speak to the SENDco about that child. I know that many of you are at the end of your tether after constant changes in assessment and feel as if you want to spend six weeks sleeping. Please humour me and check- and while you are doing it think about what you can do to keep your mental and physical health intact in the next academic year.

Colleagues, this isn’t just self-interest, we have collective responsibility; there’s a crisis of recruitment so they aren’t exactly lining up to replace us! We need to look after ourselves because no-one else will do it.

Loss of Empathy | @MikeBerkoff

IMG_20150721_173141Mike Berkoff began his career in 1974, teaching in a comprehensive for three years. He was a lecturer/course organiser in Further Education for twenty three years and a senior manager in Adult Education for nine years. His main teaching was in mathematics and computer science. He is now happily retired.

This week the NEC put an embargo on branches holding meetings (with a very few exceptions). We are told that this may have been an attempt to calm down the rather febrile atmosphere in some parts of the party. I understand that, but the effect in my constituency Labour party (with more than 4500 members) was to force the cancellation of our AGM. Our party officers had put in a huge effort and were told on the morning of the ruling to call the meeting off. I extend my sympathies to all those who had worked so hard and were naturally upset.

The venue is but twenty yards from my home so although disappointed as well (I am a GC delegate) I wondered along to pass on to any who had not heard the sorry news and have a chat generally with the many friends I might see there. Just before leaving I saw the interview with an NEC delegate almost in tears over the pressure she had been subjected to over the days leading up to the decision being made on whether or not to put Jeremy Corbyn automatically on the leadership ballot. This is not the place I wish to discuss that particular issue but it did emerge that her personal details such as home address etc had been circulated and threats were made to her. She was in favour of a secret ballot due to the pressures and, let’s face it, the threats being made against her and others on the NEC. We know that fortunately the secrecy of the ballot was allowed, but no thanks to some in the room including the party leader.

At the gates of the venue people began to gather. The atmosphere at the start was pretty amiable but did not stay that way. When the issue of the NEC delegate came up in conversation one person was entirely without understanding of her plight. Somehow it was a ‘betrayal’ to disagree with anything that Jeremy Corbyn said. To show emotion at all was regarded as totally wrong. There was in effect absolutely no understanding of the perceived threat the NEC member faced. In a word, empathy was completely absent from this individual. The current chair and secretary arrived and the chair explained the situation to those present. It must be said that he (the chair) was being totally factual as to the events that had caused the forced cancellation of the AGM. Another individual then started to criticise the NEC member for her not showing complete agreement with the party leader. Our chair, who knew Johanna Baxter (the NEC member), pointed out her fantastic service to the party. This was not good enough for the individual who immediately became extremely rude to our party chair and said that he would soon be removed from his role in the constituency. Why he thought this I have no idea. If I were a betting person I would have a flutter on his re-election with a big majority had the meeting been allowed to go on that night. By way of interest our chair is one of the hardest working members I have ever known and a member for over 40 years. He is also strictly fair in his interpretation of the rules and has never criticised any party leader. His critic has been a member for all of 10 months.

I did have civilised conversations with others present even if we disagreed on some issues but it must be said that there are a section of the membership who brook no disagreement with their positions. I am no shrinking violet and come this autumn will have been a member for 33 years. I went through the arguments on our GC in the 80s and early 90s which were pretty rigorous. Despite that I remember having fine personal relations with all sections of opinion at that time and afterwards. It is only over the last year that this element with total intolerance seem to have emerged. Perhaps for some it is a hang over from the small extremist sects they have now supposed to have left.

Here is a parting thought. Any members who have used social media or other means to threaten or behave in an uncomradely way over the last year should have their membership suspended. Such behaviour is intolerable.

What The Labour Party can learn from Bill Shorten | @greg_ashman

Bio Photo - Greg AshmanGreg Ashman is a teacher, originally from England but now living and working in Ballarat, Australia. He was the deputy head of a London comprehensive and is currently head of maths and pursuing his interest in educational research.

Halfway through their last term in government, the centre-right Liberal-National Coalition government in Australia ditched its leader, Tony Abbott.  Abbot had become increasingly unpopular. The media ran with his personal qualities and choices such as his decision to award a knighthood to Prince Phillip – roundly derided from even within his own party – and his awful, cringe-making public comments such as when he threatened to ‘shirt-front’ Vladimir Putin. Yet there was a policy angle. The 2014 budget was a complete disaster. It was ostensibly an attempt to get the public accounts back on track and reduce the deficit but the opposition Australian Labor Party were able to paint it as an inequitable. Instead of taxing the rich by, for instance, removing some of the tax breaks on large pension pots, the coalition had chosen to introduce measures such as the GP co-payment and the deregulation of university tuition fees.

There is no equivalent of The National Health Service in Australia. Instead, we have Medicare. This is a less comprehensive arrangement that gives free access to many services with certain restrictions. Australians are penalised through the tax system if they can afford private health insurance but don’t take it out – an effort to reduce the burden on Medicare. If you go to a GP that ‘bulk bills’ – and many don’t, especially in country areas – then you won’t have to pay any money to that GP because they will claim it all back through Medicare. The idea of the co-payment was that, even with a bulk-billing doctor, you would still have to pay $7 each time. Part of this was revenue-raising but it was also meant to ensure that people always had a good reason for making an appointment. Nevertheless, Labor were able to portray it as a “GP tax” and it became extremely unpopular.

Labor also ran a campaign warning of $100,000 degrees if university fees were deregulated (because this deregulation would be accompanied by a reduced government subsidy as well as a new student loan arrangement). Again, this was seen as the coalition trying to balance the budget by hitting the young and vulnerable.

Ultimately, many of the 2014 budget measures came to nothing because they were blocked by cross-benchers in the Senate. The Coalition lacked a majority in the senate due to minor parties prospering in the 2013 election and they also seemed particularly inept at negotiating with these minor parties, leading to The Coalition suffering all of the political harm without any of the anticipated fiscal gain.

So the Coalition ditched Abbott in favour of former leader Malcolm Turnbull. Initially, Turnbull had a huge lead in approval ratings over Bill Shorten, the Labor leader. Shorten was seen as wooden. He was roundly mocked for his heavily premeditated, clunky jokes. One TV satire dubbed these Bill’s “zingers” and the name stuck. Bill never seemed to miss a chance to present himself badly. At one marriage equality rally in Melbourne, he shouted into the microphone while all the other speakers had talked normally and naturally. He didn’t look much like a leader compared to slick Malcolm Turnbull and there was talk of a snap election to cement Turnbull’s mandate while Labor were vulnerable.

However, snap elections are not easy in Australia. Government’s are intended to go to term. The main way of triggering an early election is a double-dissolution – if the senate keeps blocking a measure that the lower house votes for then this is a trigger for a double-dissolution. In such an election, all seats in both houses are up for grabs. When the election is over, both houses can convene in a joint sitting to vote on the blocked measure and the larger number of members in the lower house can therefore outvote the senate. By now, there were a number of blocked measures that Turnbull could have used to trigger a double-dissolution. So he made his stand on a particular issue – the setting-up of a commission to regulate the building industry – and pulled the trigger. Unfortunately for Turnbull, this whole process took some time and, in the end, only shaved a few months off the natural parliamentary term.

During this period, Turnbull appeared to do nothing on the policy front. He threw-up a few thought-bubbles. What about increasing GST (Australian VAT) to give more funding to the states? What about having a state income tax? None of this came to anything and support seemed to be ebbing away as he dithered. At the same time, Labor were embarking upon a policy blitz. Announcements came from Labor on everything from ending a tax concession on second homes to funding education according to the ‘Gonski’ plan. The ideas were relentless. In the last few weeks prior to the election, Labor also ran a negative scare campaign about the Coalition’s plans for Medicare. The Coalition complained that they had no plans for privatisation, but a public who could remember the GP co-payment were not in a trusting mood.

In the end, the Coalition squeaked home to form a government with 76 seats in the lower house and majority of just one (although some votes are still being counted and so this is likely to increase to 77). This was down from 90 seats in 2013. The senate is, if anything, even worse for the Coalition now than it was after the 2013 election and this is despite a change being made to the senate voting system. There is little prospect now of a joint sitting and so Turnbull has won something of a Pyrrhic victory. Nobody thought at the outset of this campaign that Labor would do so well against a first-term Coalition government. They are right back in business.

So what do I draw from this for the UK? I think we overestimate the role of personality. Turnbull is slick but he still lost ground to wooden Bill Shorten. Why? Because of policy. Despite what the pundits think, people really do pay attention to the policies that are being discussed. It is negligent to assume that people voted for Brexit because they were hoodwinked by a charismatic Boris Johnson – they voted Brexit because they wanted to leave the EU. If you want to influence the demos then you need to explain your policies to them. Presentation certainly helps but it is not everything. I have been as vocal as anyone on Twitter with my complaints about Jeremy Corbyn’s inept leadership. But ultimately it is about much more than that. Corbyn is a disaster for Labour because of his hard left policies. The public won’t buy them.

Last Week’s Posts on @LabourTeachers (Week Ending 16th July 2016)

Here’s last week’s posts. If you are a Labour supporting teacher and you’d like to write something for us, please get in touch.

Sunday

It’s the Economy, Stupid | @kevbartle

In writing from an educational perspective about Brexit, and the concurrent possibility of a resurgent Conservative Party (they somehow manage to mop up the blood from their internecine warfare before it’s even been spilt) juxtaposed with a Labour leadership contest that is the very definition of bleeding out (with no mops anywhere to be seen), I feel pinioned by who I am and where I’ve come from. Let me explain.

Monday

Bad Timing | @MichaelT1979

Less than a year ago I was writing on these very pages about my ambivalence about the selection of a new Labour leader. I hoped then for an interim solution: a recognition that none of the candidates was ideal for fighting the 2020 election, but that a caretaker period was probably necessary to allow time for the new party leaders to come to the fore.

Tuesday

Grow up Labour, Grow Up | @DebLFisher

I wrote a post after the Brexit vote calling for the need for the party to unite behind Corbyn and to fight the Tories. I expected some fallout from the election referendum vote, I didn’t expect the cruel and childish mass resignations of the shadow cabinet which meant my blogpost was out of date before it was published the next day.

Wednesday

Creativity is dead | @joirritableowl

Back in 1999, Sir Ken Robinson wrote a report, commissioned by the Labour government, called ‘All Our Futures; Creativity, Culture and Education.’ It was a brilliant analysis, which brought together experts like Professor Sir Harry Kroto and Professor Susan Greenfield with figures from the arts like Jude Kelly, Professor Helen Storey and Sir Simon Rattle.

Thursday

Maybe the new HMCI will be wonderful | @68ron

Maybe the new HMCI will be wonderful, maybe she will be a disaster. Who knows? Prominent teacher bloggers are decidedly enthusiastic about her –but they were also enthusiastic about the last HMCI too.

We have been told “She is the only person on earth that could change OFSTED into an organisation with a reputation for fairness and a respect for the frontline.” Really? The only person on earth?

Friday

Two rants | @RosMcM

Rant One

Many years ago I was a young deputy head in a boys’ secondary modern. I loved that job and it was my first senior leadership role so it was pretty formative. One of my clearest memories is my final mentoring meeting with a young man who was set to get 10 grade As (we didn’t have A*s in those days). When he heard from me how pleased I was and what he was set to achieve both he and his mother broke down. He still believed he wasn’t clever because he had failed the 11+, and both he and his mother were still ashamed that he wasn’t ‘at the grammar’ – neither could understand why he was doing this well when they knew he ‘wasn’t academic’. Five years earlier he had taken a test one day which he had ‘failed’ and that had affected his self-esteem so badly he couldn’t accept he was bright enough to do so well.

 

Two rants | @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.

Rant One

Many years ago I was a young deputy head in a boys’ secondary modern. I loved that job and it was my first senior leadership role so it was pretty formative. One of my clearest memories is my final mentoring meeting with a young man who was set to get 10 grade As (we didn’t have A*s in those days). When he heard from me how pleased I was and what he was set to achieve both he and his mother broke down. He still believed he wasn’t clever because he had failed the 11+, and both he and his mother were still ashamed that he wasn’t ‘at the grammar’ – neither could understand why he was doing this well when they knew he ‘wasn’t academic’. Five years earlier he had taken a test one day which he had ‘failed’ and that had affected his self-esteem so badly he couldn’t accept he was bright enough to do so well. He got the 10 As. Many of the boys went from us to the grammar for sixth form and many left there quickly after joining for the local college because they ‘didn’t feel right’.

Our whole curriculum at that school was about making sure right from entry the boys didn’t feel like failures, because that is how they presented themselves to us. I will never understand why anyone involved in nurturing young minds thinks it is a good idea to say to a child as they transition to secondary education “you have failed at primary school, so you will sit that test again until you pass”. In what universe does telling an 11-year-old on the brink of the next phase of life that they have ‘failed’ seem like a good way of helping them achieve? The secondary curriculum should excite and inspire – how will resitting a KS2 SAT do that? The curriculum in Year 6 has been decimated – I heard a primary head say it was positively immoral what Year 6 had been put through this year – so, having turned children off learning, labelled as ‘failures’, what better way to start Year 7 than do it all over? And don’t tell me that is not what will happen! If secondary schools are in any sense accountable for the ‘KS2 resits’ those undertaking them will be denied their proper curriculum entitlement – it makes no sense to drill because it won’t deliver success in Year 7 if it didn’t in Year 6, but believe me most heads will feel they have no alternative.

I am so glad that back in our boys’ secondary modern we were able to use the curriculum to engage and inspire and transform those who believed they were failures into successful young men. Imagine if Year 7 had been about preparing to re-sit the 11+ in order to reach the accepted standard?

Rant Two

I have never set a target for myself. or anyone else, to achieve that wasn’t aspirational, so I can’t be accused of being an ‘enemy of the standards agenda’, and I am not normally a pedant; however I do wish we could do something about the term ‘floor standard’.

If I were Secretary of State (let’s all hold that thought for a moment!) and I were explaining my system to an overseas visitor, I would wish to have an aspirational target nationally: this is how we would like to see xx% of our pupils performing, and be able to demonstrate the actions we were taking to achieve this. This national target would move upwards as we saw system improvement. I would also want to have a ‘floor standard’ – something below which we would not expect any child without severe needs or exceptional circumstances to fall below. That is the sensible definition of a floor standard. How can we possibly talk meaningfully about standards and pupil entitlement when we have a floor standard which 13% of pupils nationally fall below?

The DfE need to sort the language out – this is embarrassing, nonsensical and demotivating.

Maybe the new HMCI will be wonderful | @68ron

image1@68ron is a teacher living and working on the south coast. He likes to think he can see educational issues from a number of different perspectives, teacher, parent, governor and (teaching) trade union officer. His 16th birthday present was a Labour Party membership card (when it still had Clause IV written on it). His greatest moment in teaching came while listening live on the ‘wireless’ to Mrs Thatcher’s defenestration while sitting in the smokers’ staff room during morning break.

Maybe the new HMCI will be wonderful, maybe she will be a disaster. Who knows? Prominent teacher bloggers are decidedly enthusiastic about her –but they were also enthusiastic about the last HMCI too.

We have been told “She is the only person on earth that could change OFSTED into an organisation with a reputation for fairness and a respect for the frontline.” Really? The only person on earth?

Another prominent blogger has written that Spielman ‘…possesses one of the five best minds in UK education” Wow! I wish I possessed the ability to arrange all the minds in UK education in rank order. This is from a blogger who wishes to see a more evidenced based approach to education. I wonder what the evidence for that claim is.

I remember the first time I heard the word ‘indispensable’ – my grandfather had told me that the graveyards were full of indispensable people and I completely misunderstood what he meant. I really don’t think Ms Spielman’s supporters are doing her any favours by deploying such hyperbole.

Classroom experience does not guarantee an effective HMCI. Nevertheless I want to have a school inspector who has had classroom experience. Actually I want a school inspector who has had to be dragged out of the classroom kicking and screaming to become an inspector. Moreover, I want a school inspector who loves teaching so much they have only agreed to become a school inspector for a limited time so they can one day return back to the classroom.

One thing I found odd about Ms Spielman’s appointment was her response to a question from Laura McInerney in 2014:

“What’s your favourite meal/food?

I’m quoting here from one of the famous 17th-century diarists. Is it John Evelyn? “Duck and green peas and an apricot tart to follow.” I’ve always thought that was the most wonderful description of a meal”

I think this is odd for a number of reasons. If you are asked what your favourite meal is why not say what your favourite meal is – why feel the need to quote a 17th century diarist? Secondly, why is that a ‘wonderful’ description of a meal – is it the way he used the word ‘green’ to describe the peas? Or the way that ‘apricot’ describes the tart? That’s really puzzling. It gives the impression of someone who is more keen to let you know that they’ve read a number of seventeenth century diarists than in answering the question about your favourite food. You might have thought someone in charge of OFQUAL would have a better understanding of how questions work.

Anyway, time will tell where Amanda Spielman ranks alongside her predecessors. One thing I will say about her is that her alleged lack of passion does not bother me one bit. ‘Passionate’, ‘relentless’, ‘excellence’ – these words have become almost compulsory in any talk on education – a lack of passion might make for a refreshing change.

Creativity is dead | @joirritableowl

jogartonJo Garton is a primary headteacher and has been for eight years. In a former life she was a Labour local councillor for five years, chair of the education committee and a parliamentary candidate.

Back in 1999, Sir Ken Robinson wrote a report, commissioned by the Labour government, called ‘All Our Futures; Creativity, Culture and Education.’ It was a brilliant analysis, which brought together experts like Professor Sir Harry Kroto and Professor Susan Greenfield with figures from the arts like Jude Kelly, Professor Helen Storey and Sir Simon Rattle. The basic principle was this,

“If we are to prepare successfully for the twenty-first century we will have to do more than just improve literacy and numeracy skills. We need a broad, flexible and motivating education that recognises the different talents of all children and delivers excellence for everyone.”

Sadly, despite the fact that David Blunkett  established the national Advisory Committee on Creative and Cultural Education, which contributed to the report, the Labour government ignored the findings of the report. This was more than a missed opportunity. It was a tragedy for any spark of creativity in our country. Sir Ken Robinson, disillusioned by the failure of the government to take a single item of the advice in the report (with the possible exception of Northern Ireland), became part of the brain drain and took up a post in the Getty Museum in Los Angeles. To be clear colleagues, this wasn’t the Conservative government, let’s be honest they wouldn’t have commissioned the report in the first place, it was a Labour government.

But what is it that makes our small island great in the twenty first century? Is it that we, like the Romans, had a huge and tyrannical empire, in a past century? Is it that we have a proud history filled with world renown figures, like William Shakespeare, Isaac Newton and Isambard Kingdom Brunel? I would argue that we are still punching above our weight in the world in creativity.

What is the evidence? The most obvious is music; from the Beatles to Adele, go around the world and in any bar, shopping centre or radio station, you will hear British music. British actors dominate too. You have only to think of Helen Mirren, Patrick Stewart, Kate Winslet and Daniel Day-Lewis. But it isn’t just the arts in which there is evidence of British creativity. Think of science too. Clearly we have Sir Stephen Hawking, but we have also Sir Paul Nurse and Fred Turner. We have some of the most brilliant scientists in the world, leading ground breaking research like mapping the DNA of cancer victims.

But what of the future?

Apparently Ofsted are concerned about science being the poor relation in the curriculum. As well they might. How many pages of the National Curriculum are taken up by English? A shade under 50%. As an English graduate, with a passion for inspiring reading in children, I’m as enthusiastic as the next woman about English, but come on- this isn’t a ‘broad and balanced curriculum.” According to our national curriculum, the aim is that it ‘prepares pupils at the school for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of later life.” I don’t know about you, but it took me until 51 to be confronted with the challenge of past progressive tense. Yes, I wince when I join the queue for five items or less, but am I prepared to sacrifice generations of children on the altar of five items or fewer? No I am not.

As a headteacher I struggle to offer children extra curricular clubs and curriculum weeks to inspire their creativity. I hope the children enjoyed dragon week, Shakespeare week and Olympic week. My art club was so oversubscribed it went on for much longer than planned and I had to recruit more parent helpers. But the fact remains, if the next Van Gogh, Isambard Kingdom Brunel or Simon Rattle is at a primary school in our country, they probably will have no sense that they are exceptional, unless they also happen to have been trained to use: passive and modal verbs,inverted commas, commas for clarity, punctuation for parenthesis mostly correctly, and making some correct use of semi-colons, dashes, colons and hyphens. The prime minister couldn’t do it. But every eleven year old in the country is being judged on what Eton and Oxford could not achieve.

Grow up Labour, Grow Up | @DebLFisher

DebbieDebbie has been a member of the Labour Party since her eighteenth birthday. She teaches history at a general FE institute. She believes passionately in the importance of everyone having the opportunity to develop and thrive and that education is key to this.

I wrote a post after the Brexit vote calling for the need for the party to unite behind Corbyn and to fight the Tories. I expected some fallout from the election referendum vote, I didn’t expect the cruel and childish mass resignations of the shadow cabinet which meant my blogpost was out of date before it was published the next day.

I was not a Corbyn voter but the country needed unity at a time of crisis. We needed a proper opposition to challenge the mess the Tories had created. Instead at a time when the pound and stock market was declining, race hate crime was on the increase and people were looking for leadership, we had the prime minister resigning, the Tories stabbing each other in the back, a mass resignation of the shadow front bench and the Deputy leader partying at Glastonbury. Actually, Tom Watson perhaps had the best idea. At least he was partying not damaging the party. At a time when Labour should have showed what it was capable of achieving, it was busy throwing a temper tantrum and it’s still at it. The mass resignations staged to cause maximum damage did just that. The way they staged one every hour or so for two days was pathetic and just harmed the party image. If you were unhappy with Corbyn that you should have just resigned quietly and simply, rather than behaving like a sulkily teenager.

However, whilst I hate bullies to win, Corbyn needs now to go. Too much has happened and the party is too disunited for him to remain as leader. He has proven himself unable to lead the PLP, unable to form a proper Shadow Cabinet and unable to unite the party. So called Corbyn supporters are not helping talking about how ideals are better than being in office. No, we need to be in office to achieve change and protect the most vulnerable in society. That is why the Labour Party was founded in 1900. That is why after the failed 1926 General Strike and the repressive 1927 Trade Dispute Act, the Labour Party focused upon getting as many Labour MPs as possible elected. They realised the only way they could only achieve anything long term and help the vulnerable was to form an elected government. And they managed to form the first Labour Majority government only two years later in 1929.

In Government we have introduced the NHS, the welfare state, Child benefits, sickness benefits, pensions, council housing, safe working conditions, union rights. As much as I hated Blair, his government managed to introduce a minimum wage, sure start centres, the smoking ban, investment in education and the NHS. Whilst the PLP and Corbynites are busy squabbling the Tories are getting away with attacking the most vulnerable and we are failing to hold them to account, we have seen the following:

Why are we fighting over whether Corbyn should be on a ballot paper or not, when we should be fitting these injustices? Yes, not compromising your principles is important. But no one is asking you to lie, murder, steal, harm or injury another. We are asking you to grow up, put aside your differences and fight for the needs of the most vulnerable. I gave up been active in politics as I realised I could achieve little that way and many fought over petty things. As a teacher I can achieve so much. I can help my students to achieve the qualifications to get a better future. I can help teach them about the world around them, to think for themselves, to question, debate, argue and fight for what they think is right. I can teach them to research, write, articulate their ideas better. I can help to build their confidence. I can help pick up the pieces of students badly effected by racism, poverty, ill health, disability. I can do this despite the increasing budget cuts and regulations I have to contend with but my job would be so much better, my students’ future would be so much better if you stopped acting like children and stood united to fight for the most vulnerable. So please labour grow up. And fight for the vulnerable like you were created to do.

Bad Timing | @MichaelT1979

Twitter PhotoMichael Tidd is deputy headteacher of a primary and nursery school in Nottinghamshire, and a Labour Party member in Derbyshire. He was a member of the selection committee that appointed the trustees of the College Of Teaching.

Less than a year ago I was writing on these very pages about my ambivalence about the selection of a new Labour leader. I hoped then for an interim solution: a recognition that none of the candidates was ideal for fighting the 2020 election, but that a caretaker period was probably necessary to allow time for the new party leaders to come to the fore.

How wrong we got it. Rather than handing the keys to a trusted, safe – if uninspiring – pair of hands, we ended up leaving them on the side only to be picked up by the slightly errant guest at the party who probably shouldn’t be driving.

The trouble with that is the wasted year. The push to replace Corbyn now has been nothing short of chaotic. PLP members clearly underestimated his stubbornness, or the willingness of the far left to sign up in their droves to support his grasp. And worst of all, we still don’t have a realistic prospect for 2020.

The whole debacle has done nothing to help bring about a Labour government that is so desperately needed. If Corbyn really is unelectable – and I do believe he is – then the electorate will make that clear. And we didn’t need to wait until 2020 for that proof. Had the referendum been taken as part of a building pattern, then local election results, by-elections and the like would have started to build up a picture – and legitimate grounds for calling for Corbyn’s replacement. Indeed, if Teresa May (as it seems likely to be) were to call for a general election in the autumn (less likely now, perhaps), then maybe that would have been a key part of the evidence we needed. It seems unlikely that any parachuted candidate could defeat the Tories yet, so soon after a significant win last year.

But regardless, by letting Corbyn run his course, maybe we’d have had time to find a viable candidate. Perhaps the likes of Dan Jarvis or Chuka Umunna – candidates who have potential for a wider appeal – might have started to come to the fore. As it is, they’ve merely ended up being associated with the chaotic and unhelpful attempts to unseat a legitimately elected leader.

Rather than biding their time, the parliamentary party have only served to waste it. There’s every possibility that the atrocious way in which it has been handled has only helped to bolster Jeremy Corbyn’s support among the labour party membership – and particular the cheap supporters. If he wins another notable victory, what hope for bringing the party back together under his leadership? Even by 2020. Even if Angela Eagle were able to defeat Corbyn (and frankly, the longer this goes on, the less likely that seems), is she really the leader we want taking us into a 2020 election? And if not, is handing her the reigns now the best of timing?

I can only hope – perhaps in vain – that a proportion of PLP members have a clear plan in mind that will lead us to a much better, more electable, position over the next few years. But recent antics leave me in doubt. It’s a difficult time to be a Labour member, and events like this make it more difficult to retain the support of reasonable centre-left supporters who can help bring about a Labour government. And it’s no longer clear how to stop the rot.

It’s the Economy, Stupid | @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.

In writing from an educational perspective about Brexit, and the concurrent possibility of a resurgent Conservative Party (they somehow manage to mop up the blood from their internecine warfare before it’s even been spilt) juxtaposed with a Labour leadership contest that is the very definition of bleeding out (with no mops anywhere to be seen), I feel pinioned by who I am and where I’ve come from. Let me explain.
Who I am, educationally speaking, makes me a natural Remainer. A well-educated and well-remunerated Headteacher of a thoroughly multicultural school in a throughout multicultural community to the NW of London that has truly benefitted from wave upon wave of economic and asylum-seeking migrants (our mock referendum returned a 78% Remain vote on a 75% voluntary turnout), I am a card-carrying member of the Labour Party who could easily be mistaken for the core target audience of the cosmopolitan leftie elite that has generated the past two leaders of the party. I’m not.

Where I’ve come from, educationally speaking, makes me a natural Brexiteer. A child of the Thatcher-dominated 80s growing up in the economically shell-shocked northernmost north of England (the miners’ strike was to the south of us, but boy did we collect for them) in an almost wholly white British town, I was a card-carrying member of the Labour Party who could easily be mistaken for the core target audience of the Trots and Socialist Workers who have turned out in their droves to bolster support for Corbyn in Parliament Square last weekend. I wasn’t and I’m not.

So, in this much-changed, much-changing and much-unsettling post-Brexit/pre-Brexit world, what am I?  It’s a question that all of us who support the party need to ask and quickly. One way or another there will be another vote on the leadership of the party and soon. What happens in that leadership election might well be the difference between my most optimistic and most pessimistic visions of the future of the Labour Party.

If we get it wrong (again?) we can kiss goodbye to pan-European allegiances with other left-wing parties and the possibility of Europe-wide restraints on unfettered markets, with all their negative impact on workers’ rights. If we get it wrong (again!) we can bid adieu to the Scottish and Welsh Labour Parties as part of a United Kingdom parliament, and the possibility of ever having a genuinely socialist (yes, you heard right) government in this country, north or south. If we get it wrong again we can say farewell to any chance of a state-run education system that is independent of for-profit organisations and the possibility of schooling becoming ever more an entrenchment of economic division between the haves and have nots.

All these things may be beyond us anyway, such is the ascendency of the non-Labour political, economic and social classes. But who I am and where I’ve come from refuses to countenance this. For the sake of the families of kids in the North East who were persuaded that the European project was the enemy, and who will surely come to see that it wasn’t, we have to choose wisely for our next leader. For the sake of the families of kids in London who feel that the Brexit decision was the worst thing that could happen to them, and who will hopefully come to see that it wasn’t, we have to choose wisely for our next leader.

That it can’t be Corbyn now appears patently clear. That is shouldn’t be another Ed is incontestable. That it shouldn’t be another Blair is also a foregone conclusion.

Who it should be is someone who can connect the disenfranchised – be they northern or southern, employed or unemployed, Remainer or Leaver – by remembering Bill Clinton’s mantra that “It’s the economy, stupid” that franchises people. Redistribution must surely have its day again. Blair’s tendency to overlook increasing wealth disparity when times were good won’t work now they’re not good. Miliband’s nervous self-flagellation and mea culpa stance won’t work when six years of culpability lies with the government we have not the government we had. And, sadly, Corbyn’s lack of pragmatism at a time when pragmatism is what we need most has left him head of the most dysfunctional opposition I have ever seen. It is time to go, Jeremy.

And when the time comes, the boy who I was and the man who I’ve become will be voting for the person who can best rescue both the community I serve and the community from which I came. If George Osborne can abandon his deficit reduction plan within a week of the Leave vote, surely someone with Phoenix-like qualities can emerge from the self-immolating flames of the Labour Party with a policy suite that can unite. Surely?

It’s the economy. Let’s not be stupid again.