My post for the Labour Teachers site as part of their ‘Floating Voters Week’

This post was written for Labour Teachers as part of their  ‘Floating Voters Week’. you can find out more about this feature and the Labour Teachers site here.

In Floating Voters Week we are accepting posts from teachers who may not vote Labour at the next general election.

This post is by Paul Banks a secondary school headteacher based in Essex who is on Twitter (@hibs1974) and occasionally blogs at www.paulbanks1974.wordpress.com

I should start by stating that this post is about policies that would make me consider voting Labour at the next election. I qualify for the ‘floating voter’ category in these posts by not having voted Labour in one of the last 2 elections. I should also point out that this post is about what policies could make me think about voting Labour. I am not suggesting that anyone needs to agree with me, I’m just putting my thoughts out there.

What education policies could make you vote Labour next time?

Before I answer this question, I think there is a fundamental point that needs to be made. I really don’t know what ‘current’ Labour policy is on education. It simply isn’t clear and this needs to be addressed. In trying to write this post, I made a quick internet search trying to find what current Labour policy on education is. I really struggled. The closest I can find is ‘Labour’s better plan for education’ from April 2015 which you can read here, and a speech by Lucy Powell MP to the Labour Party conference in September last year which you can read here.

The fact that this is all I can find on current Labour education policy, leads me to my first point on what education policies could make me consider voting Labour at the next election: Make education a major issue for the Labour Party.

The other education policies that would make me consider voting Labour would be:

  • Be bold about funding. Every child in this country deserves a state education system that is properly funded. It is not enough just to ‘protect’ the education budget as they set out in their manifesto pledge last year. The current government have ‘protected’ the budget and this is leading to massive cuts and redundancies. People need to know that Labour are serious about education and that they will invest heavily in this area. It needs to be more than ‘protection’ of budgets and more about considerable investment.
  • Be serious about recruitment and retention issues facing education. We are in the middle of a recruitment and retention crisis at the moment and I can’t see it getting better anytime soon. Reduce contact time for teaching staff, reduce the burdens placed on schools so that working in schools becomes an attractive option for people. Invest in the professional development of all staff. We need new people into the profession but we also need to keep the high quality staff we have.
  • Ensure that there is a commitment to academic rigour in schools whilst, at the same time, ensuring that sports, the arts and technology are also seen and regarded as vital components in the education of our children. A ‘knowledge based’ curriculum is essential for our children and we should not lose sight of this and we should also ensure that the importance of the arts and sport are not lost in this.
  • Following on from the point above, consider introducing a true, national ‘baccalaureate’ for our children (Tom Sherrington-@headguruteacher) has spoken about this last year: https://headguruteacher.com/2015/07/03/rsa-occupy-the-curriculum/ )
  • Ensure that there is proper resourcing for students who have additional and complex learning needs.
  • Make a real commitment to reducing the attainment gap for ‘disadvantaged’ students. This needs to start early and, ideally, before children start school. Make a promise to engage in rebuilding a programme with a vision that the old ‘Sure Start’ programme had. By the time students get to secondary school it becomes much, much harder to reduce the attainment gap.
  • Ensure that there is a programme for rebuilding many of our state schools-a significant majority are in considerable disrepair and are not fit for purpose.
  • Ensure that any future curriculum and examination reform is based on evidence that these reforms will improve the quality of education for our children. If not, don’t change it.

I’d also like to see these policies presented as a positive way forward, policies and programmes that present a vision for our children. If the Labour Party want to engage with floating voters on matters surrounding education then I think they should start by presenting positive and clearly identifiable policies. People should know what Labour stand for when it comes to educational policies and, at the moment, I don’t think they do.

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