When I first became an activist in both the Labour party and the National Union of Teachers (NUT) some people questioned as to whether I could be both, I was told that I would have to choose. Of course there are times that I disagree with both organisations but unless I set up a trade union and political party with a membership of one then I am never going to find something that completely matches everything I believe in. Therefore, as an activist in both NUT and Labour I had my own reasons to really enjoy the NUT’s Education Manifesto.
There are many echoes of Tristram Hunt’s announcements, including support for qualified teachers, vocational education, copying London Challenge, CPD for teachers throughout their careers, end free schools, no schools for profit and reduce workload. However, as well as supporting Labour it also offers them a challenge, to address poverty as a contributing factor in educational outcome, to mend our fractured school system, to invest in school buildings, ensure all children have a broad and balanced curriculum and reduce testing in schools. In my opinion, the manifesto sets itself as a ‘critical friend’ of Labour Party policy, basically telling them ‘all very good but we think you could do better.’ For example, the NUT show support for Tristram’s plan for teachers to have CPD throughout their career but they ask him for ring fenced funding to ensure it happens, they agree free schools should be ended but want him to allow all schools to return to the LA if they wish.
Arguably, it is the point on testing that has generated so much support from the literacy community including Alan Gibbons, Mary Hoffman, Sally Gardner and Philip Pullman who commented that he was “Delighted to [support the manifesto]. It makes a lot of sense.” Bali Rai tweeted “I love the manifesto and I respect and admire teachers.” Alan Gibbons has taken the manifesto and has now signed up thirty five authors to endorse it including Terry Jones, Michael Rosen and Barbara Band. On Saturday I joined many others in calling for the government to "Stop putting so much pressure on our children."
This education manifesto appears to have taken some people by surprise, anticipating unrealistic dogma what they found were justifiable and reasonable aims:
· We need a wider vision of learning and achievement.
· We need more time for teaching – not more tests.
· All children deserve qualified teachers.
· We need to end child poverty.
· We need to end the schools places crisis.
· We need to mend a fractured educational system.
· Education should not be run for profit.
· We need to invest in education.
· We need teaching to be an attractive profession.
It is not difficult to see why it is gaining so much support and this document will be used to unite parents and teachers and build alliances with the wider public beyond the general election. Rather ambitiously 1.6 million copies have been printed and the first day of national street stalls is planned for Saturday October 11th. Anyone who has ever worked in education will tell you that everyone has an opinion on how schools should be run and what they should do and this document will facilitate and initiate discussions between NUT members, parents and governors. The mobilisation of members by the NUT is still growing and there is no sign of fatigue, the therapeutic and radicalising effect of ‘doing something’ upon teachers morale has been underestimated by this government and I’m already looking forward to being involved in what the NUT will do next!
To read the manifesto click here: NUT Education Manifesto
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