It’s not just Theresa May. Another cabinet minister goes into hiding to avoid meeting real people

Emily Apple

The Conservatives really don’t seem to want to meet the public. Theresa May has gone into hiding, refusing to meet real people. Boris Johnson was supposed to be in hiding until he wrote an article for The Sun and put his foot in it during various media interviews. Now, Education Secretary Justine Greening has pulled out of addressing the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) conference.

It is normal practice for the Education Secretary to address the conference. But the Department for Education withdrew from the engagement after May announced the general election. There are limits on what politicians can say in an election period. But former Education Secretary Nicky Morgan addressed the conference just days before the 2015 election.

Why are you hiding from headteachers, Greening?

Greening is not exactly popular with headteachers. And she’s probably attempting to avoid embarrassing scenes. Such as when she addressed the Association of School and College Leaders annual conference in March 2017. Attempting to set out her plans for grammar schools, angry headteachers heckled Greening with shouts of “rubbish” and “no, no”.

Greening is in fact not at all popular with headteachers. Across the country, they have written to thousands of parents about the reality of Conservative cuts to our schools. A letter sent to all parents in Cornwall and Sussex set out “the significant school funding issues that are gripping [their] schools”.

Budget cuts have forced other schools to send begging letters to parents. As Redland Green School in Bristol made clear:

We have had to make cuts year on year for several years now because of the Government’s austerity policy, which has meant flat budgets for education.

The harsh reality of schools in Tory Britain

And the impact on school children is heartbreaking. Headteacher Oliver Joseph wrote about budget cuts to his school:

Just to come in on budget this year, I’ve laid off or not replaced: my librarian, a receptionist, my counsellor, a premises manager, an attendance officer, a head of year and three teachers.

I’ve halved the department budgets, stopped subsidising school trips, reduced CPD to virtually nothing and stopped the school paying into my pension (I’ll be dead by 50 at this rate, anyway).

Meanwhile, the legacy of former Education Secretary Michael Gove’s policies are beginning to take effect. A viral letter from a school girl taking GCSEs stated:

Of course I can’t speak on behalf of everyone my age, but in my school, everyone’s mental health isn’t exactly tip top. Despite support from teachers, they know there isn’t much they can do as it is the government that puts pressure on them. It’s not uncommon to see us roaming corridors with faded looks in our eyes or crying in the toilets and I’ve kind of got used to people breaking down in the middle of a lesson. Looking around a classroom 3 weeks away from exams, I see a group of kids slumped over desks with books closed and minds shut off to the work as well; we’re all exhausted.

Where have all the Tories gone?

It appears the Conservatives don’t like meeting real people. Especially people who are qualified, able, and willing to challenge them on the damaging impact of their policies. So now, Greening is running scared. Perhaps she’s afraid an embarrassing encounter will make the headlines and thus highlight the government’s disastrous record on education.

But education needs to be central to this election debate. So we need to keep putting it at the top of the agenda.

Our children, our friends’ children, and our future children are all relying on us. Our schools are in crisis. And while our children cannot vote, we can. And we have the chance to give them all better opportunities and a better future.

Get Involved!

Register to vote in the 8 June general election. If you don’t have a national insurance number, a 5 minute phone call on 0300 200 3500 will get it sent to you in ten days.

– Discuss the key policy issues with family members, colleagues and neighbours. And organise! Join (and participate in the activities of) a union, an activist group, and/or a political party.

– Also read more Canary articles on the 2017 general election.

Featured image via Flickr

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