The Daily Mail, still struggling to come to terms with the huge Tory losses at the election, has found a new scapegoat: headteachers.
During the election, 3,000 headteachers across 14 counties wrote to parents about the current situation regarding school funding. And they urged parents to ensure that education was put firmly on the election agenda.
But The Mail isn’t happy. And one article seeks to accuse teachers of attempting to ‘sway’ the election.
The original letter, seen by The Canary, advised parents to put education at the forefront of the election debate. And while they were careful not to be party political, they were adamant that what was happening with schools was a vital issue:
During all our campaigning work to improve funding for each and every child in each and every school, we have been careful not to become involved in a politically biased or partisan way. Headteacher colleagues and I feel that ahead of the forthcoming general election, it is crucial that parents, carers and all other interested parties raise the issue of school funding ‘on the doorstep’ with all prospective candidates.
The letter continued:
It would be naive to think that school funding is the only issue affecting everyone’s lives but school finances are in such a dreadful state that we believe it is vital to urge you to raise it as a key issue.
It also stated:
As professionals, we are only interested in securing fair and adequate funding for the children we educate. This is under severe threat and has influenced our decision to contact you in a collaborative manner.
Speaking to The Mail, MP Henry Smith clearly has sour grapes over the issue. He stated:
To be engaging in the party political fray using official letterheads and Twitter accounts is unacceptable. It’s largely driven by some of the personal political opinions of some heads and teachers rather than the facts.
He also had the audacity to complain that teachers were wasting their budgets on the letters:
Parents tend to trust what their schools are telling them. If funding is such a tight issue, what are they doing spending money on these letters?
Schools have been sending out letters to parents because they are desperately short of money. These letters started before the election period and are a result of real-term cuts to school budgets. Schools are being forced to make redundancies, cut essential support services, and teach lessons in leaky classrooms. Even Ofsted-rated outstanding academies have been forced to send begging letters to parents.
Meanwhile, the Conservative manifesto offered nothing to relieve the situation. Instead, it pledged to reintroduce grammar schools. This is despite both the National Union of Teachers and the National Association of Headteachers opposing the plans.
And Theresa May was labelled a “dinner snatcher” for proposals to take free school dinners away from primary school children. May wanted to replace them with breakfasts. The government has had to step back from that policy though, as the original costings provided less than 7p per child for breakfast.
The letters sent to parents did not have a party political agenda. They were aimed at asking parents to raise the issue of education on the doorstep and as part of the campaign.
But the Tories didn’t listen. Instead, they carried on as if it was business as usual, and it resulted in an appalling election result for them. Now, though, they are being forced to make concessions in some areas. Education Secretary Justine Greening quietly shelved plans for grammar schools. And the manifesto pledge to abolish school dinners has also been dropped.
Instead of right-wing politicians and the press blaming teachers for daring to say that education should be an important issue in the election, they should be looking at why headteachers felt forced to send the letters in the first place. And they need to listen to the electorate. This means not only scrapping their disastrous flagship policies, but also actually investing in our children’s future.
– Join the Million March on London on 1 July.
Featured image via Kerry-Anne Mendoza