Initial plans were in place for a Headteachers’ Roundtable Think Tank this summer; slots were being booked to host fringe events at the political parties’ Autumn Conferences and we planned to launch our Education Manifesto in November 2017, the mid-point of this five year fixed term Parliament. Then Theresa May announces a snap General Election; the best laid plans of mice and men.Today was busy with plans being hastily and drastically revised to produce a HTRT Doorstep Manifesto, in double quick time.
We want to talk directly to parents and grandparents as well as educational professionals. Parents and grandparents seem to be more worried about education then for a long time:
- Rising class sizes and more limited support for their children and grandchildren due to funding cuts;
- A lack of great teachers as recruitment targets are missed and too many teachers leave the profession at a time we have ever increasing numbers of pupils in our schools and
- Excessive accountability which they view through the worrying lens of primary school standardised assessment tests and the pressures created.
Listening to politicians dismiss their concerns, “funding for schools has never been higher” or “we have more teachers than ever before”; “shhh, don’t mention the extra million children who will come in to schools between 2015 -2025 and need teaching”; parents and grandparents instinctively know something is wrong.
Our challenge is to provide a straightforward, honest and useful document for parents, grandparents and professionals to use, on the doorstep, to ask important questions of our Members of Parliament and future ones. Time to provide key information, debunk a few myths and suggest questions people can ask of politicians; helping them get them to the root of the matter. We hope to use our social media reach, working with and through schools, to get the HTRT Doorstep Manifesto into as many households as possible.
There is work still to be done in explaining to the wider public why creating hundreds possibly thousands of secondary modern schools, and a few new grammar schools, will be hugely damaging to the nation’s children. Whatever Brexit we have – hard, soft or somewhere in between – our nation’s future is inextricably linked with the quality of education we provide to our children and young people. A second class education for the many, particularly but not exclusively those from more disadvantaged backgrounds, is not just educationally unacceptable but morally and economically disastrous.
We will be busy writing over the next few days and hope to launch over the early May Bank Holiday weekend. We hope we can count on your support; we need it, our schools, children & young people need it.
Stephen Tierney is CEO of the Blessed Edward Bamber Catholic Multi Academy Trust, Blackpool and the Chair of the HTRT.
He is on twitter as @LeadingLearner