Current polls indicate that education is a top five priority for the electorate. We need to make it number one for the politicians. The future of our education system and the aspirations of our children and young people depend on it.
However, to maintain the focus on educational issues, we have work to do. It isn’t just funding that is a problem in the education sector. It’s the recruitment and retention crisis, high workload, pay, selection, lack of SEND provisions, confusing and demoralising assessments and the increase in mental health issues among pupils, colleagues and leaders.
There could not be a more important time for ATL members to lobby parents, grandparents and candidates of all parties, about education.
Lobbying my MP
In the last two years, I’ve built up an excellent relationship with my MP. I recently met with him in Parliament to discuss our joint concerns about the growing teacher recruitment and retention crisis. His Cambridge constituency is an area of high employment, high housing costs and widening gaps between rich and poor.
I didn’t have to lobby him in the traditional sense of the word. Whenever an issue arises in Cambridge, my MP asks his staff to contact people working in the sector to hear their side.
It might be difficult for many of you to imagine but I haven’t always been able to get my voice heard above the crowd. Growing up in Leicester the youngest of five daughters home was always a place of lively debate, but my role was usually the bystander.
To ensure my opinion and voice was heard I had to learn new skills. I had to get my facts straight, speak to the right person and hold their attention.
What can you do?
Engaging with politicians can seem daunting, but now is the perfect opportunity to try.
MPs of all parties are worried about their seats. Several Conservative MPs have expressed huge concerns about the losses faced by their local schools, and Labour have picked up on work from ATL, NUT and NAHT about schools funding.
With the election just five weeks away, here are five things you can do to have your say:
- Email all your local candidates with the link to the Schools Cuts website. Include the funding figures of several schools in the constituency and remind them it is based on DfE figures.
- Ask candidates to attend an ATL branch or district meeting to discuss funding and other education issues. Speak to the Organising department about trying to arrange local education hustings.
- Sign the School Cuts petition.
- Use social media to contact candidates - ask questions and give them links to relevant information about their schools.
- Talk to parents and grandparents. Tell them the truth! This isn’t about moaning, this is about investment in the next generation. Get involved in a local parent group - contact www.fairfundingforallschools.org for details.
And finally, vote for education!
By Niamh Sweeney