The Prime Minister may not be the first person to enter your head when you think of Christmas cheer, but during the school holidays I have decided to write to her and ask if she can give the teachers of Sheffield a present. Keep your eye on this column over the coming weeks to see if we get a reply.
Dear Mrs May,
I was wondering if you fancied swapping your posh leather trousers for a pair of jolly, red ones. You could also add a nice red jacket into the mix, don a Christmas hat and hide behind a long, white beard.
In short, I’m writing to ask if you wouldn’t mind being Santa. You see, there are thousands of teachers in Sheffield who would love you to give us a Christmas present.
There’s not a massive list of things we want for Christmas up here in Sheffield. We’re not greedy. In fact, I can narrow it down to just two things. So, on behalf of all teachers in this great northern city, here is our 2016 Christmas list:
For Christmas, please may we have:
An apology for the education policy since 2010.
A promise to do better.
We have behaved very well all year so I hope you can make our Christmas wish come true.
I don’t think it’s too much to ask for this apology, Mrs May. Since the coalition government had their first taste of power in 2010, a series of decisions have been made which have taken education in this country backwards rather than forwards.
The first chronically bad decision was to put Michael Gove in charge of education. To have a leader in Westminster who seemed to take great joy in heaping criticism on his workforce and obliterate morale was an ill-judged idea. And we would like an apology for it.
Next came the ideology-driven policy of pushing the Academy programme forward, essentially privatising the school system as much as you could get away with. This was a policy that put ideology over children and we would like an apology for that, too.
You’d think that was enough as far as the apology went, but no. Worse was to come. Despite teaching unions having agreed a sustainable pensions deal a few years before you came to power, you refused to carry out an audit and instead increased our contributions and extended the number of years we are expected to work. We would like an apology for that one as well.
Stick with me, there’s more. Because the government has also introduced a new pay structure that essentially removes rewards for staying in the job and gives cash-strapped head teachers the power to turn down pay increases. Can you apologise for that as well, please?
Bringing us bang up to date, there’s also your plan to push ahead with new grammar schools.
Despite this being criticised by people on all sides of the political spectrum and independent organisations as well, you seem hell-bent on pushing forward with another ideological change at the expense of what is right for our children. Again, please apologise for this.
And remember how, when you were young, that teaching used to be a respected profession and teachers were a pillar of the community? It’s not any more, and it’s got a great deal to do with you, so please can you say sorry.
Tony Blair deservedly has his critics, but when he was elected on the wave of ‘education, education, education,’ he had his priorities right. Investment in education is an investment in the future.
But apologies only get us so far. After all, the damage from budget cuts, pay adjustments and pension increases has already been done and is unlikely to be reversed for some time. We would like a pledge from yourself and the people who work in the education department. And it’s simply that you must do better.
Instead of ploughing ahead with ideological reform seemingly planned on the back of an envelope, spend more time talking to teachers, councils and unions to find a creative way forward. For the sake of our children, please make our Christmas wishes come true.
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