Have Your Political Views Changed As A Teacher?

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This post answers the first question from my TeacherToolkit Thinking page of Thunks. You can see my other Thunks here.

Thunk 1: Have your political views changed as a teacher, during your time as a teacher?

To be honest, I’ve not taken any serious view of politics until I reached my early 30’s… It simply wasn’t important to me directly – or that’s at least what I thought at the time. My interest has changed and is probably a direct outcome of recent changes to national policy that affects all classroom teachers and my role as a school leader.

I vaguely recall the day, my father dragged me off to the polling station as a first-time voter, to cast my [X] in the empty box [ ] for the very first time. The date was somewhere between 1991-1993 around mid-Spring in Fleetwood, a large fishing town in Lancashire. Simple research informs me that it must have been a by-election. I was 18/19 years old at the time and I barely knew who I was, never mind whose policy I would firmly put my faith in! My only vivid recollection of politics between the ages of 10-20 years old were: that I was a Thatcher-child; a [Falklands] war had kicked off on the other side of the world and there was a media-storm or other; something to do with eggs!

I have managed to find the following information closely related to my first vote:

I knew very little as an A-level student of the 90’s. I knew I wanted to go to university and at the time, with my well-rounded and modest upbringing I had an outside chance of getting there. My parents were ministers of religion for The Salvation Army. Their income was low enough to guarantee I would receive tuition fees and living costs to subsidise my studies and ensure I would be able to finance my ambitions. I would be the first in a generation to reach university level, so I wanted to ensure that I grasped my opportunity.

My intentions were to train to become a teacher, following a 4-year BAEd course in Design Technology with Secondary Education. Twenty years later, you could argue that after all this time in the classroom, I have invested my initial monetary-handout, back into higher education pot (£) by educating our next generation…

Social-media availability, including the current state of affairs in higher-education, (today) allow students to be much more informed with politics and each others’ views, offering a greater forum to express their opinions on paper [X] or through other places, such as on the streets of the capital.

Do you remember this? The student riots of 2010:

So, this Thunk-question remains, “have your political views changed as a teacher, during your time as a teacher?” Frankly, I’m a swing voter. There, I’ve said it and published my views in black and white. I am trying very hard to recall my voting intentions over the years. As I type, I will do my best to list my political flavour with any possible reasoning… This will prove a challenge, considering I was brought up in a household that was never to discuss sexual orientation, political intention or salary.

Firstly, it is vital to have an opinion and express your viewpoint during any local or national election. Regardless of the state of the nation, I have ensured that I have completed all my ballot forms and cast my [X] in the empty box provided. I think this is fundamental. We know that less than 50% will turn out to cast their vote and I’d imagine, if you are reading this, there is a high chance you are one of the 50% population who does [vote]. The number, I assume, is much less when asked if you or I have read government manifestos as the time of election, from cover to cover, ensuring your views are totally informed.

Put simply, I think the vast majority of us consider the policies that directly affect our daily lives. This may be the war in Iraq, pensions or the political party views on gay marriage. Whatever it is, we all take those immediate view points into account when considering which party to vote for. Of course, political views are much more deep-rooted than this and the colour of your vote can often be unquestioned throughout family generations.

So what is the point I wish to make?

It is no surprise to us all, the teaching in general has taken a real ear-bashing from Mr. Gove. The continual media spotlight, the ever-changing goalposts of Ofsted and that calm-reassuring look from Mr. Wilshaw, portrays a face ‘full of trust’ and a ‘you-can-count-on-me’ demeanor; we can all breathe sigh of relief.

Well.., er, no! Far from it!

I can recall hundreds of occasions over the past 20 years when the face of many would light up as they questioned ‘what do you do as a profession’ and I would proudly reply: “I’m a teacher.” This reaction simply does not happen anymore, and I am left feeling that I should be wearing various medals of honour on my suit lapels.

My time as a teacher has been marred by political table-tennis. At the ASCL conference in 2010, I had a Q & A session with the then Education Secretary, Ed Balls MP. I think back to the time when I thought nothing more of him (than I would do about any Education Secretary), other than a simple comparison to my wet socks at the bottom of my washing machine…

Over recent years, this has changed. I am much more alert to various pawns placed in front of teachers and students across the country. My time as a ‘happy’ teacher has not mirrored my political voting at the time. Of course, there are plenty other factors that have determined my voting intentions other than education, but, If I just think back over the past 10 years in education I am starting to see more clearly…

I have been very happy in the classroom until late. I often think if this is related to my position as a senior leader and my relationship with the political fashion that has changed with time. But rest assured, during my time as a teacher, there have been no less than 11 Secretary of State for Education MPs. That’s changing policy for schools, on average EVERY 2 years!

For example, the General Election results and my historical preference (by memory) are as follows:

  • 1992 election results – just before I started teacher-training. Kenneth Clarke (Tory) sits as Education Secretary. I think I voted Liberal. John Patton, then Gillian Shephard sit as Education Secretary consecutively for the Conservatives
  • 1997 results – “Education, Education, Education” Blair‘s years as PM… . David Blunkett is then put in post, as Labour have a landslide. I think I voted Liberal or Labour…but I think I may have not bothered. I can’t quite remember. Typical student you may ask!?
  • 2001 resultsEstelle Morris is now Secretary of State for Education – I vote Labour and start getting annoyed. Charles Clarke is then put in post, followed by Ruth Kelly.
  • 2005 results – I have no idea how I voted this time. I know my preference varied at local by-elections over the years. For education, I get more annoyed, then Alan Johnson is put in post for a brief 13 months. Even GCSE kids have stuck around for longer! That’s four ministers in 6 years! Ed Balls then sits in office. I have the happiest 10 years of my teaching career. Money is thrown at me as I work in a new BSF school. I spend £250,000 on a new faculty. My salary almost doubles in 8 years as I am promoted through the system (for my hard work of course).
  • 2010 resultsMr. Gove arrives! Our favourite man. I vote Tory and I have never been more annoyed with education and myself… and it serves me right! My pension is cut. I have to work longer. Some may say it is to compensate for the glory years of Labour’s overspending… or the now-in-post despondent Coalition government. Who knows? I am unhappy.
  • 2015 results – I vote Labour after the damaging and relentless changes Michael Gove pushes onto schools and school leaders. After 20 years in the classroom, despite loving what I do, I’ve never witnessed more pressure working in schools with staff who are increasingly unhappy. I warm to @TristramHuntMP as I firmly believe in the Labour policy, but not Ed Milliband; that all school teachers should have QTS. Tristram hosts @SLTchat and I am genuinely disappointed about the outcome. I fear for education 2015-2020 …

Regardless of political bias, no matter who is in seat, I think I will always be uncomfortable with whoever sits in cabinet as Education Secretary. What I do know for sure, is that any election, whether local or national … I will be seriously considering my options from an educational perspective more than my own personal circumstances.

I am resigned to finish briefly by stating, that all of the above has taken me a great deal of thought to seriously decipher my political preference. I am in juxtaposition with education policy and with the many other policies that affect me personally at home, I am a little closer to making a decision. Online questionnaires have stated new viewpoints for me to consider. Swing voting has left me baffled at times. Experience has told me what not to do next time. Readers may judge my background; my grammar and role in society and make an assumption…

No matter what, my political views have changed ‘as a teacher, during my time as a teacher’, and I argue to the reader, that if you teach too, your views must have changed too(?), during your career.

@TeacherToolkit

In 2010, Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit from a simple Twitter account through which he rapidly became the 'most followed teacher on social media in the UK'. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of being most influential in the field of education. He remains the only classroom teacher to feature to this day ... Sharing resources and ideas online as @TeacherToolkit, he has built this website (c2008) which has been described as one of the 'most influential blogs on education in the UK', winning the UK Blog Awards (2018). Read more...

2 thoughts on “Have Your Political Views Changed As A Teacher?

  • 25th September 2012 at 9:46 pm
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    Me too, never that political until of late. My Tory Dad sent me to a private school. I vowed to teach State and never to pay for my kids education. He calls me his socialist daughter but at the moment i do not believe or trust any of the parties nor their judgement but do not want to waste my vote…

    Reply
  • 30th September 2012 at 11:47 am
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    Yes, very much so. Much like you Ross I didn’t take too much notice of it all before I became a teacher. I was always very keen not to waste my vote however. What with the Pankhurst crowd burning their bras in order that I have the privilege! So my polling day dilemma was always the same. They are all saying the right sort of things, who is least likely to be lying. Now I am firmly to the left. I wish I were more confident Twigg is! Unfortunately I think the current educational landscape will continue to develop in the way it is regardless of whether the government is blue or red. I just hope there are enough brave souls to fight to preserve creativity as the pendulum swings toward spelling, grammar and punctuation.

    Reply

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