A Letter to Stephen Twigg by a Disillusioned Teacher
I emailed the following letter to Stephen Twigg this morning at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will post it to his office: 229 Eaton Road, Liverpool, L12 2AG early next week. I encourage every school teacher and parent to make their views known.
Dear Mr Twigg,
I am writing to you as an English teacher highly disillusioned with the direction of the corrosive educational policy being conducted by the Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove. I am not writing to Mr Gove – he is a myopic ideologue who is simply undertaking his openly stated goal of bringing market forces to bear in education. I am writing to you because you are the primary cause for my current state of disenchantment. Unfortunately, as a life-long Labour supporter, born down the road from your West Derby constituency, your complete failure to challenge the systematic dismantling of state education has left me saddened and angry. I feel like there is little political choice to exercise in our defence, little protection for our profession and our state schools and, most importantly, the children we represent.
I understand that many a pragmatic politician in opposition disappears into the shadows, becoming non-committal on any detail of future policy so as not to compromise future votes. As a young star of New Labour I am sure you are subtlety aware of the nuances of reelection politics. The spectacular flaw in your current plan is that the education system that grew under the last Labour government is being dismantled at an alarming rate – the school system will be so fragmented as to be beyond repair for any prospective Labour government or future Education Secretary. Teachers across the country are crying out for a representative and advocate that challenges Gove openly, skilfully and in a sustained manner. My perception of your challenge is that it is simply non-existent. I for one am completely unclear what your vision for education is beyond what appear to be irregular and ineffectual statements.
In the past week we have seen the futures of thousands of children compromised at the hands of incompetent and corrupt exam boards looking to appease Mr Gove in order to secure lucrative future contracts. This was the time for you to stand up for state education, and more importantly, the children suffering at the hands of a busted right-wing ideology – yet you have failed to present any narrative or vision that challenges Gove’s duplicitous argument about educational ‘standards’. His less than covert plan to drive schools towards Academy status and the profiteers of the private sector is continuing apace and you are completely failing to challenge this state of affairs. The myth of ‘choice’, the chimera of Free schools, and the falsehood of school ‘freedoms’ in a centralising power grab for Gove is going on unchallenged. His ‘shock doctrine’ approach appears to leave you trailing in his wake. You are being trounced in the media battle for hearts and minds – you need to inspire the legions of teachers and leaders behind the cause – you are meant to be the face of a skilled and value driven opposition.
The Labour party is supposed to stand for cooperative values, collective equality and the protection of universal rights for every citizen. Why are you not challenging the existence of league tables, the false idol of transparency and parental ‘choice’, that serve only to promote a narrow ‘gaming’ of the system and negative competition between schools? We have exam boards manipulating results and a powerful business lobby that demeans any of the achievements of our young people. When are you going to challenge the conduct of exam boards? When are you going to defend schools against the attacks by the CBI? We have teachers, committed public servants, who are having their profession regularly demeaned. Do you have a view on the matter? What is your view on the abolition of Qualified Teacher Status and do you have a policy to reestablish true professional status to the teaching profession? Do you have a view on teachers pensions? How about a call for transparency in valuing the teachers’ pension pot – rather than letting Gove do his dirty work of driving down working conditions of public servants. You have said you wouldn’t abolish successful Free schools – I understand your unwillingness to appear dogmatic, but you must know you appear as limp and dissembling if you fail to condemn the inequalities that these drivers of ‘competition’ and ‘choice’ represent. These are winnable battles you appear to be avoiding. You have a staunch ally in teaching unions and thousands of teachers, yet you appear to be ignoring us all (I assume the Unions do not fit a politically centrist obsession), even though these teaching Unions represent labouring workers – the founding value of the Labour party no less.
The Academy system initiated by New Labour, although imperfect, is wholly different to the Academy system propounded by Mr Gove. When are you going to make this clear to the electorate? The PFI funding of new school buildings was flawed, but the state of crumbling schools needed to be addressed and was, but we are now back on the path of decaying conditions for our children, with budgets dwindling whilst the wealthiest in our society flourish. When are you going to challenge this state of affairs? The school fields bandwagon drew you out of the shadows briefly, but the momentum is already waning. Our contemporary politics is fought in the media – you need to engage in that battle with a sustained campaign – enlist the army of willing combatants through social media and by travelling the length and breadths of the land. When are you going to spark the campaign for a positive vision of education which is unequivocally opposed to the systematic break up of our state school system? You will find you will re-engage a massive base of disillusioned voters that dwarfs the small battleground of undecided centrist voters if you were to do so.
Mr Twigg – if this letter appears full of questions it is because I am completely at a loss to articulate what you believe in, what you are defending and what you think should happen in education – even whether you truly oppose the plans of Mr Gove. I am an undecided voter and public servant who wants to know what you stand for and I want to hear it as loud as a drum – from a committed politician who serves their people, not their own career. I am a supporter of labouring workers and I want to know how you will represent us all in the face of this bankrupt coalition.
I would welcome you to articulate your views at my brilliant state school in York, Huntington Secondary School. We have outstanding results and we are a model for how a cooperative and successful state school can flourish with the right values, even in the face of a legion of morally bankrupt educational policies.
Alex Quigley, English teacher