‘Against the Laws’: Why Every Teacher Should Dismiss the Criticism by David Laws


This mornings I awoke to dark skies and the end of a very long half-term. My gloom was further compounded by reading this Guardian article in which David Laws liberally criticises teachers:

“Teachers, colleges, careers advisers have a role and a responsibility to aim for the stars and to encourage people to believe they can reach the top in education and employment. That’s not happening as much as it should do at the moment.”

The full article can be perused here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2012/oct/26/david-laws-teachers-failing-pupils. The article was all the more galling because it was from a man whose moral authority to speak about the future aspirations of our children has been completely discredited. His position lurking in the dark shadows of the DfE towers should be questioned and scrutinised at every step – which is what inspired this blog post!

A little contextual information about David Laws is needed I think before we start analysing his statements and his lazy, duplicitous criticisms about the entire teaching profession. He directly criticised teachers for letting “investment banking” be seen as a “different world” for our students. Now, Mr Laws grew up in Surrey, was educated at the fee paying Wolburn Hill School, the son of a banker, before successfully moving to Cambridge – then onto a career as a Vice President at JP Morgan, followed by a role at Barclays de Zoete Wedd. I will admit to being no expert about investment banking (I would go as far as to say I see it as a ‘different world‘ – a world obsessed by a selfish accumulation of wealth with little intrinsic good it appears), but isn’t that the JP Morgan that only recently were heavily criticised for massive losses stemming from derivatives and credit default swap losses – the very same futures derivatives that helped get us into our unregulated global banking crisis. The Barclays bank famous for its controversial involvement with South Africa during Apartheid; gave financial support to Robert Mugabe’s regime; faced money laundering investigations, tax avoidance issues and numerous conflicts of interest…you get the picture. Laws mentions banking, with journalism and a career in law, as being beyond the aspirations of many of our students. When in reality, the moral repugnance towards the banking sector for their ill-deeds may well account for the youth of today rejecting that particular career. Good on them I say. perhaps they have higher moral standards than Laws and his friends. Yet, this lazy accusation doesn’t tell a fraction of the real story about social aspiration about Britain today.

Laws directs his malicious attacks about low aspirations in the full knowledge that it is social inequality, perpetuated by the weasle-word complicity of his political party, which are at the root of the under-representation of state school students within the careers he mentions. He represents a particular brand of liberalism which is more Liberal ‘Plutocrat’ than Democrat; which is more interested in the freedoms of the markets than the aspirations and freedoms of our youngsters. His party most famously lied about university fees (with a pathetic apology being little solace for students terminally indebted by this shadow tax); agreed with the abolition of EMA; executed swinging cuts to 6th forms, colleges and universities, to oversee a shrinkage in opportunity for the very children he purports to defend. His cowardice and deceptiveness is staggering. By raising the fees and creating a pervasive culture where ‘work experience’ and internships becomes the privilege of the well off, he has created a closed shop, where the opportunities for those without patronage are narrowed to near non-existence. Is it any coincidence that Laws was able to move so comfortably through an education and banking sector that oils the wheels of a select elite? To blame teachers and careers advisors (whose sector has been savaged by cuts to the point of becoming near obsolete) is political manoeuvring of the most transparent kind. The idea we live in a meritocratic society is being eroded daily – the opportunities for the next generation of working and lower middle class children are being narrowed year on year. Whilst Laws and his banker friends carry on in blissful ignorance. How about this exemption for Laws and his banker buddies:


Or this continuation of the casino banking that has left the government without the money to support edcuation:


This article based on Laws cheap shots was released on a day where the beginning of the de-professionalisation of teachers, and the inevitable erosion of their status and working conditions, was ratified and academies were legally allowed to have untrained teachers. A fitting book-end to the relentless criticism and demonisation of our profession. It wasn’t long ago that our nation was up in arms at the criminal negligence and downright greed of politicians. Laws himself was at the front of the trough, dipping in, with his righteous sense of privilege, to the taxpayers pot, like his banker chums. He now skulks in the DfE, under-going his political rehabilitation. Lazarus-like he reemerges, criticising hard working professionals who undertake their very career, not for fabulous wealth or status, but to serve their community, to help children live better lives. To receive an accusation from this man about caring for the aspirations of children, from his sullied and hypocritical podium of pomposity, is offensive to the very bone.

If he thinks his phony ‘pupil premium‘ gives him and his fellow ministers of parliament the right to spout forth about education from a place of moral certitude he is sadly mistaken. Any professional who works with, and for, children knows that the premium papers over the cracks of massive budgetary cuts. They know that the cuts to capital budgets mean that rain may fall in tired, decrepit classrooms, but a small cluster of students may have some ring-fenced money to buy an umbrella! He is a joke and his words are to be summarily ignored. His credibility, and that of his colleagues is shot.

When you break the rules to the sum of £40,000 (to pay for his lobbyist partner’s rent), break six rules of expenses, when already a multi-millionaire, you forsake your right to preach about aspiration. Instead, you become a poster boy for the greedy cronyism that is rotting the heart of our parliamentary system, making aspiration for ordinary working people a near impossibility, as well as your friends in their morally bankrupt boardrooms. So Mr Laws, don’t come back from getting caught reaching into our till and telling us about not helping students ‘reach for the stars’.


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About huntingenglish

I am Director of Learning and Research at Huntington Secondary School, York. I have taught English (including a bit of Media Studies) for over a decade. If it is tragic and gothic, laced with humour and bitter truths then I'll teach it! I have had the great privilege to have written a book, 'Teach Now! Becoming a Great English Teacher', edited by the brilliant Geoff Barton, and I am writing another for Routledge, entitled, 'The Confident Teacher'. I am Project Lead of the RISE (Research-leads Improving Students' Education) Project. An EEF funded randomized controlled trial to evaluate if and how a Research-lead can improve outcomes for students. I am a proud member of the Institute for Effective Education (IEE) Executive Board at York University. I am also a proud member of the ResearchEd Advisory Panel. I write regularly for the TES and Teach Secondary magazine. My first book, 'Teach Now! Becoming A Great English Teacher' was released by Routledge in 2014 and my next book, entitled 'The Confident Teacher' will be out at the end of 2015.

5 responses to “‘Against the Laws’: Why Every Teacher Should Dismiss the Criticism by David Laws”

  1. madphil says :

    Excellent blog. Totally agree, the credibility of Laws and the Lib Dems is shot. He is in no position to make any assertions of any kind!

  2. Ann Litchfield (@Ann_Litchfield) says :

    Teaching is the hardest and most rewarding thing I have ever done – it’s also so demoralising when so many self servind politicos spout off about things they have no knowledge of. Example: my department runs out of money and I buy things from my own pocket and don’t claim it back – they claim 89p for a bathplug and rent their homes to each other to cheat the system. Can’t afford your morgate? Tough – neither can loads of people.

  3. gwatson says :

    Day in, day out I look to raise the aspirations of the youngsters in our school. I am not alone in seeking to raise the sights of children. Is damming the teaching profession now in the essential column of the person specification for education ministers?

    Send him to our school any day of the week. We will show him what raising aspirations looks like.

    Few things make me angry but when you dedicate your entire working life to increasing the life chances of young people you can really do without this ill informed nonsense.

  4. Rob Bishop says :

    My son is currently living at home, working hard on his PGCE course. He’s apolitical but even he is noticing the almost daily attacks on teachers from the Right, such as Laws or Gove. I feel so sorry for him – bright eyed, enthusiastic, hard working – and all he gets is persistent attacks on the profession he wants a career in. I try and put him right the best I can. I’ll draw his attention to this excellent blog and have retweeted (GlosSocialists). Thanks – keep it up.

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