Tag: Angela Rayner

Authoritarian government warns headteachers against expressing ‘political views’

Last year, thousands of headteachers across England wrote a letter to parents to warn that there is “simply not enough money in the system” to fund schools properly, as their costs continue to rise and budgets come under severe pressure.

The letter from more than 4,000 heads told around a million families that the government’s then new national funding formula would still mean that their children face an unfair “postcode lottery”, with some schools able to afford class sizes of 20 but similar schools in other regions forced to have classes of 35 pupils.

The head teachers said that the proposed national funding formula will do little to solve the funding crisis affecting many state schools.

Now, campaigners are concerned that the government wants to ‘gag’ teachers in England over the issue of diminishing funding and resources in schools. 

A revision was made in September to the Department for Education’s (DfE)’s document entitled Staffing and employment advice for schools– billed as departmental advice for school leaders, governing bodies and local authorities – which contained a new paragraph with a blunt statement in a staff management section.

It states: “All staff have a responsibility to ensure that they act appropriately in terms of their behaviour, the views they express (in particular political views) and the use of school resources at all times, and should not use school resources for party political purposes.” 

The warning, which was first reported by Schools Week, comes after campaigns by school leaders over budget cuts that have irked the government, and high-profile union activity targeting parents during the previous general election campaign, which may have cost the Conservative party votes. 

However, headteachers and teaching unions have said they will defy any attempts by the DfE to block legitimate criticism, following the warning to teachers in England against expressing “political views”.

A DfE spokesperson said: “Headteachers have long had a legal responsibility to provide a balanced presentation of opposing views when teaching political or controversial subjects.

“This update simply brings this guidance in line with the law, which makes clear that headteachers and local authorities must not promote partisan political views in school.” 

However, Jules White, a headteacher behind the Worth Less? national group of school leaders that has organised critical letters on funding, said: “If expressing political views is about biased and ill-judged grandstanding by heads and teachers, then I fully support the DfE’s views.

“If, on the other hand, the DfE wishes headteachers to be gagged as they simply tell the truth about the financial and teacher supply crisis that our schools are facing then this is unacceptable.

“Worth Less? always uses independent evidence from sources such as the IFS and DfE data itself to support the legitimate concerns it raises with parents and the public. Our claims are never disputed, but frequently ignored.

“I will continue to lead our campaign and speak out in a reasonable and considered manner on behalf of colleagues and the children and families that we serve.”

Last year, Worth Less? organised 5,000 headteachers to lobby the government, while White and his colleagues oversaw a letter sent to an estimated 2.5 million households via pupils from thousands of state schools.

Geoff Barton, a former headteacher who is now general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, derided the DfE’s advice and suggested it would be unlikely to deter teachers from campaigning.

It is perfectly reasonable for school leaders and teachers to be able to articulate their concerns … and it is clearly in the public interest for them to have a voice. You cannot disenfranchise 450,000 teachers from talking about education,” he said.

Angela Rayner, the shadow education secretary, said: “The Tories are trying to ban teachers from whistleblowing when schools cuts bite into our children’s education. They may hope to silence teachers, but they can’t get away from the fact that they will have cut £3bn from school budgets by 2020.

“If the government wants to know why teachers are publicly criticising them, they need only look at their own record of broken promises. They even cancelled their ‘guarantee’ that every school would receive a cash increase.”

The non partisan Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) says that since 2009school spending per pupil in England has fallen by about 8% in real terms, with a smaller fall in Wales of about 5%.

While total school spending has risen in England by about 1% in real terms over this period, a 10% rise in pupil numbers means that the only slightly increased resources are now rather more thinly spread.

Damian Hinds had only been education secretary for a month when Labour shadow secretary, Angela Rayner, reported him to the UK Statistics Authority for making the incorrect claim that “real-terms funding per pupil is increasing across the system”. Themistake’ was corrected, and six months into the job, Hinds says he recognised not only that school budgets are being cut, but that such cuts are unsustainable and destructive.

Yet despite Hinds’ claim that he has grasped some of the problems facing schools, he has offered no solution.

In September, Hinds was forced to apologise to the families affected by the Whitehaven Academy scandal, and pledged to “do everything we can to stop it happening again”. Hinds said images of the Cumbria school’s squalid facilities shown in a recent BBC Panorama investigation were “very striking”, and said he was “sorry” for everyone affected.

The secondary school has been at the centre of a row over the way the private company Bright Tribe runs its schools in the north of England for years, but matters came to a head last autumn when flooding damaged already “dilapidated” buildings on the school site, and the chain announced it was walking away.

It has since emerged that the DfE was warned of problems as far back as 2015, but had taken no action.  The governmenthad approved the academy initiative. Bright Tribe had taken the money intended for repairs to the school, and then not carried out the work. 

Michael Dwan, who set up Bright Tribe and had previously made a fortune of over a hundred million pounds from similar arrangements in NHS provision, said “I am not in control of the trusts and never have been.”

Hinds told Schools Week: “I am sorry for the families involved with Whitehaven, of course I am, and as secretary of state for education, ultimately responsibility for the school system sits with me, and particularly the academy part of the school system, then especially so.” 

“I want to make sure that we learn from what happened, and make sure that we do everything we can to stop it happening again.”

The controversial Bright Tribe academy trust confirmed in September that the final six of the ten schools it ran will be ‘re-brokered’,

The wind-up of the trust follows a turbulent year which saw its founder, property tycoon Michael Dwan, resign last September. New trustees, installed by the government, are now investigating allegations of misuse of public money.

The Bright Tribe founder Michael Dwan withdrew his support from the ailing trust amid frustrations over government scrutiny and concerns that his ‘efforts had gone unrecognised’, copies of letters and emails obtained by Schools Week revealed in July.

The new bosses, who include two school leaders that specialise in the winding up of failing trusts, are investigating allegations that Bright Tribe made repeated false claims for building and maintenance grants at Whitehaven Academy in Cumbria, the first school to be given up by the private trust.

The school is now in limbo, it does not have the option to return to local authority control. It cannot make long-term planning decisions, hire new permanent members of staff or organise pay rises. The government has offered no solution, struggling to find a new chain willing and able to take on the school, which is in a precarious financial position.

By the end of 2017, 64 academy status schools were waiting to find a new sponsor after being abandoned by, or relinquished by their managing trust. Using average enrolments of 279 pupils for state primary schools and 946 for state secondary schools this would mean over 40,000 students are adversely affected.

Legitimate criticism of government policies that have negative consequences on children, public sector staff and the tax paying public isn’t ‘expressing political views’; it is an absolute necessity for a functioning democracy.

A government that labels valid concerns ‘political views’ is an oppressive, authoritarian, gaslighting one.

You can watch the Panorama documentary, Profits before Pupils? The Academies Scandal, here.



Pupils with Special needs are being failed by system ‘on verge of crisis’


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The debate on tuition fees today was a prime example of Tory abuse and bullying

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Today the Speaker of the House of Commons,  John Bercow, was forced to intervene in debate and issue reprimands because of the deplorable behaviour of hectoring and abusive Conservative MPs, who persistently heckled and shouted over Labour’s Angela Rayner’s questions and responses. 

Corbyn promised to scrap university tuition fees. And he will

The Labour party gained a huge swell of student support when they made a manifesto pledge to scrap tuition fees, which increased to £9,000-a-year under the coalition government in 2012. 

However, many recent graduates complained that the pledge was “unfair”, leaving them as a “collateral damage generation” when it comes to tuition fees. Corbyn sympathised with the group, and hinted he may try to find a way of ameliorating or wiping tuition fees debt for thousands of graduates if he was elected on June 8. 

The problem is that if Labour’s tuition fee policy were to be implemented from 2018, students who began three-year degrees between 2012 and 2015 will be the only ones left with £27,000 worth of tuition fee debt.  

Speaking to the NME, Corbyn acknowledged that: “Yes, there is a block of those that currently have a massive debt, and I’m looking at ways that we could reduce that, ameliorate that, lengthen the period of paying it off, or some other means of reducing that debt burden.” 

However, Corbyn admitted at the time that he’s not sure how he would fund such a scheme – in 2013 alone, almost 496,000 people started full-time undergraduate courses in the UK. 

He said: “I don’t have the simple answer for it yet – I don’t think anybody would expect me to, because this election was called unexpectedly; we had two weeks to prepare all this – but I’m very well aware of that problem.” 

“And I don’t see why those that had the historical misfortune to be at university during the £9,000 period should be burdened excessively compared to those that went before or those that come after. I will deal with it. ” 

The Labour party have pledged to scrap tuition fees in their manifesto. That pledge will be honoured in the event of a Labour government. Although there is no pledge to cancel out the debt of those who have already graduated, Corbyn did commit to at least exploring ways of helping graduates to ameliorate their massive debt burden.

The Conservatives have claimed that the Labour party have “broken a promise” to reimburse students who have already graduated. However, that promise was never made. Nor is it in the Labour manifesto. What the shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, and other MPs have said is that finding the money to do this would be difficult, but nonetheless they will at least try to do so. I think that is refreshingly fair and honest. 

That didn’t stop Conservative MP Amanda Milling MP saying: “Yet another member of Jeremy Corbyn’s top team backtracks on Labour’s promise on student debt – betraying many of the young people who voted for them.” 

She may want to consider that sentence more carefully. The real betrayal was the tripling of student tuition fees, brought in under the Tory-led Coalition. If she considers the acknowledgement of difficulties in reimbursing graduates “a betrayal”, then surely she must also concede that the act of raising of tuition fees and inflicting such massive debts on young people as a result constituted the betrayal in the first place. 

The pledge to scrap tuition fees IS in Labour’s manifesto, and that pledge will be honoured. 

The Tories frequently like to take quotes out of context in order to smear the opposition, and mislead the public. That’s because they cannot win debates with honest, legitimate and rational argument.

The following excerpt is taken from an NME  interview with Jeremy Corbyn on the issue of student debt:

student debt

Speaking to HuffPost UK in May, a Labour Party spokesperson said: We think that it is deeply unfair that a generation has been saddled with huge debts since the Tory-Lib Dem Coalition trebled fees in 2012, and will look for ways to ameliorate this debt burden in future.”  

In May, Corbyn also said he would look at ways to reduce the tuition fee debt of former students, adding : “‘We’ve not got a policy or proposal on it. There wasn’t time between the announcement of the election and the publication of the manifesto but I do understand that point and I’m entirely sympathetic to it.” 

Despite claiming that there is “no magic money tree” when it comes to ensuring that people aren’t individually saddled with the nation’s huge debt, Damian Green has since said that cutting university bills needs a “national debate” in response to Labour winning over youth voters with their manifesto promise to scrap tuition fees. This is a move is all about the Tories winning elections and clinging onto power, rather than about a genuine interest in student debt and wellbeing. If you want a vote from students, then include them in your policy and economic decision-making, rather than marginalising them year in year out. 

Many Tory MPs are angry about the fact that despite their high profile, media amplified, deplorable and persistent personalised smear campaign, Labour received a higher number of votes than they had expected, based on a democratically inclusive manifesto and costed policies.

Disabled people also welcomed the disabled people’s manifesto from Labour, which was also economically inclusive, after five years of Conservative policy that has systematically marginalised us, causing distress and harm, as well as contravening our human rights. That the Conservatives regard this democratic and economic inclusion of the social outgroups they themselves have created as “bribery” speaks volumes about their own nasty authoritarian mindset.

Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner has said: “If they [the Conservatives] want a debate on fees they could start by allowing one in the Commons on their latest fee hike, along with a vote.” 

Rayner, the Shadow Education Secretary, made the application for a debate in the Commons after a previous one scheduled for 19 April – the day after Theresa May called the general election – was cancelled.

MPs had been due to debate a decision made last year to raise university fees to £9,250 from £9,000 per year from 2017 and then with inflation in subsequent years. 

Rayner went on: “Oddly, Mr Speaker, they have been determined not to grant the House a vote since that election,” adding that her party had raised the issue on multiple occasions and had received a letter from Andrea Leadsom, the Commons leader, saying there were no plans to schedule these debates in Government time.

“Both universities and thousands of students across the country are now uncertain about the rate of tuition fees that can be charged,” Ms Rayner added. ”With neither Government nor opposition time being provided, we have no choice but to use Standing Order 24.

“So, Mr Speaker, 109 days since it was first promised by ministers, I ask leave of the House for an emergency debate on their plans to raise tuition fees.” 

Approving the application, John Bercow, the Speaker, said the emergency debate will now take place following the Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday (today) – the penultimate day of Government before the summer parliamentary recess. 

The Conservatives have, despite having absolutely no policies that would benefit students, attempted to use the right wing media’s limp and dishonest”pledge breaking” accusations as a blatant attempt to try to discourage students from voting Labour. Additionally, 38 Tory MPs have labelled student voters as “frauds”, claiming that they voted twice, when the electoral commission has found no hard evidence of these claims, just hearsay from the Conservatives. This is an utterly deplorable, dishonest and authoritarian way of conducting what should be democratic political debate. 

Today’s debate

Tory MPs behaved disgracefully, hectoring and refusing to listen and talking over opposition responses pretty much all the way through the debate. They were given a slap down for failing to listen to shadow education secretary Angela Rayner and shouting over her during the emergency debate on tuition fees. The debate was called because the Conservatives used a statutory instrument to push their policy on tuition fees. Statutory instruments are usually reserved for uncontroversial policies, but increasingly, the Conservatives have used them to push through controversial legislation which enables them to pass legislation and amendments without proper parliamentary scrutiny and debate.


The significant increase in the use of statutory instruments by the Conservatives to pass unpopular policies, which bypasses proper democratic scrutiny and signals their authoritarianism loud and clear

Statutory Instruments are the principal form in which delegated legislation is made, and are intended to be used for simple, non-controversial measures, in contrast to more complex items of primary legislation (known as Bills.) The opposition has frequently complained that the Government uses Statutory Instruments to pass complex and controversial legislation which should have been subject to full Parliamentary scrutiny. Universal credit, the legal aid and tax credit cuts are clear examples of the misuse of secondary legislation, each with far-reaching and detrimental socioeconomic consequences for many people.

More Tory hectoring and bullying tactics – another hallmark of authoritarianism 

Speaker John Bercow was forced to intervene after Conservative MPs repeatedly interrupted the Labour politician, who eventually said she would refuse to take any more interventions. 

Bercow said: “It is normal manners and parliamentary etiquette that a member is given the chance to respond to an intervention before being hollered at to take another.

“It’s not a laughing matter. I am telling you what the situation is, and you can accept it whether you like it or not.  Behave.” Bercow also reprimanded the Conservative minister he addressed for smirking at him. 

Throughout the debate, Tory ministers behaved deplorably, heckled, sneered and spoke over the opposition’s questions and responses and repeatedly tried to claim that scrapping “all student debt” was a Labour policy, attempting to divert the debate.

Again, the policy that was stated clearly in the Labour party’s manifesto is the scrapping of tuition fees. The intention to look further at the wider impact of graduate debt was stated in an interview with NME. Yet Tory MPs repeatedly misquoted the NME interview claiming it was a “policy”.

Meanwhile, Labour ARE looking at feasible ways of ameliorating student debt.

Absolutely disgraceful conduct and claims from Tory ministers, which are being intentionally used as a crib sheet propaganda tactic to mislead the public and divert democratic debate.

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Labour’s shadow education secretary, Angela Rayner

You can read today’s full debate here on Hansard.



It’s time the government took some lessons in the ethical use of power and influence amid the discussion about abuse



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