Our Community, Our Schools is a campaign group that brings together parents, teachers and local residents in supporting our community schools and raising awareness of the threat posed by the proposed ‘Free Schools’. One of the really inspirational things to come out of our mass meeting on 8th October was to hear how proud people in Waltham Forest are of our community schools and how angry they are about the way they are endlessly denigrated in rumours stoked up by the mass media and, most disgracefully of all, by the government. As Zoe Williams wrote so powerfully in the Guardian following the meeting, the Education Secretary Michael Gove is engaged in a sustained drive to tell a disaster narrative about our schools, very similar to the one being waged against the NHS in the right wing newspapers. This creates a climate of fear that provides him with the justification for pumping money and resources into driving forward his forced academisation and his Free Schools project. It is also this which prompts anxious parents to contemplate Free Schools as a solution.
He is doing exactly the same thing to the people who teach our children. Teachers have been subjected to a shameful propaganda war designed to try to drive a wedge between us and them, as though many teachers are not parents and as though we don’t talk to each other in our communities. Michael Gove even stooped to describing teachers who opposed him as ‘enemies of promise’. We think that the Education Secretary’s undoubted gift for headline grabbing nonsense like this has led him to overreach himself, badly. Is this really the experience of any parent in our community schools? Are the teachers who teach our children day in day out really enemies of promise, working to stifle our children’s ambitions?
No. As parents, we think it is despicable to subject the people who teach our children to such vicious public attacks. We’re also really uncomfortable at the attacks on their daily working lives. Many teachers are already having to work longer and pay more into their pension schemes, in return for less at the end of it. Now they are being told that the way they are paid has to be changed so that they have ‘performance –related pay’ because that will apparently incentivise them to be better teachers. No one enters teaching because they want to make a fast and big buck. It’s a vocation and a profession. Yet government ministers appear to think that they need to import into teaching the morality of the FTSE listed companies in the City of London where, apparently, senior CEOs can’t get out of bed unless they have the prospect of a six figure bonus dangling before them. Teachers are also facing the threat of changes to the hours they work and increases to their workloads. You can read more about why exactly they are striking here. But the key point is a really basic one. Teachers are not the enemy. They are not failing in their work. In fact, they achieve amazing things every day, in the face of malicious public slurs, attacks on their working conditions and a punitive Ofsted regime that seems to be geared entirely to promoting Michael Gove’s failure narrative and helping him to smash up our school system. We stand with our teachers just as we stand with our community schools. And we know who are the real enemies of promise.