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Posts Tagged ‘Labour’

Parent Power

Have you ever been involved with your children’s school PTA? Have you experienced cliques of parents in the school playground? Have you felt marginalised or even…dare I say it?…bullied by other parents?? I bet the answer in many cases is ‘yes’.

We often experience political machinations amongst parents concerning many issues ranging from whether the school should run a Halloween disco to whether the new drop off arrangements are rubbish. Playground gossip, email campaigns, petitions, the works. Imagine now, if you will, this kind of behaviour extended to also cover the fundamentals of how your child’s school is funded and run. What happens if a group of particularly persuasive parents decide that the new Headteacher is too progressive? Or not progressive enough? Or that their child’s education is being damaged by the inclusion of too many SEN children in the school. You don’t agree with them, but by putting pressure in the playground and other underhand means, they manage to cajole a ‘significant majority’ of parents to back their stance.

In proposals announced by Labour today, such groups of parents would be able to force a vote to decide for a ‘change of school leadership’ with a list of approved organisations that could take over the school. They are all about ‘parent power’, apparently. The theory is that control of ‘failing schools’ (as determined by parents) could be wrested away from Local Authority control and put into the hands of ‘kitemarked’ organisations such as successful state schools, universities and academy sponsors. Or  ‘The tycoon owner of a carpet company’. Right.

While I understand that all political parties are desperately searching for ‘radical’ ideas on how to raise academic standards (this latest seems to be in response to the Tory idea of having new schools opt out of LEA funding altogether), I find this proposal shockingly ill conceived. Yes, if you sent your child to a dreadful school it would be nice to think there was something you could do about it, but are parents really qualified to determine if their child’s school is ‘failing’? And by what criteria? Already unpopular SATS and league tables? Inclusion of too many SEN children?!  As another union representative said: ‘What is the point of having education professionals and volunteer governors trained to manage schools if their expertise and work is to be disregarded? It is right that parents should have a view on the education of their children, but they have neither the knowledge, expertise nor responsibility to organise and deliver it’

It’s all too easy to imagine a scenario where over involved parents who take a dislike to something that is happening to their special snowflake could mount a campaign against a school. I agree with the Teacher’s Union NASWAT who warned of ‘”unintended consequences of parental ballots” – saying they would “create unnecessary turbulence” and that teachers would be “working with the ‘gun’ of a parental ballot at their heads”‘. As both a parent and a teacher, I can’t think of anything worse.

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The last few days have seen lots of political activity. Brown the Bully. A future fair for all (complete with carousel??). Give labour a second chance. James Purnell standing down. It may well be a couple of months until the election – but the campaigns are all up and running, posters are being parodied, and the political machine is running in top gear.

But what of substance is happening? There have been the efforts of labour and the lib dems to solve the problems of social care for the elderly – hampered by the conservatives and their castigation of the ‘death tax’ – but very little else. Is this election going to be driven by personalities? I hope not, as neither Nick Clegg, David Cameron or Gordon Brown have much personality!

I want to know who is going to stop meddling in schools. Who is going to pull us out of Afghanistan. Who is going to stop funding homeopathy on the NHS. Who is going to increase funding in higher education. Who is going to improve the lot of my family, and who is going to tax us to the high heavens.

So enough of the posturing, the tears, the softly softly interviews, the accusations. Can we have something of substance to debate please?

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I don’t understand why people are saying they will be voting for Cameron or that they don’t like Brown. In the UK, we elect a party; not an individual. Fair enough, the leader of the party becomes Prime Minister but it’s not like the US where you vote for someone to become President and then for a party. I don’t like Brown. I don’t particularly like Labour at the moment, but I live in a marginal (won from Labour by the Tories in 2005 by a whopping 422 votes) and will therefore be voting Labour at the next election, just to try and oust the Tories. Voting Labour is not a vote in favour of Brown. It’s not a vote against Cameron. It’s a vote for the party I want to see running the country. So why do I keep seeing and hearing that people are voting for an individual when they don’t even live in their constituency? I don’t understand it!

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Being Human

Thanks a lot Gordon Brown, you made me sit through an hour of Piers Morgan. That’s one black mark against you for a start! Still, I felt that I should probably watch in case I felt the need to comment. After all the hype, I found the whole thing a bit of a let down. His talking about his children was moving (although rumours that he openly wept were unfounded it turned out) but at times I found Morgan’s slimy insistence that GB reveal more than he clearly felt comfortable doing unsettling. I kept thinking ‘leave him alone you moron!’ Yes, our PM seemed more ‘human’ than we have been led to believe, but does it really matter? Do we want to know what is in his head or his heart?

Back when I lived in the USA I remember eagerly sitting down to watch the Olympics on NBC in 1996. During the early going, I sat stunned as the coverage of the gymnastics was interrupted (I mean actually during routines) with ‘human interest stories’ on Romanian orphanages and as cameras cut away during track races to show a face to face interview with the athletes. I was even more horrified, not to say insulted, when I found out that this kind of approach was a deliberate attempt to attract female viewers. Yes, apparently NBC believed that women don’t actually want to watch a complete uninterrupted sporting event (even if it lasts only a few minutes) unless it is punctuated by sob stories about the participants.

I kind of felt the same way watching PM and PM last night. We know politicians are all drooling over the prospect of bagging the women’s vote, but I hope they don’t think that this is all it takes.

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