Tristram Hunt is losing teachers’ votes

by Daniel Charleston-Downes

In a recent Labour List poll, Tristram Hunt was voted the least popular shadow cabinet member. Other than himself and Ed Balls, all other shadow cabinet members were gifted a positive rating. Dr Hunt’s rating was the only one in negative double figures.

David Cameron moved Michael Gove out of the Education portfolio to protect the Tories approaching an election year. Since then, Nicky Morgan has done all that she can to placate teachers on the verge of further strikes by asking Ofsted to release clear expectations on workload. The Tories have also shifted education debate on to the only thing that they can win on, fear of Islamic extremism.

Teachers are unlikely to flock to the Conservatives at the general election, but parents might. Parents should be angry that their children have been used by Gove as guinea pigs in untested curriculum experiments and have had their futures pulled from under them by shifting goal posts. They should be concerned that 10 years of movement towards an education of inclusion is being abandoned for tighter definitions of special needs and rigorous and inflexible examinations.

But they aren’t because there is silence from the opposition. From a parental perspective, Hunt is nowhere. He has made one statement about curriculum changes, that being that the AS Levels alterations are ‘confusing’. Other than that he has attempted to position himself next to the Conservatives on family values in schools and battling extremism. Both territories that Labour are not perceived as strong on with undecided voters and that the Labour grassroots will feel uncomfortable with.

And when it comes to teachers, Labour really are in trouble. Strike action has been gaining less and less traction with NUT and NASWUT members who are increasingly concerned that unions are losing parents and alienating staff from school leaders. An appetite for further strikes has been lost by the utter contempt displayed by the Conservative/Lib Dem coalition and the deafening silence from anyone on the Labour front benches.

Teachers have been pulled around, used as a political punch-bag so that the Conservatives can make the same old arguments about inions. Workload has increased due to government and Ofsted demands, positions that have now been retracted leaving teachers no real idea of expectations. Results and data are kings in a world that transposes students into numbers and yet it is the educators that have fallen foul of the media as the enemy.

Tristram Hunt has said just one thing to my knowledge of teachers. That is his firm belief that pride could be reinstalled for teachers by taking a hippocratic oath. This cannot be Labour’s great vision for education. Taking an oath never guaranteed anything, Members of Parliament take an oath for example and plenty of them have broken laws, let alone the oath.

When Blair set out his three main priorities for government as ‘education, education and education’ it was because he understood that education provides the future. A strong Labour government with aspirations to revolutionise equality of opportunity must do that through effective education. Bringing equality to our schools and the service that they provide is absolutely essential. Creating a living wage and lowing energy bills will only work to improve the quality of life for the poorest if they go to a school where their background makes no difference to the quality of education they receive.

It is not so much that Tristram Hunt has the wrong policies for education it is that he appears to have none. Education can be placed at the centre of a Labour campaign designed to create the equal opportunities for all children who deserve to be treated without prejudice.

His recent policy announcement advocating the partnership of private schools with ones from the state sector dramatically underestimates any of the major problems affecting education. The guarantee of private school teachers in state schools will only alleviate the short term problem of staff shortages, whilst still taking no clear position on workload or quality of teaching. This policy is another gigantic swing and a miss for social mobility, securing tax breaks for private schools with very little benefit for those state schools that need it most.

Teachers will follow any reforms they genuinely feel are valuable in this pursuit, but the politics shouldn’t matter. What matters is creating a Britain that treats all children as agents of the future and gives them the best possible chance to succeed.

Dan Downes is a Labour campaigner, a secondary school teacher and blogs at 

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5 Responses to “Tristram Hunt is losing teachers’ votes”

  1. Madasafish says:

    ut they aren’t because there is silence from the opposition. From a parental perspective, Hunt is nowhere………..
    And when it comes to teachers, Labour really are in trouble. ……..
    It is not so much that Tristram Hunt has the wrong policies for education it is that he appears to have none

    The extracts from his Wikipedia entries explain why:

    “Hunt is the son of Julian Hunt, Baron Hunt of Chesterton.. After attending University College School ..”

    In other words, no personal experience of the state system And a career as a historian specialising in urban history!!!

    And he has been an MP for under 4 years – so no real political experience either.

    And the writer is surprised at his lack of policies?

    The problem is with whomever chose him for a post he appears eminently unsuited for,

    (Even Michael Gove went to a state school..)

  2. Ex labour says:

    Quote: “Gove as guinea pigs in untested curriculum experiments”

    Translation: Proper subjects being taught in a proper way and we have to get rid of Travel and Tourism.

    Quote: “rigorous and inflexible examinations.”

    Translation: We can’t teach the dumbed down Labour stuff anymore and pupils are actually going to have to learn.

    Agreement on Hunt is useless, but apart from this its typical teaching profession left wing hand wringing stuff.

  3. Fred says:

    Hunt is reflective of the lack of talent in the plp. The Eagle sisters are hopeless, the performances on QT are a joke. Balls is hopeless, he was a disaster on LBC. Milibands performances are well documented. Reeves is weak in front of a Camera. Chuka comes across as a used car sales man.

    Where is the gravitas of Johnson or Darling? There isn’t any.

    No policy, no charisma, no election win.

  4. Adam Gray says:

    “The Tories have also shifted education debate on to the only thing that they can win on, fear of Islamic extremism.”

    Really? They can’t win on increasing parental choice, raising standards, cutting out politically correct nonsense from the school curriculum, marginalising the loony-left NUT, reducing bureaucracy so teachers can spend more time teaching, ensuring that disruptive kids don’t destroy opportunities for the rest of the class, raising vocational qualifications to broad equivalence with academic ones, not giving schools the chance to obscure their worst elements before being inspected or – most importantly of all – making sure that spending on education is not overtaken by spending on debt repayment?

    On none of those subjects is Labour on the right side. On virtually all of them the Conservatives are closer to the mainstream.

    BTW, schools teaching kids that a women’s place is either having babies or doing the washing up, confusing the teaching of Sharia Law and UK law or allowing students to express virulently anti-British sentiments without challenge isn’t “fear of Islamic extremism” – it’s Islamic extremism.

  5. John Reid says:

    Was give really that unpopular with teachers?
    as the LibDem woman on this week and Rod Liddle both said what he was trying to do wasnt that different to Alan Milburn, charles clarke, Ruth kelly or Alan johnson

    And before the last election there were only 2 policies labour we more popular than the tories on Law and order and pensions, so the fact we’re only just as popular with the tories on education now is no suprise .

    As for our unpopularity woth professionals, look at this cameron must go campaign, saying the tories are nazis,it’s this sort of loony left stuff that lost us the 1992 election

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