Exclusive: Teachers' vote is shifting dramatically towards Labour

2nd June 2017 at 00:01
More than 1,200 primary, secondary and special schools teachers took part in the Tes survey.
Schools policy is 'very' or 'quite' important to 95 per cent of teachers as they choose which party to support, survey shows

The teacher vote is set to make a big shift towards Labour in next week's general election, compared with the 2015 vote, a Tes survey suggests.

In total, 68 per cent of respondents said they expected to vote Labour, 10 per cent backed the Liberal Democrats, and 8 per cent chose the Conservatives.

The online poll may not precisely mirror the percentage split in next week’s vote among teachers. But it shows a clear trend: teachers are making a big switch to Labour.

In the survey, 51 per cent of the same teachers said they voted Labour at the 2015 election – 17 percentage points lower than the survey's finding for current voting intentions.

The importance that teachers place on politicians’ plans for schools appeared to play a big role in the swing to Labour.

Of the more than 1,200 primary, secondary and special school teachers who filled in the questionnaire, 70 per cent said school policies were “very important” in deciding how they would vote, with 25 per cent saying they were “quite important”.

And when asked which party had the best education policies or track record, 75 per cent said Labour.

'People now see that the cuts are real'

John Tomsett, headteacher at Huntington School in York, believes that school funding is driving teachers towards the Labour Party.

“I would say that in the lead-up to 2015, education was off the agenda, as both main parties knew there would be funding cuts whoever got in,” he told Tes.

“It was not on the agenda. Although there were quite a few rumblings across the country, it was not hitting the classroom. It was at the headteacher level at that point. I think what has happened in the last two years is that people are realising it’s for real. The heads are not joking: ‘I used to have textbooks; my class has gone up from 27 to 32…’”

Mark Lehain, founder and principal of the Bedford Free School in Bedford, and policy fellow at the right-leaning thinktank Policy Exchange, described the unions’ school funding campaign as “naughty” for conflating the funding formula with the general squeeze.

But he admitted that it had “cut through” and helped to drive the shift to Labour among teachers.

“This election campaign has come out of nowhere and has rocked up in the middle of the campaign against what unions claim are cuts,” he said. “I would imagine that has a lot to do with it.”

This is an edited article from the 2 June edition of Tes. Subscribers can read the full article here. To subscribe, click hereThis week's Tes magazine is available in all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here

For all the latest news, views and analysis in the run-up to polling day, visit our general election 2017 hub

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