We've given you all the information you need; now the profession must cast its vote
Eighteen years ago The Sun used a psychic to ask the ghost of Stalin which party he was backing in the British general election. The Tory- supporting tabloid was delighted to discover that the tyrant was backing Labour. No paper has yet gone to such surreal lengths to influence next week's vote, but most of them will seek to persuade their readers to scratch an X against the candidate of a particular party.
The Times Educational Supplement will not be among them. This is not because we think any vote is a wasted vote. Given the state of the country's finances and voter disillusion, this election is more vital than most. But none of their plans is totally without merit and none is flawless. So while The TES will not endorse a party, we think there is one issue teachers in Wales should consider when judging each. That issue is public sector funding, and what the parties will do to protect it here.
One of the joys of devolution is that arguments over the detail of school reform in Wales are not part of this election. They will be a matter for proper discussion next year, when the Assembly government elections take place. Yes, it is gratifying to see how vocal the parties in Westminster have been about their proposals for schools in England - and a relief that education has not been sidelined by political leaders, in the way it has in countries such as the US.
But there are benefits to the fact that debates over issues facing Wales' schools have not been drowned out in arguments about specifically English proposals, such as academy expansions, and the pros and cons of importing Sweden's free schools. Wales can, happily, stay out of the debate about Sats tests and league tables (because it got rid of them) as well the debate about unified 14-19 systems (because it has one).
So there is comparatively little the parties can do to drag Wales' schools into next week's election, short of pointing to past successes or trailing their proposals for next year. But what they plan to do about public sector funding here does matter, and could affect teachers' jobs. Labour says it will protect "frontline investment" in education; Plaid Cymru says it is the only party that will protect education services from "severe cuts"; the Liberal Democrats claim to be able to add an extra pound;80 million to school budgets; while the Conservatives bemoan the fact that pupils here get pound;527 less funding than those in England but are unclear how they will resolve it.
So enormous is the deficit that it stretches credulity to think that the education budget will not be squeezed at some point. Jobs will be axed, new buildings will be cancelled, salaries will be frozen or even cut. The question for teachers is not which party will save them from any pain - none of them will - but which do they think is most likely to prune wisely and fairly?
Those readers who have access to a medium will, of course, consult them. The rest of us will have to trust our judgment. Fortunately, teachers have good sense in abundance. Whether our political masters appreciate that is another matter.
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