Labour takes the lead in battle for your vote

17th April 2015 at 01:00
But 30% of teachers will back Conservatives and 10% Lib Dems

More than four in 10 teachers in England and Wales intend to vote Labour at next month's general election, making it the most popular party among school staff, a survey by TES and YouGov reveals.

The figures will be a welcome boost for Labour leader Ed Miliband and shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt, with just 20 days to go until the country heads to the polls.

Perhaps surprisingly, given the animosity towards the Conservative Party during Michael Gove's tenure as education secretary, nearly 30 per cent of school staff say they intend to vote Tory. The relationship between the workforce and Mr Gove was described as "toxic" before he was replaced by Nicky Morgan in July last year.

The Liberal Democrats are likely to be the most disappointed by the survey results. In the week that deputy prime minister Nick Clegg claimed the Lib Dems were the "party of education", the numbers reveal that just 10 per cent of teachers intend to support the party at the election.

UKIP, which has championed the expansion of grammar schools, came in fourth place with 7 per cent. The Green Party, which has pledged to scrap Ofsted, Sats and league tables, garnered 6 per cent.

`Lifelong loyalties'

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT headteachers' union, said the figures indicated that even teachers did not base their voting intentions purely on educational issues.

"Teachers, perhaps more than the general population, drift towards the Left, but [the poll] shows they are weighing up their lifelong loyalties with issues such as the economy," Mr Hobby added. "It also shows that teachers may not have disagreed with what Michael Gove did to the school system, just perhaps the tone and the pace with which he did it."

The figures come in the same week that the parties unveiled their election manifestos. The Conservatives pledge to make the English Baccalaureate compulsory so that all secondary students would sit five "core" GCSEs in English, maths, science, a language and either history or geography.

Labour's manifesto focuses heavily on the "forgotten 50 per cent", with a strong emphasis on vocational and technical education. The party also promises to provide all secondary students with face-to-face careers advice from a trained adviser.

The Lib Dems place education at the heart of their manifesto, pledging to spend more than either of the main parties. They include commitments to protect per-pupil spending and increase the overall education budget.

A breakdown of teachers' voting intentions by their specific jobs shows that deputy headteachers are the most likely to vote Labour, with 56 per cent saying they intend to choose the party. Classroom teachers favour Labour (47 per cent) over the Conservatives (27 per cent).

How does UKIP fare?

Although the overall number of headteachers polled was relatively small, 9 per cent intend to vote UKIP. Among supply teachers, 19 per cent back Nigel Farage's party.

John Tomsett, headteacher of Huntington School in York and a member of the Headteachers' Roundtable thinktank, said it was not surprising the figures favoured Labour given that the "vast majority of teachers went into teaching to improve the lot of the disadvantaged".

"Labour's policies, as they have unfolded during this election campaign, have supported the least-advantaged members of society and asked for a greater contribution in terms of wealth distribution from the richest," he added.

The more significant support among deputy headteachers was likely to be down to the fact that they "have been at the sharp end of implementing the huge raft of changes introduced by Michael Gove", Mr Tomsett suggested.

Liam Nolan, executive headteacher of Perry Beeches Academy in Birmingham, has created five new schools under the free-school and academies programmes. Although he intends to vote Labour, he believes the party lacks a proper education policy.

"The Conservatives' promise to provide 30 hours of free childcare for three- and four-year-olds will be manna from heaven for the communities we serve in Birmingham, so I think that is very powerful," Mr Nolan said. "Looking at Labour's policies, I don't see an education policy. There is also a concern there would be a loss of autonomy for heads and that would not be a good move.

"Labour created the policy of more freedom for schools, and to see them hand back control to local authorities, such as my own, would not make me very happy at all."

What the parties are promising you


  • Protect school spending in real terms.
  • Introduce directors of school standards to support improvement and respond to the concerns of parents.
  • Smaller class sizes for five-, six- and seven-year-olds, paid for by ending the free-schools programme.
  • Require private schools to partner with state schools as a condition of receiving business rates relief.
  • Ensure all teachers become qualified.
  • Raise standards through a new "master teachers" scheme.
  • Require all teachers to build their skills throughout their careers as a condition of remaining in the classroom.
  • Improve school discipline by ensuring teachers are trained to control a class.
  • Deliver a new Technical Baccalaureate for 16- to 18-year-olds.
  • Ensure all young people study English and maths to the age of 18.
    • Conservative

      • Protect per-pupil funding.
      • Require every 11-year-old to know times tables by heart, perform long division and multiplication, read a book and write a short story.
      • Introduce resits in secondary for pupils who do not meet the required standard in Year 6 maths and English exams.
      • Make the English Baccalaureate compulsory.
      • Prohibit schools that "refuse" to offer all EBac subjects from securing outstanding Ofsted ratings.
      • Continue to expand academies and open 500 free schools.
      • Allow all good schools to expand, including academies, free schools and grammar schools.
      • Prohibit state schools from making a profit.
      • Reduce the "burden" of Ofsted inspections.
      • Train an extra 17,500 maths and physics teachers over the course of the Parliament.
      • Encourage the expansion of Teach First.
        • Liberal Democrat

          • Protect the education budget in real terms from the early years to age 19.
          • Protect the pupil premium in real terms and consider extending it.
          • Aim to eradicate child illiteracy and innumeracy by 2025.
          • Expand the Talented Head Teachers programme.
          • Increase the number of teaching schools.
          • Ensure there is an effective, democratically accountable "middle tier" to oversee schools.
          • Abolish unelected regional schools commissioners.
          • Allow Ofsted to inspect local authorities and academy chains.
          • Only fund new mainstream schools in areas where places are needed and repeal the rule that all new state-funded schools must be free schools or academies.
          • Raise the bar for entry to the profession, requiring a B grade minimum in GCSE maths and English.
            • UKIP

              • Allow existing secondaries to become grammar schools.
              • Introduce grammar school transfer exams at the ages of 12, 13 and 16.
              • Decrease the amount of paperwork teachers deal with, such as overly detailed individual lesson plans, data collection and excessive internal assessments.
              • Scrap performance-related pay for teachers.
              • Push for a range of different types of school, including grammar, vocational, technical and specialist secondary schools.
              • Teachers with at least 15 years of successful classroom experience will be prioritised when Ofsted inspectors are recruited.
                • Green

                  • Raise the compulsory starting age for school to 7.
                  • Scrap Ofsted.
                  • Abolish key stage 2 Sats and league tables.
                  • Absorb private schools into the state system over time and integrate grammars into the comprehensive system.
                  • Reduce class sizes to 20.
                  • Restore education funding to 2010 levels.

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