An open letter to the Prime Minister

6th June 2008 at 01:00
Dear Gordon, I don't suppose you look at FE Focus in the TES very regularly

Dear Gordon,

I don't suppose you look at FE Focus in the TES very regularly. I mean, how much time can you have left over for reading once you've ploughed your way through the Financial Times, the Wall Street Journal and Investors Chronicle with your cornflakes?

But perhaps that will change now you've told us that your recent reverses have put you into listening mode (though, from what some of your colleagues say, your listening seems to have been largely confined to echoes of your own pronouncements).

Never mind. I'm sure things will be different from now on. And so maybe one of your flunkeys might drop this in your in-tray.

You say you want to listen to the people's concerns. Well, Gordon, in the grand scheme of things, those of us who work in FE make up a fairly small proportion of "the people". But for all that, maybe we're as good a place to start as any.

You see, most of us in colleges tend not to be toffs - like that heir to the shoe shop millions you so hilariously lampooned up at Crewe the other week. In fact, we're pretty humble folk, having chosen to work in what you might call the "unfashionable" end of the education continuum. Nonetheless, the majority of us are, I suspect, Labour voters. We do allow Tories to work in FE, but only if they agree to wear donkey's ears and a pom-pom sewn to their backsides.

The problem - that is your problem, Gordon - is that now our "are" has become "were". In other words, our days of voting Labour are all in the past. This is not altogether your fault. We learnt to break the voting habits of our lifetimes under your predecessor. But now the new habit has stuck, and we no longer feel guilty awarding our ballot-paper crosses to the Lib-Dems, the Greens or the Raving Loonies.

Our concerns are no different from those of our fellow citizens. We too eat, drive, have mortgages, and walk the city streets with a certain degree of apprehension. But we have a particular grievance of our own: we are sick to our stomachs with being paid so much less than our colleagues in schools.

To us, Gordon, this feels like being urinated on from a great height. And, funnily enough, we don't like it. What we particularly don't like is how, every now and again, you send a junior education minister along to pat us on our collective heads and say he sees the justice of our case - before proceeding to do absolutely nothing about it.

At the moment, some of us are so frustrated with our lot that we are downing tools and coming out on the streets. You may not have noticed, but we were there on April 24, clinging to the coat-tails of the schoolteachers as they tried to protect the raises you have given them over the years.

For us, of course, there have been no raises. That's our point. So now that you are a listening man, isn't it time to listen to us for a change? And pay us our due.

Yours sincerely Stephen Jones.

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