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Westminster election 2010

All to play for as politicians fight for the teachers' vote

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All to play for as politicians fight for the teachers' vote

With the general election campaign in full swing, The TESS asked six teachers which party might get their vote, and why. Watch this space as polling day draws closer to find out whether the electioneering has changed their minds.

Andrew Morton - Head of biology, Dollar Academy, Clackmannanshire

  • Conservative
    • Fifty years ago, around 75 per cent of the population voted in general elections; now it has dropped to barely above 50 per cent.

      I am in the group that really can't be bothered to vote for two reasons: one I am a bit cynical because I'm so old, and I've seen so many elections; and two, all the political parties are much the same and promise everything without delivering very much.

      However, I will vote because many died for the right, and that's a good enough reason.

      The Conservatives talk of "change" and Labour of "fairness". I know from many years of experience that there will be as much change and fairness with one party as the other. But I've been brought up a Conservative - my parents voted Tory - and I teach in a private school. I haven't been brain-washed. I have voted for other parties and I've really no more faith in the Tories' ability than Labour's. But I prefer people to be left more to their own devices and for tax to be kept to a minimum, whereas Labour is more about state intervention.

      I tuned in for the first of the party leaders' debates last week, and found it fairly predictable and a bit boring. They all did well but there was nothing to excite me really, and it did not alter my view. After 15 minutes, I switched to another programme.

      Andrew Leask - English teacher, George Watson's College, Edinburgh

      • Liberal Democrat
        • One of the frustrating things about politics, particularly this election, is that you have to work to find out proper information.

          What you normally see in the news is all superficial comment and a lot of diffuse positive statements, but no real issues.

          The Liberal Democrats seem to be campaigning on issues. This election, the economy is the biggest issue and, if you compare (Treasury spokesmen) Vince Cable, and George Osborne and (Chancellor) Alistair Darling, Cable clearly is the one that knows the most about the economy and knows what to do to improve it. He's the one whose opinion I trust. During their television debate, Darling was just Darling and I didn't get anything from Osborne, who seems to typify a lot of the ossification in this election. It's all about making statements but not the nitty gritty.

          As a teacher, I try to avoid dumbing down, encouraging pupils to get beyond the vacuous, glib sound bite. The leaders' debate just made me more convinced that the Liberal Democrats are the party to vote for, although I found the time limits on how long they could speak for frustrating. Just as one began to deal with an issue, they were being interrupted. But (Lib Dem leader) Nick Clegg benefited from the fact the other two were going for each other and he managed to get in more of substance.

          One of the things that's interesting is there's real potential for a coalition government this time. That might lead to more in-depth discussion.

          Gillian Purves - Headteacher, Victoria Primary, Falkirk

          • Undecided
            • Education is my main concern - even though education in Scotland is not affected directly by Westminster elections.

              I am worried about the finance. How are we going to pay for things like the inclusion agenda? In my school, we have 14 children with mild to moderate learning disabilities, supported by an inclusion unit. I think it is excellent, but these things need to be paid for.

              In the current climate everybody has to watch their budgets, and there are going to be changes.

              I am interested to see how taxation will work out between VAT, national insurance and income tax. One way or another, the country has to be paid for. It seems all the parties will give with one hand and take away with the other, and it will all balance out over the years.

              At the moment, I haven't really looked closely enough, and I have not had one leaflet through my door yet.

              At the last election I voted SNP and I will probably vote SNP again, but I don't vote that way just because I always have.

              Autumn Macaulay - Principal teacher, Raigmore Primary, Inverness

              • Undecided
                • To be honest I haven't got a clear idea who I will vote for. I need to have a look at the manifestos. One of my greatest concerns is education, because it affects my job. Obviously it is devolved so I don't know how much of an impact this election will really have, other than how much money will be given to education.

                  Things like class sizes, the inclusion agenda, the support we need to implement Curriculum for Excellence and the future of music tuition in schools are just some of the issues we are facing in Scotland. These things have to be paid for, and I worry about when the cuts will come and how deep they will be.

                  The parties promise the earth, and that sounds great, but I want to know if it is realistic. We place a lot of faith in politicians to run the country, but they are not setting a good example and people have lost a bit of faith in them. I don't think anyone wants a government that is going to promise the earth; we want one that will make a few promises they can keep.

                  I don't know how much the party leaders' debates has swayed my opinions, but it was good to see the three leaders talk about their policies. It has perhaps made some things clear in my mind, but not everything.

                  Gillian Freeland - Modern studies teacher, Alloa Academy, Clackmannanshire

                  • Conservative
                    • I haven't voted the same way in every election - previously I have voted Liberal Democrat and Labour - but this time I think I will vote Tory.

                      I identify with the things that (Conservative leader) David Cameron talks about, things like the "Great Ignored".

                      I am a teacher, I have a mortgage, I pay my taxes, I am struggling to pay off my student loan, and I haven't managed to build up any savings. I feel like there is no help for single people like me.

                      I am also concerned about crime. In the area where I live, there has been a spate of break-ins, and recently a 14-year-old girl was attacked in the street next to mine. That is a worry for me, living on my own.

                      I am also worried about petrol prices. I travel more than 40 miles to work and have big petrol costs. By the end of the month, I often end up spending more than I earn.

                      I think personalities are really important; the country is looking for reassurance. (Prime Minister) Gordon Brown never seems to answer direct questions, whereas David Cameron is younger and a bit more reassuring. I am sure Gordon Brown does want the job, but he doesn't seem to fight for it. My constituency is a safe Labour seat. I know my Tory vote won't make much of a difference but it is my way of protesting.

                      I watched the leaders' debate, but it is not going to change my vote. I was impressed with Nick Clegg, and the way he handled himself, and Gordon Brown did very well. David Cameron did what I thought he would.

                      Jon Reid - Headteacher, Larbert High, Falkirk

                      • Undecided
                        • I haven't completely decided who I am voting for. My constituency is a Labour seat currently, and is a target seat for the SNP.

                          One of the things I am interested in is the teachers' pension scheme. I read that it has been running in deficit, and the Conservatives have been keeping an eye on it. Our final salary pension is one of the few perks a teacher gets, and I will be interested to see how the parties react to that.

                          The Conservatives are saying they want to raise standards in schools, the Liberal Democrats are saying they want to increase funding to schools and that appears in the Labour manifesto as well with things like Sure Start. They are all saying the same things packaged in a slightly different way.

                          But these things will not happen without extra funding and resources. As a headteacher with a six-figure budget cut next year, I know things don't add up. How can standards increase if funds keep being squeezed?

                          The alternative to Labour in my area is the SNP, and I am not sure about the concordat it has introduced in Scotland. As a headteacher, I have less money to play with, so why would I vote SNP if the result is I have less money to provide for our pupils?

                          I watched the leaders' debate, but nothing they said really swayed me either way. It was all about personality rather than real substance, although it did make me think a little more of Nick Clegg and put him more in the running I guess. At the moment, however, it's too early to be making any choices.

                          • As told to Victoria Prest and Emma Seith.
                            • Original paper headline: Westminster election 2010 - All to play for as politicians fight for the teachers' vote

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