In purdah

General Election campaigning has started, and I can only hope that education will become a central issue for all parties.

Neither school nor school staff will express any preference, of course, leading up to the election itself. Children are likely to ask colleagues which way they vote, because they always do, but staff will avoid saying what they intend to do. As we champion 'pupil voice' you would expect staff to participate and vote, and possibly enable discussions in class but we do not put forward our own views or seek to persuade.

There are actually guidelines on the proper use of maintained school premises, and that they should not be used to promote a particular political stance or party. I am never sure how politicians get away with visiting schools accompanied by hosts of cameras and journalists, but there you are. In our attempt to stay strictly neutral we once turned away a request to use the school hall as a venue for an MP's public meeting.

Obviously one issue will be front and centre in 2019, but education is too important not to feature in debate and in the choices voters make. We should assume that the next Parliament will last for five years and that the Government elected will therefore be responsible for school funding, special needs direction, curriculum reform, school inspection regimes, national standards, teacher training provision, school building programmes and Local Authority powers to support and challenge schools for five years also.

Every pupil in our school in December 2019, at the time of the general election, will still be of compulsory school-age at the end of the next Parliament. The education stance of the locally elected Member of Parliament and the education policy of the new Government will directly effect our pupils. I urge every elector to think carefully about the education policies of each party appearing on the ballot paper where they vote and to make it one of the key factors in how they vote.

'Purdah' (or purda) is the period between the calling of an election and the polling day itself. During the period civil servants, who always supposed to be impartial, are not allowed to make political statements or to initiate actions that might favour a particular candidate or party. This effectively means a further six weeks this time round without any of the urgent issues being addressed other than in words and promises.

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