This week there will be elections for the European parliament and local councils. All the parties want our votes, and this year we have had more leaflets in our letterbox than I ever remember before.
The UK Independence Party (anti EU) seem to have really stirred things up among the other parties and it is seemingly the aim of the main parties, all of whom have been losing support to UKIP, to discredit them.
Local elections produce different voting patterns to a general election, with people voting partly on the popularity or unpopularity of the national parties, partly on national politics, and partly on local issues.
If you are someone who always votes for the same party anyway, no matter what the current political climate may be, the decision is easy, but if you are someone who looks at current issues before making a decision, there is research to be done to find out what each party’s policy looks like on the issues important to you.
So if one of your priorities is education – in particular free schools, on what would you base your decision?
We have pointed out here before that the only party locally to protest publicly about the Steiner free school initiative has been Labour. Today I found a new video on the Steiner free school initiative by David Drew the labour party parliamentary candidate;
He and the party object on the grounds that there are over 600 surplus school places here, and existing local schools will be under threat.
Despite the previous MP for Stroud objecting to the free school, it is still unclear what the Labour Party policy is on free schools. It was Labour who allowed the first state-funded Steiner school to open as an Academy .
Our Conservative MP has sat on the fence in relation to our specific case, although in principle he is in favour of free schools to provide “choice”.
The Liberal Democrats are in favour of free schools but “only where they are needed”, which is a bit wishy-washy since as we have seen “need” can mean lots of different things.
So much for the three main parties.
After some searching I found the Green party clearly sets out its policies on education. Given the general opinion in our area that the Steiner community and the Greens are “at one with each other”, the policy comes as something of a surprise;
“ED134 … the Green Party is opposed to creating more Academies and Free Schools and will support community, school and parent campaigns that share this aim. The Green Party will integrate Academies and Free Schools into the Local Authority school system.”
So the greens will do their best to rid us of free schools and academies. I have tried and failed to find out how they would achieve this since schools which do not teach the national curriculum, have exemptions from Key stage 1 and employ unqualified teachers would be difficult to integrate.
They will also insist on Qualified Teacher Status for all teachers,
“ED211 A Green government will work with the teaching unions to reverse the process by which teachers have gradually been deskilled and their professional autonomy eroded …”
And on religion they say
“No publicly-funded school shall be run by a religious organisation. Schools may teach about religions, comparing examples which originated in each continent, but are prohibited from delivering religious instruction in any form or encouraging adherence to any particular religious belief”.
They also distinguish between religious education, which they view as “…a celebration and recognition of religious and cultural diversity and spirituality.” and religious instruction, which “may only take place outside of school curriculum time”.
Of course Steiner schools continually claim to be “non-denominational”, although the evidence points to their being extremely religious in their ethos, and to anthroposophy being taught in classrooms.
The green Party may be viewed as the natural political home of Steiner supporters, as most would identify themselves with the natural, wholesome eco-friendly lifestyle advocated by Greens. Some also support Labour and there must be a conflict for those wishing to see the Steiner free school open.
Last night Stroud unanimously re-elected a Green Mayor and Deputy, and the Green deputy (and former) mayor is a known supporter of Steiner and anthroposophy; he very proudly told me once that he lives with an anthroposophist, so he must be well-informed.
Local and European elections may not be the time to vote on the matter of education, but certainly it is a time many people are considering their political preferences, and it is interesting to look at the way the parties are promoting themselves with a year until the next general election and a chance to establish their credentials between now and then.