Primary head rejects MP visit due to ‘unprecedented attack’ on teaching

This is brilliant. It isn’t clever, or witty, or even angry; it doesn’t have to be. It is, however, accurate.

This week, Colin Harris, headteacher at Warren Park Primary School in Havant, Hampshire, received a letter from his local MP offering to visit the school. Mr Harris wrote the open letter below in response.

Dear Sir,

Thank you for your letter dated 2 October offering to visit Warren Park Primary School.

Unfortunately, I have real reservations about such a visit on several levels.

Under the coalition government and ongoing to the present time, there has been an unprecedented attack on our wonderful profession. I have worked for and supported this profession for the last 37 years in what I hope is considered to be a successful way.

Under Mr Gove [the previous education secretary, Michael Gove], we saw the rise of divisive policies which ensured we created true isolation for teaching. These policies have led to thousands of teachers wanting to leave teaching with little hope of replacing either their number or their quality and experience.

My views on academies, free schools, lack of funding, assessment, Ofsted, pay rises, curriculum reform and the demise of local authorities will, of course, be different to yours. However, does it really matter? We have no forum to actually get people to listen to us, as we are now a true political football to be knocked around for the pleasure of both the media and the government at the expense of the future of our children.

I for one am fed up with it and so thank you for showing an interest, but I have to decline the visit until such time as the government really and truly cares about the future of education.

Yours sincerely,

Colin Harris,

Source: ‘There has been an unprecedented attack on our wonderful profession’ – one primary head’s open letter to his MP | News

82 thoughts on “Primary head rejects MP visit due to ‘unprecedented attack’ on teaching

    1. TruthTellerX

      They are the opposite of nazis. They don’t stand for the nation or indigenous people of this land… which is exactly the problem….

    2. Walt Stagg

      It is certainly needed for everyone to keep kicking (not literally) until we are heard, the trouble is if they don’t want to listen they won’t. All politicians are all the same.

  1. shaun

    I have a close relative who’s a deputy head and from what I know his response would be very similar. My perspective is that this government does not believe in public services, period. With that in mind, what we perceive as failure (that is those of us who can not, or do not wish to, pay for private education, health services and/or private insurances) they view as success and what we think of as success the Tories believe to be a failure. A good public education, health care service and benefits system means there is less incentive for people to take out private alternatives- so literally, what is success for us is failure for them.

    1. Chris Naden

      “My perspective is that this government does not believe in public services, period.”

      As far as I know, this is literally true, with the exception of defence. They believe all other ‘public services’ should in fact be private enterprises, as an ideological point of principle. It’s a shockingly extremist view, but there it is.

      1. Bernard

        British Aerospace and the RAF are inextricably linked. As the step father of a 30 year old primary teacher who has left the profession it is deeply depressing. Less we forget, the Cambridge Primary Report was summarly dismissed by the last Labour goverment.

    1. mohandeer

      I don’t think he would dare do anything vindictive as this post will make sure that the letter is made known and any response by DC would be a shot in his own foot. I for one would repost and repost till everyone got the message. Besides which I’m sure JC would find a way of introducing the matter in a very humiliating way at PMQ’s.

      1. fathomie

        Oh, he would. The Tories are notoriously vindictive. If an individual does something like this, and the senior Tories find out, this guy is finished. Further, It is now official policy of the govt that any criticism of policy is ‘bringing the dept (whichever it is) into disrepute’ which results in automatic dismissal. Either way, a brave move, but his career prospects have just taken a massive hit…

  2. Michael Broadhurst

    bravo.Colin Harris,well spoken perhaps if more people in his position did the same over education and health we might get somewhere.idiot politicians interfering in the two most
    vital services to the country.
    i have nothing to do with either,but am as sick as Mr Harris in the fact that these two professions are used as political footballs.
    one govt comes in and undoes all the previous govt has done and so it goes on decade after decade
    this country will be a third world country before long,with all these career politicians,of all parties,messing about with things they have no practical experience of.
    its like telling a dustbin man he’s going to be put in charge of a nuclear plant tomorrow,
    and thats not meant to be a slur on dustbin men,its just to emphasise the point.

  3. Stephen Parry

    Brilliant response – and I wish others would do the same.

    Imagine a guy who kept ruining your lawn or dirtying your windows. You would not let him into your house for coffee just so he could sit there with a fake smile and chat about how great he is.

    It is absolutely disgraceful that MPs can vote for legislation that decimates public services (fire stations, schools, hospitals, etc.) and then show up at those same institutions with platitudes and to take advantage of photo opportunities.

    Osborne, IDS, Cameron and everyone else who has decimated public services should not be made to feel welcome in schools, hospitals, fire stations, etc.

  4. screaminkid (@screaminkid)

    So true! More UK Head teachers should be speaking out about the Govs ongoing Deliberate Dumbing down of the UK future population & their encouragement of the return of Victorian pickpockets and child gangs in the streets due to lack.of Polices and the poverty inflicted on the vulnerable by an IGNORANT GOV MINISTERS!
    UK CRIME Is actively encouraged to flourish by msm ignoring the blindingly obvious that crime remains largely UNREPORTED OR IGNORED!

  5. Mr.Angry

    Good on Mr.Harris for speaking his mind, is there anything left the Tories have not destroyed or sold off? The tories are worse than Ebola, their useless reforms are spreading like wild fire destroying everything in it’s path. No doubt G4S will be running our schools if this shower have their way.

  6. leonc1963

    Thank you Mike for bringing this to me, it is a school in my Constituency of Havant and just a stone’s throw from were I live

    It is interesting and I am somewhat impressed as this is a Tory Constituency with a tory safe seat

  7. Roseanne Edwards

    Brilliant letter, though I suspect the fact that he is probably nearing retirement and has little to lose has given him a bit of extra confidence.

    I have to take issue with those who call education and health ‘political footballs’ for there is no game, gamesmanship, fair play or fun about what this government is doing. It is a dangerous, one-way policy.

    It is a ‘game’ with only one possible winning goal – the government’s. And as one commentator here says, the goal is to end publicly funded/run/accountable services.

    Their introduction of five year fixed term parliaments means they will have achieved their objective by the next election so there needs to be one hell of a lot more of this head teacher’s response to stop the rot.

    The only balls I would point out is the balls-up the Labour party has made of not being a decent opposition or we would not be faced with this vicious selection of politicians for the coming five years.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      The first rule of journalism is Never Assume Anything. You don’t know this man is near retirement so your opinion is flawed.
      Are we to take it that your comment on the Labour Party refers to the party prior to Jeremy Corbyn’s election? While it is possible to knock huge holes in any such suggestion, it seems unlikely that Mr Corbyn will be anything like as mild.

      1. Me Herenow

        The article states that he has been in teaching for 37 years. Presuming he went straight into teaching from university that would mean that he is at least 59 years old. So I think we can safely ascertain that he will be retiring within the next 6 years, a timeframe that most people would consider being close to retirement. Maybe it would be a good idea to read the article in its entirety before trying to undermine someone’s comments just because they did not like the previous Labour leadership.

      2. Mike Sivier Post author

        Maybe you’ve forgotten that the current Conservative leadership is pushing the age of retirement back. He could have another 10 years left to go (God help him) – that’s a large chunk of anybody’s life.

      3. Roseanne Edwards

        My reasonable assumption doesn’t invalidate my own opinion Mike.

        And for your information (if you made intelligent assumptions – thank you Me Herenow -) yes I did mean Labour in opposition during the shrink-closer-to-the-Blair-years.

        I am insensed that the independent sector doesn’t have to cope with the insane stress-inducing box-ticking, feedback-hungry Ofsted inspections that are driving tens of thousands of good, eager teachers out of the system. How they think 50,000 teachers recruited from overseas are going to be able to cope any better than British qualified teachers in this pressure-loaded area is beyond most professionals’ expectations.

        The Tories are creating a desperate situation in education that will probably collapse as they finally leave the stage.

        Good for Colin Harris I say.

      4. Mike Sivier Post author

        Your assumption – reasonable or not – weakens the head teacher’s point, though. You have no right to do that without concrete evidence. So I disagree. You should not have written it.
        You are also mistaken about Labour’s opposition. Even the Tories complained about the amount of legislation Labour stood up against during the Coalition years – they considered it unreasonable for Labour to oppose almost everything, as Labour did.
        Still, I agree with you on other points.

      5. Barbara Webber

        I wish more public service organisations would have the guts to do this!
        Also please don’t assume that private schools don’t have to undergo the stress of inspections. They do. Teaching is a stressful profession whether in the public or private domain.

  8. Dez

    Round of applause for a beautifully crafted letter which really captures what the real world thinks about politics. I would love to see the reply or how it pans out.

  9. Brian

    Retiring or not, courage is shown. The disillusioned are showing their face, and may there be many more. I remember the episode of feeding a child a beef burger in a political stunt to illustrate it was safe. Shame on those that stoop so low.

  10. Andy adderton

    He denies the school a lesson in democracy purely to satisfy his own personal agenda. No doubt a highly paid Socialist to boot.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      What utter nonsense. It’s not a personal political agenda, it’s an evidence-based conclusion.
      You suggest that this head teacher is a highly-paid socialist, as if either of those things are bad. As a head teacher, he probably is well-enough paid. Do you have proof that he is a socialist? No. Do you believe that he would be a hypocrite if he was highly-paid and a socialist? It appears so. Therefore your claim that he is “no doubt a highly-paid socialist” is intended in a libellous manner (look up the definitions and you’ll see I’m right).

    2. Roseanne Edwards

      Perhaps in spite of his massive pay (something a Socialist shouldn’t get for a job well done?) he is acting for the greater good.

      1. Mike Sivier Post author

        There’s no reason anybody should not be properly recompensed for the work they do. That’s not what socialism is about, and if you think it is, you’ve been listening to the wrong people. Paying very few people far too much for doing very little, just because they happen to be in a position of privilege… That’s a different matter.

      2. Roseanne Edwards

        Mike my comment about his ‘massive pay’ was said with sarcasm…

        I know exactly what pressures are being put on the teaching profession, along with the same trashing of their professional abilities, for political reasons, since I have teachers in my immediate family.

    3. celia56

      Because it’s so important that our children learn how to smile insincerely and bow and scrape to the “elite” taking advantage of a photo opportunity. Personally I would prefer my kids to be learning something useful like maths or how to spell correctly rather than sucking up to someone who has an inflated sense of their own importance.

      1. Keith Collins

        Well said!! Let him visit the private sector and meet up with the offspring of his,”chums!!”

      2. Donald Clark

        Breathtaking arrogance here in defending a Head who wants to impose hi personal political views on the children under his care. So ‘teaching’ trumps democracy. It is vital that kids are exposed to teir democratically elected leaders. That’s democracy folks. A Head is NOT allowed to impose his or her political views on a school. I was a Governor for years and this issue does crop up. The Head was wrong. If the Head was rejecting a visit froma left-wing MP because he or she was a Muslim or right-winger against immigration, you’d see the stupidicty of his actions. He’s a head teacher not a political guardian.

      3. Mike Sivier Post author

        So you think your amateur opinion, barked from the sidelines, should take precedence over the expert professional decisions of the head teacher who is directly involved? There’s your breathtaking arrogance!
        He is a head teacher, charged with doing his best to protect his school and its pupils, and that is what he has done. Just because this disadvantages the politicians you support, that doesn’t make him wrong. You can bet his governors are behind him all the way.

      4. Donald Clark

        As a ‘journalist’ you seem to play fast and loose with the facts. I’ve spent 32 years in education (you assume have no experience) and, as you seem incapable of doing the ‘homework’ yourself, the Head of a school is not allowed to make political acts like this. You also seem incapable of arguing a case – surely a fairy basic skill for a journalist. ‘Silliness’ is a playground term.

      5. Mike Sivier Post author

        This is not a political act. He is refusing a member of the public (it doesn’t matter that he’s an MP – why should they get preferential treatment?) permission to enter his school and interrupt its routines. Clearly, he is acting with the support of the school governors and therefore your opinion is neither here nor there. Yes, ‘silliness’ is a playground term. Please grow up, and refrain from silliness in the future.
        Oh, and my ability to argue a case is clear to the whole country, after I defeated the government, forcing it to publish figures relating to the deaths of incapacity benefits claimants. Didn’t you know about that?

      6. Donald Clark

        Just asked three other people in the room if they’d ever ehard of you – nope, no response. Your narcissism, no let’s call it schoolboy silliness, knows no bounds. His letter was political in nature, so he was not simply treating the MP as a ‘member of the public’. The Governors would never have signed off this letter. No wonder young people are not reading newspapers these days. Notice your selective publishing of comments…. journalist or censor?

      7. Mike Sivier Post author

        I didn’t say anything about being famous; I said my ability to argue is clear to the whole country for the reason stated. LOOK IT UP.
        I find your attitude condescending and offensive. You do not have superior knowledge of this matter yet you pretend that you do. You denigrate my ability to form an argument, yet yours is limited to repeating the same assertions, ever-more stridently.
        Your false claim that I am selective in the comments I publish is also familiar to me – it is used by the desperate in an attempt to undermine faith in another person.
        Having said that, I see no point in continuing to publish your comments if you continue in this manner.

  11. Gareth Davies

    Congratulations on saying how it really is. A very brave stance indeed but nevertheless it’s what so many teachers feel.

  12. Mary

    Excellent letter..but my year 5 teacher would have been very unhappy at him writing, “different to yours”. In 1965, he drummed into us that it was “different from” and “similar to” . We all make this mistake in everyday speech but I do feel it is important for a head teacher to be correct in a formal letter

  13. Roseanne Edwards

    “Different from knows no regional boundaries and is by far the most common pattern of the three. If you favour different than, you’re highly likely to be a speaker of American English. Different to is very frequent in British English, although 12.4% of instances of that phrase are also found in American English.”

    A lot of American English is creeping into our language. As is pronounciation – CONtroversy instead of conTROVersy; haRASSment instead of HARassment etc.

    So I think Mr Harris is excused ‘different to’ especially with his particularly brave and sensible message!

  14. Donald Clark

    He gets paid to run a school, not express and execute his own political views. I’m of the left but this is bulls**t behaviour which breaks his contract. If I were a Governor at his school, I’d pull him up on this.

      1. Donald Clark

        Jesus. I hope you’re not teaching kids with a reponse like that. If a right-wing head had rejected an MP visit on the grounds of that MP holding rleft wing views, say on immigration or comprehensive education, would you defend his right to do so?

      2. Mike Sivier Post author

        What a silly thing to say. Of course I’m not teaching children – I’m a journalist. The point is that this head – whose politics are not known to us – rejected an MP visit on the grounds that the MP’s actions – not his views – had caused harm to the school and to teaching. He is giving his children an excellent education in standing up against injustice. Good for him.

    1. Matthew Millard

      Excuse me Mr Clark but have you met Mr Harris? I have the privilege of my two boys going to his school and he is an excellent Headmaster and a perfect gentleman. The difference he has made to Warren Park School is nothing short of amazing. He works his socks off for his colleagues and students so before you start to criticize him find out about the man and find out the reasons why he feels that this was the right thing to do.

      1. Donald Clark

        Mr Millard. You seem to assume that no argument can be put unless you have personally met the man in question. As it is unlineky that anyone but you has met the said Head, should we all go home and refuse to comment? You haven’t met me but I’m not claiming that you can’t comment on things I have said. I’m not arguing that he’s a poor Head or not a ‘gentleman’ ,whatever that means. I am arguing that what he did was unprofessional, even though I agree (politically) with his sentiment.

  15. john blacker

    The UN Agenda 21 has no need for all of the “Useless Eaters” Human Robots and so why would you expect a Conservative Government to resource the education of said?

    Austerity is a nice word for slow Genocide. Look at the evidence for yourselves – do the Conservatives dish out to you what they would dish out to themselves?

    Less for you means more for them – get used to it – get used to the UN Agenda 21 slow Genocide of your western culture and your western culture starts with Education or the lack of.

  16. Joyce Roll

    I was so lucky to have taught when my professional judgement was never in doubt .it is sad to see the profession we all love or have loved denigrated in the way that it is now . I consider the headteacher who has told it as it is to be first of many who will fight back to give professionalism back to those who do the job !

  17. Pieter Egriega

    Clearly all of us who arrived at this post are cheering Colin Harris….but we are not the issue. The issue the sufficient numbers of Tory voters 11.4m in total last election who are either benefiting from this administration or more likely so blind to the problems caused by Tory government that they once again willfully provide Cameron and his cronies with the mandate to continue reducing the state’s power. instead of complimenting Mr Harris how about some of you getting down to your local Labour party and canvassing anyone who either didn’t vote earlier this year or more likely voted for the Tories, a party that does not believe in the state as a cause for social good, but instead feels that the market will work well for everyone!

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Not everybody is cheering Mr Harris – look at the comments from Donald Clark – but you are right. At the time of writing, this post has been read more than 45,000 times, and I can count the number of objections to Mr Harris on the fingers of one hand. That’s an awful lot of people, up and down the United Kingdom, who may be encouraged to do something similar themselves.
      Why not? There’s nothing to lose.

  18. Matthew Millard

    Wow he is the Head at my boys’ school and I never heard a thing about this. I am going up there tomorrow to shake his hand.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Well, the article about him on This Blog alone has been read more than 55,000 times, so it seems his stand has struck a very strong chord in the hearts and minds of other people across the UK.
      Perhaps you could shake his hand on behalf of the rest of us, too?

  19. Fox Mulder

    I am a teacher and refusing these “Right Honourable” Members of Parliament into schools is the morally right thing. These MPs use visits as a photo opportunity and popularity contest, pretending to give a toss but are more bothered about looking good in the minds of the local press. Most of these MPs are a total disgrace, more concerned with their own selfish interests than the people they are supposed to represent.

    This “Donald Clark” represents all that is wrong about this country, concerned about keeping his chosen party in power to privatise everything and leave the low paid to starve.

    The bottom line is that the Conservatives would bring back poverty to the masses if they thought they could. They see their business chums as equals and the rest as mere plebs. Anyone rich and famous is obviously better because they have more money. The skilled and unskilled low paid are mere cannon fodder, a lot of whom are stupid enough to vote for a party which will NEVER represent their views and values.

    Whilst you have individuals like Cameron and his cronies in charge, the poor will invariably get poorer and the rich will get richer off the hard work of the poor.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      I sympathise with everything you say.
      One note of caution, though: Please don’t make personal attacks against other commenters here. Mr Clark has certainly not endeared himself to me – his first comment was an attack on my own “breathtaking arrogance”. It’s okay, I’m a big boy and can take it, but I do insist that commenters address themselves to issues, rather than personalities. “Play the ball, not the man” is the maxim here.
      Perhaps you could clear up one bone of contention, though. Mr Clark claimed that the head teacher concerned, Mr Harris, would have required the consent of his school’s governors to write and send his letter. We don’t know that he didn’t get that (although Mr Clark makes that claim also), but is this correct? My own contacts in education say the head teacher is responsible for the day-to-day running of a school, arranging both trips out and visits in – but add that this situation is so unusual that they do not know what the correct action is, according to the rules. Do you?

    2. Donald Clark

      It’s a bit odd that people, like Mulder, assume (and clearly don’t read) what I wrote. I am of the left – that’s what I said in my very first comment. I have been a member of the Labour Party all my life and don’t need lessons on politics from ‘mind-readers’. To the main point – was he right to write this letter? The letter was loaded with political opinion. The teacher, if it is a state schools, requires him to remain neutral in his professional capacity. If teachers behave unprofessionally, the Governors, whose job is Governance, would be to monitor and correct the action. If he wrote a letter, say to a left-wing MP, denying him a visit to the school, because he stated that he doesn’t like the way he talks about immigration, he would have been in trouble. The role of a teacher or head is not ‘politically restricted’ in terms of, say, standing for office, but it is unprofessional to let your personal politics interfere with the running of the school.

      1. Mike Sivier Post author

        I’m allowing Mr Clark the right of reply to those commenters who have criticised him. You’ll all know I don’t agree with his opinion – nor do I approve of comments such as his assertion that he doesn’t “need lessons on politics from ‘mind-readers'”, which I consider an attempt to be offensive.

      2. Donald Clark

        Offensive? I’m responding to someone who accuses me of being some sort of right-wing, oddball. I’m simply pointing out the personal nature of these caricatures. Let’s stick to the arguments.

      3. Mike Sivier Post author

        Yes, you were responding – and just look at the way you were doing it. Offensive is exactly the right word.

  20. simbatheliondog

    Bravo from Melbourne, Australia. I hope all your head-teacher colleagues make public statements to support you. Head-teachers must start speaking out with one voice.

  21. Barbara Webber

    I think it’s breathtaking arrogance to assume that private schools are full of David Cameron’s Tory cronies. I have taught in a private school. Many of the children are there because their parents are willing to work hard and make sacrifices to pay the fees. They are certainly not all millionaires, far from it!
    That said, I too am heartily sick of the attacks made on the teaching profession from every direction.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Are you responding to Keith Collins’ comment about the MP visiting a private school to “meet up with the offspring of his ‘chums'”?
      That is the only reference I can find that comes close to what you’re suggesting – but you’ll notice there is no claim that they are “full” of “David Cameron’s Tory cronies”. We know that most of David Cameron’s cabinet has enjoyed private education, we also know that many more people attend those schools than Tory ministers.
      I think you have misconstrued Mr Collins’ words. I do not think there was any intention to dirty the good names of other privately-educated pupils who hold, or whose parents hold, different political views from those of Mr Cameron and his ilk.

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