Last week, both The Sun and the Daily Mail reported on a teacher who has spoken out about what he sees as school pupils being brainwashed into being left-wing Labour supporters.
Calvin Robinson, an IT teacher at an Inner London secondary school, claimed that ‘young people are being indoctrinated to a left-wing mentality from a very young age.’ The Mail reported that ‘SCHOOLS ‘BRAINWASH’ PUPILS TO SEE TORIES AS ‘EVIL’ AND SUPPORT LABOUR, SAYS TEACHER WHO FRONTED DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION RECRUITMENT DRIVE. The Sun covered the story with the headline ‘ARE YOUR KIDS BEING BRAINWASHED INTO SUPPORTING LABOUR? TOP TEACHER CLAIMS CHILDREN ARE SECRETLY TAUGHT ‘FROM A VERY YOUNG AGE’ THAT TORIES ARE ‘EVIL’.
Both papers are keen to emphasise Mr Robinson’s credentials as a top teacher who worked with the DofE ‘I Chose To Teach’ campaign, which is fair enough. What neither paper mentions is that he is an active Conservative party member in West London. He is the Youth Officer for the Hampstead & Kilburn Conservative Association. He also stood as Conservative candidate in the Kilburn local elections in 2016 and was Campaign Coordinator in Ealing & Central Acton in the recent General Election.
None of these things disqualify Mr Robinson from having an opinion on teaching in British schools. He is himself a teacher, after all. But it’s a bit suspicious that the papers omit this information. It puts a different slant on the revelations when you realise that he has a prominent role within the Tory party for ‘reaching out and engaging with constituents under the age of 34’.
There will doubtlessly be teachers who wear their political colours on their sleeves, but is it happening regularly enough to imply that it’s rife within schools to the extent that one side is being shut down, as The Sun and the Mail do in their articles? Mr Robinson’s evidence itself seems to be fairly flimsy. It was taken from a blog he wrote on the Conservatives For Liberty website in June last year just after the Brexit vote.
The only actual instances he mentions are about the Brexit vote – one where a teacher said to pupils that the idea of the Leave side winning the referendum was ‘scary’, and another where an Executive Headteacher sent an email that included a link to a petition asking for another referendum. He also mentions that he was asked not to bring up the subject of Brexit the day after the Referendum as many of the pupils at his school are European.
None of this is necessarily evidence of pro-Labour or anti-Tory bias, as many Tories (as well as LibDems) campaigned on the Remain side too.
Recent research by TES found that there has been a shift towards Labour support among both primary and secondary school teachers (68% in 2017, up from 51% in 2015). But expressing support for a party in a survey carried out just before a general election does not equate to ‘brainwashing’ kids in the classroom. It will take a bit more than the Tory press reporting on a Tory party activist to set the alarm bells ringing on that issue.
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