Just 12% of teachers would vote Conservative

A new YouGov poll for the National Union of Teachers also shows that 79% believe the coalition's impact on the education system has been negative.

If it often seems as though it's hard to find a teacher with a good word to say about the Tories, it's because so few exist. A new YouGov poll for the NUT (based on a representative sample of 826 teachers) shows that just 12% would vote Conservative in a general election, compared to 43% for Labour and 6% for the Lib Dems. 

Evidence of why is supplied elsewhere in the poll, which found that 79% believe that the government's impact on the education system has been negative, and that 82% of teachers and 87% of school leaders are opposed to the coalition's expansion of academies and free schools. In addition, 74% say that their morale has declined since the election and 70% of head teachers do not feel trusted by ministers to get on with their jobs. Finally, 91% of teachers do not believe publicly-funded schools should be run for profit (a policy Michael Gove has said he would consider introducing under a Conservative majority government) and 93% believe academies and free schools should only employ teachers with Qualified Teacher Status (as Labour has argued).

NUT general secretary Christine Blower said: "If David Cameron and Nick Clegg are under any illusions that their education policies are going in the right direction, they need to think again. This survey makes it abundantly clear that both teachers and head teachers do not see their policies as being in the best interests of children or the profession. 

"At a time when teacher morale is continuing to fall, it is extraordinary that the Secretary of State for Education refuses to enter into meaningful negotiations with teaching unions.

"The NUT cannot recall a time over its 144 year history when Government policy has been so roundly condemned by the teaching profession. With a general election round the corner, David Cameron and Nick Clegg need to completely change tack if they are to attract the support of teachers and start improving the life chances of our children and young people."

The Tories' lack of support among teachers is a symptom of their wider unpopularity among public sector workers. The most recent Ipsos MORI poll showed that just 16% of public sector workers support the party, compared to 55% for Labour. If the Tories are to win the next election, they will need to improve their standing among their group. As Renewal, the Conservative group aimed at broadening the party's appeal among working class, northern and ethnic minority voters, has noted, the majority of Tory target seats have a higher than average share of public sector workers, including 60% of Labour-held targets and half of the top 20 Lib Dem-held targets. But while some Tories, such as Robert Halfon and Guy Opperman, are aware of this, their party is still desperately short of policies to appeal to them. 

George Osborne and Michael Gove at the Conservative conference in Manchester last year. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Air pollution: 5 steps to vanquishing an invisible killer

A new report looks at the economics of air pollution. 

110, 150, 520... These chilling statistics are the number of deaths attributable to particulate air pollution for the cities of Southampton, Nottingham and Birmingham in 2010 respectively. Or how about 40,000 - that is the total number of UK deaths per year that are attributable the combined effects of particulate matter (PM2.5) and Nitrogen Oxides (NOx).

This situation sucks, to say the very least. But while there are no dramatic images to stir up action, these deaths are preventable and we know their cause. Road traffic is the worst culprit. Traffic is responsible for 80 per cent of NOx on high pollution roads, with diesel engines contributing the bulk of the problem.

Now a new report by ResPublica has compiled a list of ways that city councils around the UK can help. The report argues that: “The onus is on cities to create plans that can meet the health and economic challenge within a short time-frame, and identify what they need from national government to do so.”

This is a diplomatic way of saying that current government action on the subject does not go far enough – and that cities must help prod them into gear. That includes poking holes in the government’s proposed plans for new “Clean Air Zones”.

Here are just five of the ways the report suggests letting the light in and the pollution out:

1. Clean up the draft Clean Air Zones framework

Last October, the government set out its draft plans for new Clean Air Zones in the UK’s five most polluted cities, Birmingham, Derby, Leeds, Nottingham and Southampton (excluding London - where other plans are afoot). These zones will charge “polluting” vehicles to enter and can be implemented with varying levels of intensity, with three options that include cars and one that does not.

But the report argues that there is still too much potential for polluters to play dirty with the rules. Car-charging zones must be mandatory for all cities that breach the current EU standards, the report argues (not just the suggested five). Otherwise national operators who own fleets of vehicles could simply relocate outdated buses or taxis to places where they don’t have to pay.  

Different vehicles should fall under the same rules, the report added. Otherwise, taking your car rather than the bus could suddenly seem like the cost-saving option.

2. Vouchers to vouch-safe the project’s success

The government is exploring a scrappage scheme for diesel cars, to help get the worst and oldest polluting vehicles off the road. But as the report points out, blanket scrappage could simply put a whole load of new fossil-fuel cars on the road.

Instead, ResPublica suggests using the revenue from the Clean Air Zone charges, plus hiked vehicle registration fees, to create “Pollution Reduction Vouchers”.

Low-income households with older cars, that would be liable to charging, could then use the vouchers to help secure alternative transport, buy a new and compliant car, or retrofit their existing vehicle with new technology.

3. Extend Vehicle Excise Duty

Vehicle Excise Duty is currently only tiered by how much CO2 pollution a car creates for the first year. After that it becomes a flat rate for all cars under £40,000. The report suggests changing this so that the most polluting vehicles for CO2, NOx and PM2.5 continue to pay higher rates throughout their life span.

For ClientEarth CEO James Thornton, changes to vehicle excise duty are key to moving people onto cleaner modes of transport: “We need a network of clean air zones to keep the most polluting diesel vehicles from the most polluted parts of our towns and cities and incentives such as a targeted scrappage scheme and changes to vehicle excise duty to move people onto cleaner modes of transport.”

4. Repurposed car parks

You would think city bosses would want less cars in the centre of town. But while less cars is good news for oxygen-breathers, it is bad news for city budgets reliant on parking charges. But using car parks to tap into new revenue from property development and joint ventures could help cities reverse this thinking.

5. Prioritise public awareness

Charge zones can be understandably unpopular. In 2008, a referendum in Manchester defeated the idea of congestion charging. So a big effort is needed to raise public awareness of the health crisis our roads have caused. Metro mayors should outline pollution plans in their manifestos, the report suggests. And cities can take advantage of their existing assets. For example in London there are plans to use electronics in the Underground to update travellers on the air pollution levels.

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Change is already in the air. Southampton has used money from the Local Sustainable Travel Fund to run a successful messaging campaign. And in 2011 Nottingham City Council became the first city to implement a Workplace Parking levy – a scheme which has raised £35.3m to help extend its tram system, upgrade the station and purchase electric buses.

But many more “air necessities” are needed before we can forget about pollution’s worry and its strife.  

 

India Bourke is an environment writer and editorial assistant at the New Statesman.