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10 January 2019updated 09 Sep 2021 4:34pm

British politics needs a new force. That’s why I’m setting up United for Change

Our existing political parties are failing. Our new movement will fill the breach.

By Saima Rana

Labour’s analysis that people are divided on Brexit but united by what is going wrong might be right – but its inability to provide a robust opposition renders it meaningless. 

Brexit is a mess. No party will come out well because they’ve put their needs before Britain’s. Nearly half of people think divisions in society will deepen regardless of whether we have another referendum. 

While the debate rages on, the two main parties fail to provide the leadership we so desperately need in education, health and other public services. When trust in our politicians is at an all-time low, it’s hard to see how politics-as-is can recover. The time for a new political movement is now. 

In over 15 years of teaching, I’ve seen a lot of change, but the last two years have created new levels of disruption and uncertainty. 

Schools are coming under intense pressure to perform as precious resources are cut. Teachers are being asked to work longer hours for the same money. Children are sitting exams earlier, causing stress and anxiety. Academic qualifications are being disproportionately promoted ignoring the creative and practical skills of so many. 

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Often, change comes after a general election or following the appointment of a new Education Secretary (we’ve had three of those in the last four years). New ministers looking to climb the party ladder with quick political wins forge ahead without any meaningful consultation or consideration of the longer-term implications. The impact? Schools can’t hire teachers on a long-term basis as different subjects fall in and out of favour. Headteachers can’t plan for support systems as funding is withdrawn and priorities shift. There is no time for teachers to master their syllabus because it changes too rapidly. Hard-earned expertise is wasted, energy and commitment sapped. It’s no wonder two in five newly qualified teachers experience mental health problems and half quit the profession in their first ten years.

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Every day I ask how my staff and I can achieve more for the pupils that walk through our doors. We push ourselves to do better but in schools up and down the country, despite these efforts, we continue to be undermined by ill-thought-through policy and battle against a decade of underfunding. Worse still, many of the politicians that make these decisions put their own children into private education. This demonstrates a total lack of commitment to the challenges faced by the broad majority of us in Britain.

Time and time again, the system has let us down. To ensure the future of our schools we need to take the politics out of it. Like the Bank of England, education should be independent of politics. It should be teachers, academics and parents – much like the makeup of school governing boards – that take critical decisions and set the direction on schooling, not politicians pushing different agendas from one-day-to the next. 

The children I teach have taught me many things, but what stands out beyond all else is their untainted optimism and passion for making the world a better place. They deserve so much more than the current toxic and divisive politics currently on offer. If we want a brighter future – as a nation and for our children – we need a new politics. That’s why I’m proud to play my part in setting up United for Change.

Saima Rana, Principal Westminster Academy and Co-Founder of United for Change

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