Why I am voting to leave the European Union

by Calvin Robinson on June 16, 2016.

calvin-robinson-vote-leaveImmigration

Why has it become taboo to talk about Immigration? When did immigration become a naughty word? In this overly politically correct society, you’re more or less automatically deemed as racist for even suggesting the prospect of controlled borders. Equally, you’re classed as xenophobic for wanting to Vote Leave.

Well I want to talk about immigration, and I can imagine some of you cringing. I can promise you I’m not racist, nor am I xenophobic and I think it’s the sign of a healthy democracy that we should be able to talk about these issues without casting such aspersions.

Among the many reasons I am planning to Vote Leave, is to regain control of our borders. Now, that’s not to suggest we should close our borders, but I think we’re big enough and old enough a country to have earned the right to control our own borders.

Net migration to the UK rose to 333,000 last year, according to the Office of National Statistics. Over 55% of that number was from EU countries, that’s a record high and there’s no sign of it stopping any time soon. I’m not going to drone on about the strain on our society, our over-stretched NHS or short supply of housing. You know all of that, and frankly it’s quite glum. Believe it or not, I want to talk about the positive side of immigration, and the benefits of taking back control of our borders.

I’m a school teacher. I trained in Computer Science and that’s what I intended to teach. This year, as well as teaching Computing and ICT, I’ve taught a ridiculous amount of Latin – a subject I never studied a day in my life. I went to a state school in the Midlands, Latin wasn’t on the curriculum where I grew up. But because we simply don’t have the teachers, I’ve had to just get on with it. Why don’t we have the teachers? Teaching is, or was, a respected profession. As the DofE will tell you, we have lots of people training to become teachers, but with our population increasing at a number we can’t sustain, we don’t have enough teachers to manage the number of pupils.

Class sizes are increasing and learning quality is decreasing as a direct result. The UK is now 20th position in the world ranking of education systems. 20th, that’s below most of Asia and half of Europe.

You might ask, if we have such high numbers of immigration, why aren’t teachers in abundance? Because the majority of immigrants entering the UK are low-skilled, entry-level workers. Not only is this bad for British entry-level workers, who can’t compete with the low wages that immigrants from poorer Eastern European states are willing to work for, but it also means that the skilled professionals we want and need to emigrate to the UK can’t.

This doesn’t just apply to teachers of course. While it’s difficult for teachers from say Australia, it’s equally hard for nurses from Canada, software developers from India, you name it, the list goes on. If you’re not from an EU country, you’re pushed to the back of the queue. It’s nothing more than discrimination.

The fact of the matter is, we do need immigration. We need more immigration of skilled professionals, and to do that we have to drop the discriminatory EU policy and create a fairer more open system that is inclusive of everyone, no matter what country they come from, so long as they have the skills we need.

What I’m suggesting isn’t rocket science, nor is it a new idea. I am a direct result of a policy of encouraging immigration to fill gaps where we need the workers. My dad’s side of the family are from the West Indies. They moved over here during the Windrush period, to fill shortages in the labour market. West Indian labourers were invited to live and work in the UK at a time when the help was needed, but the borders didn’t remain open forever. The Commonwealth Immigrants Act of 62 made it so that if you already had a work permit or your parents or grandparents were born in Britain, you could still emigrate, so families weren’t ripped apart, but the floodgates weren’t left open.

Right now we have shortages of so many professions. We need more teachers, nurses, doctors, so let’s set up a fairer system and encourage them to join us. The only way we can do that, is by leaving the EU.

Sovereignty

Talking about us having control of our own country. Sovereignty is another one of those words that instantly raises eyebrows. And why should it?

When I talk about Britain taking back control, I’m talking about us – as a British people – having a say over who serves us in government. We elect a government based on a manifesto – a selection of promises – and if they fail to accomplish their pledges, we have the option of getting rid of them and replacing them with someone else. It’s a beautiful system. Britain lead the way in democracy, for decades. We’ve fought wars to defend our freedom of democracy, both on a global scale, and civil. It used to be important to us. It ought to be important to us.

That’s why I’m surprised when I hear arguments from the Remain camp that it’s okay for us compromise our sovereignty in order to subscribe to the EU project, because it’s better than not knowing entirely what will happen after we leave. I can’t tell you everything that will happen if we Vote Leave, but I can tell you we will regain control of our country. We will regain the right to create our own laws and govern our own land. Right now the majority of our laws, are created in Brussels, by people we didn’t vote for, and people we cannot remove if we don’t like what they’re doing. It’s okay to say “well the EU has created some really useful legislation” well that might be the case, on occasion, but what happens when the EU create legislation we don’t agree with? Laws that go against the British way of life, what then? We have literally no democratic way of undoing those laws, and we have no way of removing the people creating them. Not only that, but EU law has supremacy over UK law. We signed up to a trade deal and ended up joining a superstate. It’s a coup of the highest proportions, and it all happened in broad daylight, right under our noses.

Again, people will argue the case that giving up our supremacy of law and the right to control our own borders is a just compromise, for trade deals and/or short term financial stability. To that I say they’re short sighted.

My colleague to my left has far more knowledge and experience of trade than I probably ever will, so I will leave it to him to explain in more depth, the ins and outs of why Britain would not only survive, but grow stronger outside of the EU. But even a layman like myself can see that the 5th largest economy in the world, being part of the slowest growing continent (bar Antartica) is a one-sided relationship. And that a project that has taken nearly a decade to forge a trade deal with Canada (that’s still not complete) is not fit to negotiate on our behalf.

The EU has no trade deals with China or India, two of the fastest growing economies on the planet. People accuse the Vote Leave campaign of being isolationist, but it is the EU that is in fact isolationist. We’ve heard arguments that the EU would no longer trade with us if we left the project – what kind of nonsense is that? You honestly mean to tell me that  Audi,  BMW, Mercedes, Porsche and Volkswagen would no longer want to sell their cars to one of their biggest markets? And if the EU really is that spiteful, maybe that explains the lack of deals with China and India, and the amount of time it has taken to even begin to form a deal with Canada. It sounds more like a protection racket to me. Is that something we really want to be a part of? We’re Britain, we stand up for the underdog, it’s what we do. Why are we a part of this bullying, discriminatory system?

Let’s sack them off. Get out of this exclusive, isolationist, walled-garden and join the larger, global marketplace. As Gove said the other evening, “‘rather than be a difficult lodger in a house we didn’t design, let’s be a better neighbour.’”. And as I said earlier, we’re big enough and old enough – I think we can cope! In fact, if we regain our freedom of democracy, supremacy of law and control of our own borders, I think we’ll thrive. So let’s Vote Leave and Take Back Control!

Politics
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We need to recruit and retain more teachers. Here’s how.

by Calvin Robinson on January 31, 2016.

Originally published on ConservativeHome.com

We are in the early stages of a recruitment crisis in education. Headteachers, unions and the government predicted as much a few years ago, and we’re now at the stage where teaching positions aren’t being filled, teachers are job-sharing, and schools are bussing pupils to sister schools for lessons. There aren’t enough people entering the profession, and there are record numbers of people leaving it. It’s time for schools to start thinking outside of the box and stop relying on the Government to solve the problem for them.

This week, the Daily Telegraph reported that schools are providing healthcare, free gym memberships and golden handshakes as a bonus to try and entice more applicants. At the same time, six teaching unions are fighting to increase the annual pay rise above one per cent. The Government has made great strides in this area already, allowing schools to set their own policies on how they recruit and retain staff, and allowing schools to pay good staff more.

These approaches are all well and good, but they’re not addressing the primary issue of why people are not entering or staying in the profession. Schools will never be able to compete with the private sector as far as pay is concerned – and that’s not the major barrier for entry for a lot of teachers. Schools need to become more pro-active in other ways, if they want to recruit more great teachers.

There’s plenty of room for innovation in education.  It’s a sector held back by a vocal minority’s fear of change, as with most union heavy-influenced professions. More schools could partner directly with universities and graduate schemes such as School Direct and Teach First, to encourage trainee teachers to join their schools.

Education as a whole needs far better links with industry, too. Schools should be reaching out to companies to create philanthropic enterprise projects – getting employees to spend an hour a week in a school, sharing their expertise through extra-curricular activities, or even simply sharing their real-world expectations. This would be a real bonus: a majority of our teachers have no industry experience of their own, so they should be encouraged to seek out those who do, to share expectations of what students will experience once they enter the world of employment. But by strengthening links between industry and education, we bring a much wider range of skills and expertise into the school environment.

​Of course, enticing people into the teaching profession is only half of the job at hand. The larger problem is keeping them, and that has very little to do with pay (no one becomes a teacher for the money), and more to do with bad management and ever increasing teacher workloads. I have written previously for Conservative Teachers about how poorly trained middle-leaders are harming our schools; that and the workload issue are a more difficult challenge for schools to face. But it’s necessary that they do.

Planning, marking, data entry, extra-curricular activities, break, lunch and after-school duties, long working hours and work during weekends and holidays are just a few of the many responsibilities that pile on a teacher’s workload – all of which could be downsized or managed by the school. If you speak to any teacher, you’re most likely to hear the same story these days, they love the job – the actual teaching – but it’s all the extra responsibilities on top of it that get in the way and cause them to work in a constant state of tiredness.

You can only maintain that lifestyle for so long, before you either break down or leave for better pastures. It’s an unhealthy lifestyle. Schools need to stop throwing buzz words around, like “we encourage our teachers to maintain a work/life balance” and put some actual policies and procedures into place to make this possible. There’s simply too much to do in this profession, and not enough time to do it all, not properly anyhow.

Something has to give and at the moment, it seems, that’s usually the job. The scary fact is that nearly two thirds of teachers are considering leaving within the next two years. Where will that leave us, if a majority of our teachers quit? With an increased workload for the remainder – that’s where. We have a limited time to address this issue. Schools, headteachers and teachers’ unions need to put their heads together and come up with some sensible solutions about how to adjust the actual role of a teacher into something more efficient and manageable. That in itself will make the job more appealing.

Education
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Poorly trained middle-leaders are harming our schools

by Calvin Robinson on December 10, 2015.

Originally published on ConservativeTeachers.com

Workload is one of the ever hot topics in education. Teachers are – often rightly –  voicing their dissatisfaction with the ever increasing amount of work piled on their plates, which is affecting their ability to get on and teach effectively. Nicky Morgan has expressed an interest in this topic and is looking at ways of alleviating some of the pressures passed on to teachers from senior management. However, I’m not sure the problem stops there. We should take a better look at our middle management structures, to adjust what could potentially be a bottleneck in the system.

Many middle leaders have been promoted to the role because they are fantastic teachers. This is a problem in and of itself. Being a great teacher does not necessarily make one a good manager. The majority of middle managers in schools have progressed through the traditional route of School > University > PGCE and of course back in to school, meaning they have no ‘real world’ experience to guide them in this more senior role.  Too often, teachers profess that working in a school feels like being back in school, due to the way that staff are treated. This is because our middle managers usually have no industry experience, little to no management training and are sometimes promoted above their level of competence.

This becomes a problem when we’re asking for more top-down support, whether it be in behaviour management systems or simply staff morale. Your school could employ the best ‘super head’ in the country, but if his/her messages, policies and enthusiasm are getting halted at a bottle neck of over-worked under-trained middle management, it’ll do no one any good. What was once a brilliant asset can instantly become a hindrance to the school, through no fault of their own.

There are a few ways we could improve this situation. Of course we could provide better management training to those promoted to middle management roles, and/or encourage all teachers to take some time in industry, to further expand their subject knowledge and real-world business skills. But another solution would be to simply create more admin roles in schools. If all schools had more administrative employees along the lines of office managers or civil servants, they could focus on monitoring targets and filling in spreadsheets, while the good teachers are left to do just that, teach. After all, isn’t that why we got into this job in the first place? To facilitate learning, not to tick boxes.

Education
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Brent Council are denying parents the choice they deserve

by Calvin Robinson on November 22, 2015.

Originally published on ConservativeTeachers.com

With the demand for good secondary school places in Brent ever increasing, and a sufficient number of Free Schools failing to open in the area, is it a case of the Labour-lead Brent Council dangerously hampering the borough? I decided to conduct some research into the issue by using the Freedom of Information Act to request details of meetings by the Brent Council Teacher’s Panel.

Below are the minutes from the last meeting of the Teachers’ Joint Consultative Committee (7 July 2015); specifically these are items raised by the ‘Teachers’ Panel’:

The council’s attitude and possible actions regarding new academies and free
schools

The Teachers’ Panel referred to the Kilburn Grange School due to be opened in 2015
and asked to receive information on the number of places that would be allocated for
Brent students. They also heard that Gateway School was not proceeding and that
while Gladstone School had submitted plans to the DFE and the council’s planning
department, there was discussion of the number of forms of entry. The earliest it would
open would be September 2016 possibly on a temporary site.
The Teachers’ Panel highlighted the action being taken around the country against the
government policies on Free Schools and Academies and that parents were becoming
increasingly aware that the justification for the introduction of the policies was not
related to increasing parental choice. They called on the council to do the minimum
required to comply with legislation but to join teachers’ unions in pointing out the
shortcomings of the policy and make parents aware of the council’s position. The Chair
asked it to be recorded that discussion on this was taking place within the Labour
Group.

As you can see, Brent Council’s Teacher’s Panel has “called on the council to do the minimum required to comply with legislation but to join teachers’ unions in pointing out the shortcomings of the policy and make parents aware of the council’s position”. Surely the council’s position should be to increase the number of good school places available to children in the borough? Brent has such a high demand for good school places, it’s irresponsible of the Labour-run Brent Council to oppose the idea of Free Schools simply to oppose a Conservative government’s policy. The issue is too important for them to be playing party politics.

If we look back to the Michaela Community School situation, it’s a well known but little reported fact that Brent Council made the process as difficult as possible for them. Even after the application to open a Free School in Brent was accepted by the Department for Education, Brent Council placed roadblocks in the paths of Michaela’s board of trustees at every turn, to the point that it was questioned whether the school would actually be able to open. When a bid was placed on the old Brent Town Hall, for example, it was rejected in place of an offer from the French Lycée International School. While the Lycée may be a brilliant project, it won’t offer the secondary school places that are needed in Brent, and the deal on the table happened to be significantly less than what DfE/Michaela were offering. On the one hand Brent Council are claiming budget cuts as one of the main reasons for the majority of their bad decisions as of late, while on the other hand they’re biting their nose off to spite their face by accepting an offer for a French curriculum primary school offering much less value than that of an English curriculum secondary school in an area where demand for good school places outweighs supply.

Michaela Free School: allocation of pupil places for September 2015

The Teachers’ Panel made enquiries of the number of places at Michaela School in Wembley Park and heard that there had been 321 applications for 120 places of 4FE.

In the end, Michaela went for a private property deal and as a result were the first Free School to successfully open in Brent, and are doing a fantastic job of educating hundreds of Brent children, with demand at nearly 3 times the current intake. But many Free School projects have failed to get off the ground in Brent and it’s becoming obvious why.

It has been speculated for a while now that Labour councils are getting in the way of a good secondary education. But with Free School applicants not be able to speak publicly about the issue, for obvious reasons, there hasn’t been much evidence to focus on until now. This Brent Council Teacher’s Panel report was obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request – it may well be that more councils are operating under similar pretences.

Have you witnessed similar opposition to Free Schools in your own borough? Get in touch if you’d like to share your experiences.

Education
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Are schools de-skilling our children?

by Calvin Robinson on June 29, 2015.

Near the start of my teacher training programme I wrote a blog post expressing my discontent with the UK education system. I’ve now finished my training and find not an awful lot has changed. If anything, I am more worried and frustrated than ever about the state of education in our country.

Today the Telegraph published a piece about a study, claiming that UK school leavers ‘the worst in Europe for essential skills’. This comes as no surprise to myself, having visited a large number of schools around the UK this past 12 months, I’ve seen a lot of worrying things. My primary concern is the fact that students aren’t being taught. Literally. Students are being spoon-fed just enough information to get them through exams and coursework, to make sure schools sit comfortably on league tables. The focus has shifted from learning to data-pruning, everything is results driven. Our children are hungry to learn what they need to know in order to survive in the real world, but instead we’re shoving tubes down their throats and force-feeding them exam flavoured corn until our results are the smooth foie gras that makes the school’s menu look presentable to outsiders.

There are of course exceptions to this rule. Out of the dozens of schools I’ve spent time in over the past few months, there were three in particular that caught my attention. One of which managed to hold onto their traditional grammar school values and are actually developing pupils into learned individuals and all-round great people – rather than just numbers on a spreadsheet. The other two schools that I have been impressed by were in fact new Free Schools. One of which worked their pupils incredibly hard, with a zero-tolerance regime and the other of which had an emphasis on iteration – improving work continuously to the point of mastery. All of these schools had a strong focus on learning. Their education was the primary focus of these schools and shows. Pupils at these schools have attitudes of actually wanting to learn and that is a reflection of the headteachers and the teaching staff, who were all uniformly consistent in their approaches.

I honestly think that if parents saw what is happening in the majority of our state schools at the moment, there’d be national outrage.

Education
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