On Saturday 17th May, a few members of the Harrow Teachers’ Association met with members of the public to explain the NUT campaign – Stand Up For Education.

My journey

I went through a bit of a journey and was amazed at how much I learned within a few hours.

  • At the onset, we were near the stall, waiting for passers by to talk to us. A few came over or walked passed looking interested but didn’t stop.
  • At other times, we started talking to each other. I think that this made some individuals hesitate and decide against approaching us.
  • Then we moved away from the table and split up. We walked amongst the public and tried to decipher who to approach.

I would have thought that parents would be really interested in Education, but we couldn’t assume that those who had children with them were parents. They could be uncles, aunts, child minders etc.

This begged the question; “Who should we give them to?”

I took a leap and decided not worry about making assumptions or be precious about the leaflets. I began to approach people with children.

Approaching members of the public

  • Some people assumed we were after a donation so they would avoid eye contact or walk in a different direction or simply say they weren’t interested
  • Others listened but carried on walking so you had to walk with them if you wanted them to hear you out
  • Others said they didn’t have the time to talk
  • Some said they didn’t live in London, not realising that it’s a national campaign

In order to combat some of this, I create a short, succinct sentence. “Can I give you a leaflet about changes in Education” The word Education was a big enough hook for most.

One person replied that she didn’t want to learn as ignorance is bliss.
Another said she’s not from around here. I said it was national but I think she was too far to want to turn back.

Refusing to take no for an answer

A few said no, shook their heads and walked. This bothered me because I didn’t understand why they wouldn’t be interested in what could hugely affect their child’s life chances. I decided to ask the next person who said no.
Here’s how it went - “Can I just ask…you have a little one, so why don’t you want to know?” One said that she was in a rush, so I explained that I didn’t need to speak with her; she could just take the leaflet. Another said he had 5 in total; so I replied “then you really need to know.” He could see the genuineness in my face and he stopped to take a leaflet.

The need to be able to sum up the campaign quickly

Some people took the leaflet and stopped because they wanted to know more but they didn’t want to be held up for too long. I could sense this in their body language. When this happened I said; “I can tell you one quick thing. The Government are saying that if all the good teachers leave, it doesn’t matter because they’ll get the Army in” most people shook their heads, expressed disbelief and said they’d read it. One lady said “That’s putting you teachers down”

Of course, one of the people I said it to said; “What’s wrong with that? I’m in the Army.” So I explained that I had nothing against the Army, but being in the Army doesn’t mean you can teach. He agreed that each job had a set of skills and he said “Anyone CAN’T teach”

School places crises

I met a desperate father who said he can’t find a place for his boy, anywhere in Harrow. He said he’d written to his MP, contacted the council, approached individual schools but there was no change. He said he didn’t know what to do.

We discussed the fact that Local Authorities used to be able to instruct schools that weren’t full, to accept children who couldn’t be placed closer to their home and that they could create temporary buildings or open new schools in order to meet the need for places. However, the Government has handcuffed them, so any shortages HAVE to be managed by opening a Free School, an Academy or Private Education provision.
He was unaware of this, glad to understand but no less desperate to cater for his child’s needs.
He also, has believed the nonsense that the crisis has been caused by immigration so we discussed that as well.

Industrial action

My last example is of a parent who said “Tell me you’re not going to go on strike again.”
I shared a few of the reasons behind it and said we are.
She said she didn’t like the planned changes and understood our reasons but it would cost her £50.
I explained that we also lose our pay for that day and she was surprised. She thought we got paid to go on strike. Suddenly we had something in common, which was great to see! 🙂

It was an amazing experience and really worth doing.

Have you ever done anything similar? If so I’d love to hear about your experience.

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