Asking parents to pay is not the solution

My local secondary school is facing horrendous budget cut’s. These cuts mean that the school cannot provide the resources the children need to learn. So they have decided to ask parents to step up and contribute some cash to make up for the shortfall. See

Whilst I understand why they are doing this and that it is from the very best of motives I think that they are wrong. It sets a dangerous precedent, it undermines the concept of state education and it fails to acknowledge how unfair and unequal this is on the poorest schools.

I have written this open letter to all Merton head teachers. Please read. If you are a local parent or resident and agree then please use the form below  to add your signature.

Dear Heads,

We really feel for you at this incredibly difficult time. We think that for the most part you do a fantastic job and run our schools in a rigorous, compassionate and effective way.

Given the rising number of children and the falling levels of government funding it is understandable that some of you might be considering asking parents to step up to meet the financial shortfall. Please don’t.

It’s not just that we are worried that some parents themselves are also having a tough time financially. Although they are.

Rather, it is that we are worried that you will be undermining our state school system. It chips away at the idea that ALL children should receive the same educational opportunities regardless of their parents income.

It means that we accept the children in the poorest areas will have the least resources. How would we feel if the parents in the richest neighbourhoods decided to chip in and buy extra police just for their streets or extra ambulances just for their families?

A civilised society uses its taxation system to ensure that all contribute fairly to our public services. Those who earn most pay the most but the services are shared equally by those that need them

We really understand that you are being put in a difficult position and so we want to support you by campaigning for fair funding. Let us not just fend for ourselves. Let’s use our collective strength to stand up for ALL schools in Merton.

Yours sincerely,

Jackie Schneider,

Parent, teacher and local campaigner.

To ad your name to this letter please click here 

Sing for Grenfell – this Tuesday 20th June


Join with the London NUT choir to sing for Grenfell. We will be directed by Gitika Partington who has taught in Kensington and Chelsea. In particular we will be singing a South African song of remembrance and unity that you will be able to take back and use in your schools and trade union meetings.

Tuesday 20th June 5.30 – 6.30, NUT HQ Hamilton House, Mabledon Place, WC1H 9BD,  Kings Cross.

All welcome: not restricted to union members. Please share this invitation with school staff, parents, governors and friends.

There will be a collection.

There will be plenty we can do in coming days but for now let us come together and raise our voices in solidarity with the survivors and in memory of those that have been robbed of their lives. All voices welcome.

NUT choir Polly D

Pick me!

It feels incredibly presumptuous to put yourself forward to be selected as a prospective parliamentary. Everything I have achieved by campaigning has been the result of a team effort with many people contributing so I do not want to take sole credit. Nevertheless these are the reasons I think I should be selected to fight this next election:



I  was born in 1962 and grew up in Mitcham. I was the first person in my family to go to university. I qualified as a teacher in 1990 and started teaching at Gorringe Park Primary School. I have lived in the constituency with my husband, Karl for the last 27 years. I have 3 sons.

I led a successful parent campaign to improve school food in 2005 which resulted in me winning a Shelia Mckechnie award and Ed Balls appointing me as a trustee of the School Food Trust.

I was invited to give a short speech in 10 Downing St about our campaign.

I was shortlisted by Soil Association for “Food Hero” and runner up for South London Press “Teacher of the year” in 2006.

From 2006 I combined teaching with a campaigning job for Children’s Food Campaign

I currently teach 2 days a week at St Teresa’s and work 2 days a week for the remarkable music education charity Merton Music Foundation

Why you should be the candidate for your preferred Constituency:

I have a high profile in Wimbledon as a community champion and a reputation for getting things done. I am recognised for the part I played in:

  • Leading a parent team to create a memorial garden for a local child
  • Setting up the nationally-acclaimed Merton Parents for Better Food in School
  • Running the campaign which successfully saved Morden Park Playing Fields
  • Organising women’s football teams for older women and arranging tournaments
  • Helping set up Wimbledon Community Chorus
  • Establishing Merton Welcomes Refugees and creating a network of supporters in the borough.
  • Supporting disability campaigners at Merton CiL
  • Bringing the Street Orchestra of London to perform in Morden Park
  • Arranging a memorial event for Jo Cox on Wimbledon Common

Through my refugee support work I have built excellent relationships with local faith groups. I am currently working with Merton Chamber of Commerce to develop my relationships with local businesses.

What do we need to do to win this election:

I’d start by building on the excellent work done by Cllr Andrew Judge in the last general election, when he increased the Labour vote by 3.8% and saw Labour move into second place. I would promise to constituents that I would not take on another job or directorship so that I could devote myself fully to the job in hand.

Although the turnout was high at 73% I would use the newly enlarged membership of our CLP to reach out to non-voters. The ten pledges give compelling reasons to vote Labour.

Making sure voters are aware of the funding crisis facing Merton’s schools as a result of the government’s policies and contrasting that with Labour’s commitment to education will be key.

I would highlight our current MP’s voting record – for example, voting against EU nationals right to remain in the UK and his lack of support for the Dubs amendment that shocked and distressed many Wimbledon residents.

Your Labour Party experience:

I am a lifelong Labour voter but a relatively new Labour Party member. I am currently a delegate member for my ward. I am an active member, regularly attending meetings and taking part in party activities such as leafleting and running street stalls. I campaigned to get Sadiq Khan elected and to remain in the EU.

I have worked closely with a number of Labour MPs as part of my campaigning activities. I have spoken on a platform with Ed Miliband, who went on to refer me as a “remarkable woman” in a speech the following day. I have met Gordon Brown twice and was invited to give a short speech in Downing St on the power of grassroots campaigning. Ed Balls appointed me as a trustee of the school Food Trust. I have spoken at a Labour Party conference fringe event about child poverty.

Other life experience, including work and study:

I am a primary schoolteacher and play a leading role in developing music education in UK primary schools. I am a contributor to “Sing Up” – a national initiative set up to get schools singing – and have recently written the foreword to a new book for primary school teachers. I am helping music education charity Merton Music Foundation to develop relationships with local businesses. I teach a course to PGCE students at Roehampton University. I am an active member of the National Union of Teachers and have established a union choir that meets weekly.

I am a trustee of Jamie Oliver’s newest charity, The Child Health Trust, which is trialling a sugar tax levy

I am an avid reader. I like running and completed the London Marathon in 2000 for the British Heart Foundation on the tenth anniversary of my heart surgery. I am learning to play the piano and am planning to take my grade 2 exam soon. 

What makes you a great campaigner:

I have a proven track record. In Merton I have led and won campaigns to

  • Keep The David Nicholas creche open in
  • Stop the local authority from reorganising education in the borough to eliminate middle schools in a deeply unpopular way
  • Get kitchens in every Merton primary school, get rid of a poor quality food supplier and improve  the nutritional standards of Merton school dinners.
  • Save Morden Park playing fields from being sold off to a private company

I set up Merton Welcomes Refugees, a network of local people and organisations to offer support to refugees.

I have won a national award for campaigning and am frequently asked to speak about my experiences as a grassroots campaigner.

My guiding principles:

  • Know what you want
  • Understand what the barriers are
  • Make it easy for people to help you
  • Listen and remember its not all about you
  • Crowdsource wherever possible
  • Avoid mission creep

I use digital tools to find others who might agree with and help me. I use Twitter, FaceBook, blogs, and YouTube which can then lead to wider media coverage

Give some examples of your communication skills:

Broadcast media

I have acted as a media spokesperson for Merton Parents for Better Food in School, the School Food Trust and the Children’s Food Campaign. This has entailed being interviewed and taking part in debates on The Today programme, BBC News, Sky News and breakfast TV programmes. I’ve also been a regular contributor to The Jeremy Vine Show to comment on parenting and education stories.


The Guardian asked me to be a “Comment is Free” contributor.

I was asked to contribute an article for Spiked Online and during my work for the Children’s Food Campaign I regularly wrote press releases which often led to favourable coverage.

Describe the particular skills you have which will help you as an elected representative (for example, in problem solving):

Strategic thinker

I am good at breaking down problems into a series of small steps and am then agile and creative about how to overcome obstacles.


I don’t give up easily. I am patient enough to persevere even when situations look overwhelmingly negative.

Good listener

I am able to draw people out and drill down so I can understand what is at the heart of their concerns. Listening carefully to what people are ACTUALLY saying and not what you THINK they are saying is vital if you are going to help them.

Using the expertise in the room

Rather than micro managing, I am good at giving people the opportunity to contribute their enthusiasms and specialities. This helps share ownership and is far more effective than a  purely “top down” approach

I have been asked to speak at a number of public meetings ranging from big national conferences such as the Local Authority Caterers Association annual conference and the Citizen’s Advice Bureau’s annual conference to small grassroots meetings with parents.

Give examples of interpersonal, teamwork & liaison skills:

  1. Building coalitions with different parties

During my campaign to save Morden Park Playing Fields I was able to bring together very different groups. I organised a protest picnic which saw members of the local mosque come along and meet for the first time some elderly residents who had previously had been opposed to the building of the mosque. This event played a small part in improving community cohesion

2. Being part of the solution

I am proud of turning Merton Parents for Better Food in Schools from being a protest group to becoming a trusted partner with the local authority to solve the challenge of improving school dinners. After putting down our placards I was able to persuade parents to lend their professional expertise to the local authority, including nutritionists, professional caterers, legal experts and hospitality workers.

3. Building bridges

With my campaign to support refugees I have been able to work with people from across the political spectrum. Similarly I worked with former Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith on school food issues and Conservative MP Justin Tomlinson to expand cookery lessons in school.

me at Jo Cox picnic

I have had the opportunity to learn from other campaigners. I participate in the eCampaigning Forum, a community of 2,500 international campaigners. I went to the eCF conference in 2009 where I learned first hand from the campaigners who devised and implemented Barack Obama’s social media strategy.

Why I want to be selected as the Labour candidate for Wimbledon

Democracy is broken. There is a vast gulf between professional politicians and ordinary people. The vast majority earn significantly less than £70,000 a year and yet their needs, concerns & fears are routinely ignored. And we put up with it!

I’ve tried my hardest to make a difference in Merton. I speak up when I see injustice and I get my hands dirty when things need to be done. I’ve worked alongside neighbours, colleagues and friends to improve school dinners, save fields, support Refugees, challenge racism & make Merton a nicer place to live.

It is highly unlikely I will even make the shortlist but I’m going to have a shot. At the very least I will start the conversation with the professional politicians about why we urgently need change and why it has to come from below.

Solidarity with Muslim teachers and students.

Yesterday I read the story about British teacher Juhel Miah, thrown off a plane to the USA for no good reason.  See here

I doubt that will ever happen to me. Or to my children. It’s not good enough to just tut, sigh loudly and indulge in some anti Trump humour. There are Muslim children and teachers who are scared and uncomfortable. It is time we did more than sign a petition .

I have no further knowledge of the case than what is in the media but I have decided to do something – tiny, I know, but something nevertheless.

  1. I have written a letter to Justice Greening. Please read and if you agree please consider adding your name to it.
  2. I am going to collect e-messages of solidarity for Juhel (see link) to forward to him via his school
  3. I am going to send a letter to the Telegraph to try to start a debate about the morals of running school trips to places where staff and students won’t be admitted due to their country of birth or their religion.

If you are a teacher, governor, parent, head, academic or anyone with an interest in education please get involved. Raise this issue at staff meetings, union meetings etc. Equality policies, rights respecting schools etc are not worth the paper that are printed on if we don’t stand squarely with staff and students who are facing appalling discrimination. Have a debate about what your school is going to do to support Muslim staff and children.

I don’t know any more than what is in the newspapers but I do know that if we tolerate this our children most certainly will be next.

Here is the letter I have written:

To the Right Honourable Justine Greening,

We are writing to you in your role as Her Majesty’s principal  Secretary of State for Education.

We are sure that you, like us, are appalled at the disgraceful treatment of British teacher Juhel Miah, who was denied entry to the United States last week seemingly because he is a Muslim.  We feel that it is important for all Muslim teachers and pupils in this country to feel safe and included in school trips. To this end would you make representation to the American government?  Please can you seek reassurance that our Muslim teachers and students will be free to travel to the USA without fear or harassment?

It is important that we condemn this discrimination and offer support to our colleagues, many of whom give up their own holiday so that pupils can have these experiences. Your condemnation, and gesture of support would greatly reassure the teachers, parents and pupils, who are rightly shocked by this incident.

The way Juhel was treated by the US has wider implications for school communities. Should we be planning educational trips if staff are refused entry solely due to their country of birth or choice of religion?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

We are planning to send a message of support to Juhel Miah and to write to a national papers discussing the issues we have raised in this letter.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

We look forward to hearing from you.

Yours faithfully,

If you don’t like it then write your own! If you do like it then click here to add your self as a signature 

A Song for Trump



WANTED: A protest song that can be sung by groups protesting the state visit of Donald Trump to the UK. A song that clearly rejects the disgusting racism and sexism that Trump so proudly proclaims. A song that reminds everyone there is an alternative and that we wont tolerate bigotry. A song that celebrates diversity and the power of people standing together to challenge injustice. It needs to be easy enough to teach to a crowd and catchy!

I want an anthem that unites everyone who opposes Trump. A song we could share with the many community choirs up and down the land. A song that trade unionists could learn in their meetings. A song that people could learn on the streets, at the protests and online. We could ask people to upload their own versions and share via social media. it would be great to get professional musicians onboard but really we want a song that EVERYONE can sing.

Now I’m not suggesting we write a song by committee! But is there anyone out there willing to give it a shot? I bet if we came up with a decent song we could share it far and wide.

There is a conference next Saturday to organise the opposition to Trump when he comes to the UK later this year. Can we come up with a song by then to propose to the conference that we make our anthem?

It could be a new arrangement of a traditional song or something brand new. Personally I’m channeling, “Do you Hear the People Sing?” from Les Mis.

Lets get the labour movement singing again. Time we found our voice!

Nearly there!

We are just putting the finishing touches to the song and video “This School”. It should be live tomorrow on the NUT official youtube account.

Working on “This School” has been an utter joy from start to finish. So many good, kind people have shared their talents generously. No ego’s, no agenda’s, no game playing just good old fashioned solidarity.

I am in a feverish state of excitement. I think it is good. I think it is really, really good. I know that we are never going to please everyone but my biggest hope is that it becomes a rallying call for everyone who rejects the ideological attacks on our schools.

“This School” is an anthem. It’s time to stand up.
Thank you to everyone who contributed. I’ve never been prouder to be an NUT member. To be honest I haven’t really been a very proactive union member – I’ve not helped build the local division and I’ve never been to conference. However meeting Ruth Serwotka, NUT organiser, on twitter has transformed my activism. I’m so grateful Ruth that you listened to my proposal and helped us make this a reality. Thank you Ruth for having faith in the membership! It really wouldn’t have got off the ground without you.

This song is going to make a difference.

Arrangements for Sun 8th May



Really looking forward to Sunday. Just a few reminders

1.If you haven’t come along before – don’t panic! You can listen to the audio tracks by scrolling down to the last post. We are a very friendly bunch and Gitika is an exceptionally good teacher so you will be just fine! Whether you are a parent, teacher, head, governor,grandparent or a concerned citizen you will be very welcome.

2. We are meeting at 11.00am at Hamilton House, Mabledon Place, Kings Cross. It is a few minutes walk from Kings Cross. We plan to finish by 3.00pm

3. Dress code is wear something green. If you have a “Stand up for education” t shirt could you bring it along or wear it. We will be distributing some new ones as well.

4. There will be no cafe open so can you bring a picnic style lunch – maybe with something to share?

5. If you have any home made placards/posters hanging around can you bring them with you for the video?

6. We will be videoing the day and I am looking for a volunteer to act as runner for the person filming. This isn’t a technical job – it is mainly rounding up people to be interviewed and maybe asking the questions. Can you leave me a comment if you can rope someone in to do this?

7. We could still do with more people. Please can you see if you can bring extras with you. In particular we could do with some more men.

8. Those of you on twitter could you tweet about this using #ThisSchool as the hashtag?

9, For those of you want a score you can download one here this school is your school – Full Score (1)