Late last month, sector leaders handed a 42,5000-signature petition to Number 10 Downing Street calling on the Prime Minister to halt the implementation of further drastic cuts to FE.
The week before, hundreds of teachers, students and supporters packed the House of Commons to lobby MPs. Both of these events came in advance of a Summer Budget and Comprehensive Spending Review as the sector fears “the end of further education as we know it,” as Shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna put it in the House of Commons recently.
Clearly, events and petitions as a national campaign can only be part of the strategy. It has been fantastic to see providers, unions and student groups work together to do what they can locally too.
In my experience, there are often occasions when you’re angry and passionate enough about something to call meetings with others who you think will also be angry and passionate about the same thing/s.
You then have a great meeting and feel even more inspired to take on the world. After a week or so though, it feels like your campaign partners start to drift away, taking longer to respond to emails, not fulfilling their commitments and so on. When the momentum goes like that it’s sometimes because people have had time to reflect on the likelihood of success against the resource required and then decide to step back/out.
There are a few things that high profile and successful campaigns have in common; one of them is time and the other is a little bit of bureaucracy — clear objectives and easy messages. If you think about campaigns which call for changes in the law, like equal marriage, or for a particular commitment, like the Global Poverty Project’s campaign for 0.7 per cent of GDP to be spent on international aid; those campaigns have been gathering public support and mobilising actions for several years.
One way to help keep your campaign on track is to agree which of your objectives are short terms and long term. In our case, I think this means pre-Spending Review and post-Spending Review. Comprehensive Spending Reviews (CSR) don’t happen often, but when they do they announce significant changes for the coming couple of years.
We have an awful habit in our sector of slipping in FE jargon. I do it all the time. It’s no wonder my parents have no idea what I do for a living
The last one, in 2010, cut government department budgets by 20 per cent, cut half a million public sector jobs, abolished the education maintenance allowance and cut more from the welfare budget. We’ve been told to expect such drastic measures again, so the CSR seems a sensible target against which to aim your short-term campaign.
If you’re planning a local campaign, here are some things to consider:
Cover the basics. Decide on precisely what it is you want to change. If you end up with a huge list of things, decide the issue you think you’ve got the best chance of winning and which you think you’ve got the best evidence for. Then decide on the people; who you need to help you and who can make the change happen.
Get some evidence. Go and see a management information system person.
Test your messages. We have an awful habit in our sector of slipping in FE jargon. I do it all the time. It’s no wonder my parents have no idea what I do for a living. Whether it’s wording for a public petition or a letter to employers or stakeholders calling for support, test your messages with someone who doesn’t work in education or training.
Stories. Graphs and charts are great, but so are learner stories. The good thing about story-telling is breadth of appeal. Those learners are also parents, grandparents, carers, workers, bosses and role models — learning also impacts on the people around them.
If the Budget this week stirs you in to wanting to take some action, big or small, public or behind the scenes, it will be a valuable use of your time. Let us know what you’re up to using #LoveFE on Twitter.