Today Preet Kaur Gill, MP for Edgbaston, Birmingham has written to Birmingham City Council to express her shock and concern after a Conservative councillor used a local school to campaign for the Conservative Party.
Outraged parents from Harborne Primary School contacted Ms Gill after receiving a newsletter from their children’s school which was written by local councillor, Peter Fowler and contained blatant electioneering.
The law explicitly prevents schools taking part in any political campaigning and when teaching about political issues, schools must remain unbiased and show a balanced presentation of opposing views.
The body of the newsletter, which was sent out by the school, included political point scoring. More concerningly, the newsletter also contained a link which led parents to a page hosted by the Conservative Party. The link had been disguised, suggesting that it would lead the reader to sign a petition. However, once there, parents were asked if they would deliver leaflets for Cllr Fowler, make calls to voters or knock on doors on behalf of the Conservative party, or stand as a Conservative councillor in upcoming elections.
Preet Kaur Gill MP said, “This is appalling and blatantly flouts the political limitations that ensure schools remain politically neutral. I understand the pressures schools are facing and it isn’t them that I blame.
“We should expect higher standards from our elected representatives. Before this newsletter was issued, Cllr Fowler would have been aware of the laws which protect schools from undue influence, and he should have had the decency to respect them. This is blatantly being disregarded. With local elections coming up next year, I am deeply concerned about the measures some members of the Conservative Party are willing to go to.”
Several parents who have children at the school contacted Ms Gill to express their outrage. One of those parents was Katy Ross, who has two children at Harborne Primary. She commented, “It was outrageous that someone would stoop to that level. When I hear from my children’s school, I want to hear about the school and what the pupils are up to, not political electioneering. I find the actions of this councillor really distasteful.”
This is not the first incident of this type, which involves Conservative councillors utilising schools to influence voters. Earlier this year Cllr Dominic Stanford took a similar approach at both World’s End Schools in Quinton. Fortunately, the schools were alert to the issue and were able to take action to prevent political messaging from being issued.
To prevent these continuing incidents from occurring, Ms Gill has called on the Council to launch an investigation into these actions so that any councillor dealing in these underhand actions, faces the appropriate repercussions.