Headteachers at state-funded schools may have breached purdah rules by appearing to campaign against the Conservative party before the general election.Parents and families received a series of politicized messages during the general election campaign, delivered in letters and on some school’s social media platforms.
One letter, seen by the Daily Mail, was sent about by more than 3,000 schools on the 19th of May, warning of the “dreadful state” of education funding under Theresa May’s government.
According to Purdah rules, which apply in the pre-election period, schools “should not issue any publicity which seeks to influence voters” or “produce publicity on matters which are politically controversial.”
Conservative MP Henry Smith told the paper: “To be engaging in the party political fray using official letterheads and Twitter accounts is unacceptable.
“It’s largely driven by some of the personal political opinions of some heads and teachers rather than the facts. It is a source of considerable concern and would have had an influence among some voters.
“Parents tend to trust what their schools are telling them. If funding is such a tight issue, what are they doing spending money on these letters?”
The letter was co-ordinated by a group of campaigning headteachers called ‘Worth Less?’.
It was sent to parents in Brighton, Cambridgeshire, Cornwall, Devon, East Sussex, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk, Peterborough, Suffolk, Surrey, Thurrock, Wokingham and West Sussex.
Another school in South London, Margaret Roper Catholic Primary School, urged parents to sign an anti-Tory petition on a website run by the far-Left National Union of Teachers (NUT).
A school in Mr. Smiths constituency, St Wilfrid’s Catholic School, also sent out anti-Tory tweets during the campaign.
On the 21st of April, they wrote in a now-deleted Tweet: “What about education, mental health services, the NHS, social care, still voting Conservative?”
Defending his government’s stance on the issue, Mr. Smith said Crawley schools would pick up an extra 8.4 per cent funding under Tory reforms.
“There would have been people who received the letters and took them as fact”, he said.
“Some of my colleagues weren’t re-elected. Similar campaign tactics in those seats may well have made a difference.”