Amy Gray
Conservative part candidate
Programme cohort

From classroom to campaigning: Amy Gray

Amy Gray, a 2005 ambassador, is running for election as a Conservative MP. Here she talks about her journey from the classroom to the campaign trail.

Teach First Ambassadors are standing at the election across the political spectrum for a variety of causes. Teach First is a registered charity and therefore is completely politically neutral.

I’ve learned a lot from teaching and Teach First… my experiences of the classroom have stayed with me. I used to struggle with behaviour in my classes but looking back and knowing all your students are engaged and interested, and you know they’ve all learned something at the end, there’s no feeling like it – it’s like flying.

I’m standing at the general election because… of my experience of teaching! I remember at the start of my first year being given a Year 7 class who needed extra support with literacy – these were kids who’d been educated entirely in the UK and they basically couldn’t read. And then there were a number of points where I realised that, contrary to everything drilled into us at the Summer Institute, expectations were so low that too many of my students didn’t expect to achieve anything. I started to ask how those situations had come about and for the first time in my life got interested in party politics – I’d avoided student politicians like the plague at university!

Literacy needs to be a priority for the Government… my experience of teaching and of being a school governor shows that getting the basics right early is so important. I’m pleased there’s been so much focus on literacy and I want to ensure that that always remains. There are some really good things in the Conservative manifesto which I hope the Teach First community will welcome, from forgiving teachers’ student loan repayments if they stay in teaching to supporting schools to give breakfast to their students. 

I’ll campaign for more investment in Hackney’s education services… I’m standing for election in the constituency where I was a teacher and it’s interesting to see how the schools have changed over the last decade. Standards have really improved, helped especially by the extension of the academies programme into most of Hackney’s secondary schools. The biggest challenge is balancing an increasing number of children, especially in primary schools, with constraints on public funding. As a primary school governor in the area, I also know how hard it is to recruit good teachers to work in Hackney’s schools, particularly given the price of housing locally.

We need to support young people… one big challenge is in getting young people in Hackney ready to take advantage of new industries and changes in the labour market which are coming. I’m really interested in working with schools, colleges, developers and builders to see how we can solve the triple challenges of too little housing, too much unemployment amongst some groups and a shortage of skilled workers in the buildings trades – the solutions to all three problems are linked.

Social mobility is key to a more equal society… every child should have the opportunity to make the best of their skills and abilities, and for too many children the education system is the only channel which helps them do that. I was lucky that my parents strongly believed in helping us to achieve more at school than they had, and I was the first woman in my family to go to university as a result.

Teaching and Teach First will make me a better MP… anyone who has stood up in front of my old Year 9 classes can face the noisiest hustings without fear! I found that a fundamental part of teaching was the need to translate the knowledge you’re trying to convey into terms which are understandable and appropriate for your audience – and that’s a helpful skill for the role MPs also play in representing their constituents to government.

If I was the Secretary of State for Education for a day I would… The curriculum reform I wanted to see is well underway, so I’d want to make time and money for more sport and more home economics to help teach our children how to live a healthier lifestyle.

Get involved in your local campaign… Find out when and where your local hustings are and go along to ask questions about education and social mobility and listen to your candidates. Ask candidates where they stand on the key issues outlined in the Teach First manifesto. In Hackney I’m looking forward to a specific education hustings.

Read an interview with a Teach First Ambassador who is standing for the Labour Party.

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