Who is in charge of school policy?

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THERE is a certain irony, as Ofsted prepares to publish its inspection reports on those Birmingham schools at the centre of claims labour an Islamist takeover plot, that the Government’s latest power struggle does not, for once, involve the Liberal Democrats.

No wonder David Cameron is so exasperated that the coalition’s pre-election Queen’s Speech, and then the Conservative Party’s victory in the Newark by-election, has been overshadowed by Theresa May and Michael Gove’s vitriolic falling out.

The fact that both the Home Secretary and Education Secretary appear to have unfulfilled political ambitions only serves to add to this controversy’s combustibility and the Prime Minister will be hoping that Mr Gove diffuses these tensions with his statement to Parliament today.

It will not be easy – the resignation of Mrs May’s closest aide Fiona Cunningham over the disclosure of Ministerial correspondence that was very critical of Mr Gove’s department has prompted speculation about whether the Home Secretary authorised this leak and whether she will have to consider her position.

Yet, in many respects, the more important question is why it has taken four years to establish whether some schools are being forced to adhere to more Islamic principles.

This goes to the core of worries about how multi-culturalism can, and should, be embraced in a Christian country – Mr Cameron recently highlighted the values of Christianity – and the day-to-day governance of Britain’s schools.

With Mr Gove keen to encourage the creation of more free schools and academies to operate outside the control of LEAs, he is going to need to find an effective way of ensuring that these centres of learning uphold this country’s values and do not lead to communities becoming even more polarised. As such, the reputations of both Mr Gove and the Home Secretary are on the line and they now need to present an united front against those Islamic extremists who may – or may not – be trying to radicalise impressionable pupils. Nothing less will suffice.

Show of support: The educational value of farming

IF MICHAEL Gove has any sense, he will graciously accept the Yorkshire Agricultural Show’s polite invitation to visit the Great Yorkshire Show next month and learn about the educational value of such showcase events.

For, while the Education Secretary deserves credit for his no nonsense approach towards school absenteeism, there will be some occasions – albeit a relative small number – when headteachers should be allowed to use a degree of discretion.

One such example is those county shows, attended by six million people a year, which bring town and country together and help people of all ages, and all backgrounds, to develop a better understanding about the origin of food, the work of farms, the importance of agriculture and so on,

With teachers having insufficient time to organise school trips, in part because of health and safety criteria, there are now fewer opportunities for students to broaden their horizons.

This is why the YAS has pioneered a special ‘Discovery Zone’ at its Harrogate showground which is aimed at children and covers themes such as healthy living, the environment and the countryside.

As a charity which runs many educational activities, it is acutely aware of the importance of its work in raising awareness about the intrinsic importance of farming. For, as the YAS will be the first to admit, there is a world of difference between persistent truants and those young people who will actually learn much from attending such events with their families. It is a key differentiation that the Education Secretary should now recognise.

Age-old question: Acknowledging rights of carers

THE plight of carers is not a new phenomenon – it has been regularly highlighted over many years. What will surprise some, however, is that 550,000 people across Yorkshire now provide care for relatives, or friends, in an unpaid capacity.

Without this faithful commitment, care services – already at breaking point because of financial constraints – would simply buckle under the strain. It is why carers – both paid and unpaid – must not be taken for granted by politicians. They do not want gestures, they want constructive policies that provide sufficient support to those people who are sacrificing their lives to look after the frail.

It shouldn’t be too much to ask for in a civilised country, should it?