Leading Article: Politics is not for the royals

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The Independent Online

The Prince of Wales's annual summer schools for English and history teachers offer a unique opportunity for those who teach these subjects to debate how to deliver them with the country's foremost historians and writers. The cast list at this year's summer school in Buxton included Professors Simon Schama, Niall Ferguson and David Starkey, as well as the playwright Sir Tom Stoppard, the thriller writer PD James and the novelist and historian Robert Harris.

The Prince of Wales's annual summer schools for English and history teachers offer a unique opportunity for those who teach these subjects to debate how to deliver them with the country's foremost historians and writers. The cast list at this year's summer school in Buxton included Professors Simon Schama, Niall Ferguson and David Starkey, as well as the playwright Sir Tom Stoppard, the thriller writer PD James and the novelist and historian Robert Harris.

This year, however, the Prince chose to go much further in his criticism of government education policy than he has done in the past. Rather than rehearse his well-known yearning for a return to the traditional teaching methods of the 1950s, he attacked the expansion of higher education, criticised the utilitarianism of today's educational philosophy and complained that there had been too much change. "According to some schools of thought, obtaining a degree is the only way to succeed in the world," he said. Bemoaning the fact that politicians have destroyed a love of learning by insisting that all pupils are prepared for the world of work, he launched into a diatribe against the constant flow of ministerial initiatives. "It must be hard to teach with energy and commitment when the curriculum is in a state of constant flux," he said.

This is strong stuff for a future monarch who is supposed to be above the political fray. Such statements can only be construed as critical of the current government's performance on education.

Should the Prince be wading into political territory, especially in advance of the next general election? We would argue that it can only damage the credibility of his summer schools if they are tainted by the suspicion that they are politically partisan. We would also argue that it is one thing for the future monarch to express his views about modern architecture because this is an area that is not at the heart of political debate. But for him to hold forth about education policy, over which there are profound differences of opinion between the political parties, is another matter. It is neither good for him nor good for the country. Prince Charles would do well in future to tone down his opinions on education and to spend more time talking to experts in higher education and schools.

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