Letters: Gove's plans contravene Education Acts

These letters appear in the print edition of The Independent, 13 June, 2013

Share

We consider that the Government’s approach to the teaching of history, as outlined both in statements made by the Education Secretary and the Prime Minister, and in the draft history curriculum, runs contrary to the statutory duties set out in the Education Acts of 1996 and 2002.

The 1996 Act, Section 406 states: “The local education authority, governing body and head teacher shall forbid… the promotion of partisan political views in the teaching of any subject in the school.” The Act of 2002 at Sections 78 and 79 requires the Secretary of State, local education authorities, governing bodies and head teachers to secure a “balanced and broadly based curriculum”.

In defiance of these legal obligations, the Government’s attitude to the teaching of history is underpinned by an unbalanced promotion of partisan political views. The Education Secretary has gone on record stating that the purpose of the changes which he proposes is to make history teaching “celebrate the distinguished role of these islands in the history of the world” and to portray Britain as “a beacon of liberty for others to emulate”. He spoke in Parliament of history lessons which focused on “British heroes and heroines”. The Prime Minister has referred to the teaching of “our island story in all its glory”.

The draft curriculum document reflects this unbalanced national triumphalism. This is evident in the emphasis which it places on “how Britain influenced the world” (to the exclusion of the reverse) and on the importance of “the concept of nation and of a nation’s history” – second in the list of concepts required to be imparted to five- to seven-year-old infants. It is also evident in more subtle ways such as its handling of slavery, which is not mentioned as part of “the development of a modern economy” and which is listed elsewhere as “the slave trade and the abolition of slavery”, implicitly giving equal weight to the two.

Given that the new history curriculum has been widely criticised for its Anglocentric focus, in its marginalising of the role of women and non-white ethnic groups, and its wholesale failure to reflect the views of those appointed originally to advise the Government, it falls well short of the requirement to be “balanced and broadly based”. The presence in the draft curriculum of the occasional individual such as Mary Seacole, herself a late addition to it, has rightly been described as a “garnishing of tokenism” by an original adviser to the Education Secretary on the history curriculum, Professor Simon Schama.

The Department for Education has not made a serious attempt to refute or to address the charge of political bias and the Education Secretary has given further evidence of his political partisanship by frequently branding his critics “Marxists” and “lefties”, a clear indication of his determination to exclude one end of the political spectrum.

We therefore consider that there are strong grounds for believing that this curriculum, should it be implemented, and any further changes to the teaching of history which seek to impose a political bias or flout the requirement for breadth and balance would be unlawful.

Robert Evans, Regius Professor of History Emeritus, University of Oxford

Jonathan Hart, Head of History, Dinnington Comprehensive School

Guy Halsall, Professor of History, University of York

Stephen Hodkinson, Professor of Ancient History, University of Nottingham

Matt Houlbrook, Tutorial Fellow and Lecturer in Modern British History, Magdalen College, Oxford

Angela Piccini, Dr/Senior Lecturer, University of Bristol

David Priestland, University Lecturer in Modern History, Fellow of St Edmund Hall, Oxford

Eric Rosenthal, Head of History,  Slough Grammar School

Professor Richard Toye, University of Exeter

Alex Woolf, Senior Lecturer in History, University of St Andrews

and more than 100 others

GM crops are not a silver bullet for agronomic woes

Tom Bawden notes that 61 per cent of UK farmers would like to grow GM crops (report, 12 June). This is hardly surprising, given the many promises made that GM crops will provide a silver bullet to solve all their agronomic woes. The reality, as borne out by around 10 years of growing in the US, is quite different.

Farmers are finding the use of the two GM crop traits (herbicide tolerance and insect resistance) overwhelmingly used are now causing huge problems in pest and disease resistance. In the meantime, they are locked into the GM system, partly through lack of availability and higher cost of non-GM seed because of the domination of the industry by just four corporations.

Other innovative breeding techniques are suffering from lack of funding as good money is thrown after bad for the promise of alleged GM advantages which have not been achieved. The UK should not look to pursue outdated and out-of-touch GM technology but should instead focus on agroecological systems which produce good yields of crops with far lower inputs of fossil-fuel-based and mined fertilisers, growing crops with 80 per cent lower greenhouse gas emissions, and producing food with higher animal welfare, lower pollution, and with more wildlife and jobs on farms.

Emma Hockridge, Head of Policy, Soil Association, Bristol

I am surprised at your leading article giving blanket support for GSM foods in Europe (12 June). The science is still far from complete. 

Capitalism is poor at assessing and pricing risk – greed creates optimism. There are indirect risks that sweeping changes in agriculture can bring, such as reliance on monoculture. I would far rather a blanket ban than gung-ho support.

Jon Hawksley, London EC1

A coach full of drunks: perfect

On top of the arguments that Josh Barrie sets out about the “motorway pub” (Report, 5 June) there is also the issue of “coach parties” which are a main intended customer group.

When I heard a Wetherspoon’s representative mention this (on BBC News), I immediately recalled the account of a coach-driving friend who told of how a drunken wedding party that he had picked up from north London started fighting among themselves, wrecked the coach and needed to be dragged off by the police. So, even if the coach driver is sober, having a horde of screaming drunks in your vehicle turns that vehicle into 20 tons of lethal, unpredictable weapon.

You have to wonder how the authorities arrive at these decisions, but the answer isn’t too difficult to guess: it all comes down to the lobby power of the “profit hunters”.

Alan Searle, London CR4

Of course Boots pays sales tax

I am delighted to hear that Alliance Boots pays its taxes (letter, 3 June). However, it is misleading to say they pay sales and other taxes.

I shopped at Boots today and paid for my goods, which included VAT. Boots merely collect it and then pass it on to HMRC. They can avoid paying employer’s National Insurance only by not employing staff. Alliance Boots is obliged to pay property tax or not register its leases.

So the only realistically avoidable tax is corporation tax. While I’m pleased they have paid £64m corporation tax, they should not be allowed to claim credit for paying other taxes which in reality are merely collected by them on behalf of HMRC.

Rod Findlay, Newcastle upon Tyne

What about the working fathers?

So a study has found that children’s academic performance is not harmed if their mothers work in their early years (report, 11 June). Would a “comprehensive” study not also investigate the link between children’s academic performance and fathers who go out to work? It seems that, just days after the Centre for Social Justice report highlighted the growth of fatherless families and “men deserts”, we still expect only mothers to care for children.

Peter McKenna, Liverpool

Shame on the middle-lane hogs

I have been astonished by the defences of middle-lane hogging (Letters, 12 June) which, incidentally, rarely happens in France and Germany. Although people have claimed that lane-changing increases risk, it makes motorway travel a lot less monotonous (there is always the danger of switching to auto-pilot) and reduces the likelihood of frustrated drivers “undertaking”.

Gill Learner, Reading

All you defenders of middle-lane hogging, when you join a motorway behind one vast haulier in the otherwise deserted inner lane, but can’t overtake it because of the middle-lane hoggers endlessly nose-to-tail – do you ever have second thoughts?

Yvonne Ruge, London N20

Often provoked by middle-lane hoggers those who overtake on the inside commit a worse offence. Can we see this illegal commonplace discouraged?

Tom Hickmore, Brighton

Syrian crisis

If our Prime Minister’s favoured option is for the UK to supply arms to either side in the Syrian War he is taking sides and joining the war.

If he really does want us all to join in this war, would he first please provide us with full and honest information justifying doing so on our behalf ? To date, he does not have the mandate to commit us to such an expensive and time-unlimited extreme action.

Andy Turney, Dorchester, Dorset

Spies spy shock

The stated mission of the US National Security Agency is to “collect (including through clandestine means), process, analyse, produce, and disseminate signals intelligence information and data”.

What a shock to discover that a government department is doing exactly what it is supposed to do.

Dr John Doherty, Stratford-upon-Avon

Female musicians

Thank goodness The Independent was able to furnish its story “So why do all female classical musicians have to be thin and sexy?? (11 June) with a photograph of, er, a thin and sexy female classical musician. Otherwise we wouldn’t have had a clue what all the fuss was about, would we?

Michael O’Hare, Northwood,  Middlesex

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Lawyer - Cheshire

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: CHESHIRE MARKET TOWN - An exciting and rare o...

Austen Lloyd: Residential Property Solicitor - Hampshire

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: NORTH HAMPSHIRE - SENIOR POSITION - An exciti...

Recruitment Genius: Gas Installation Engineer

£29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Gas Installation Engineer is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor

£28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor is req...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Michael Brown was shot and killed by police in August  

Ferguson: The sad truth is that Michael Brown was killed because he was a black man

Bonnie Greer
A protestor poses for a  

Ferguson verdict: This isn't a 'tragedy'. This is part of a long-running genocide of black men in America

Otamere Guobadia
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital