Schools challenged over political bias of royal jubilee

By staff writers
29 Jan 2012

Democracy campaigners have warned schools that they may be breaking the law by taking part in uncritical celebrations of the Queen’s diamond jubilee.

The campaigning group Republic said that they would back any legal challenges brought by parents over jubilee events that include no consideration of republican viewpoints.

Republic's chief executive Graham Smith has written to education secretary Michael Gove asking how he will ensure schools do not breach Sections 406 and 407 of the Education Act 1996. The act forbids “the promotion of partisan political views” and confer on schools a duty to “secure that where political issues are brought to the attention of pupils… they are offered a balanced presentation of opposing views.”

Michael Gove used the law last year to bar a London school from attending a Palestinian literary festival. It could mean that schools are unwittingly breaching the act by hosting jubilee events without discussing republicanism.

Republic has pledged its full support to any parent bringing legal action against a school to ensure balanced presentation of the jubilee, stressing that it is quite possible to provide fun and engaging lessons about the jubilee and the monarchy while also ensuring balance.

Republic say that they are aware of many schools planning to hold jubilee celebrations, due to correspondence from concerned parents and teachers, as well as information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

Graham Smith said, “It is quite clear that most of these events and activities will treat the monarchy as self-evidently benign and universally supported, without any indication of the controversy which surrounds it.”

Republic say that the effect – whether intended or not - will be to influence young people to support one contested political viewpoint (monarchism) against another (democratic republicanism).

“That is exactly what sections 406 and 407 were intended to protect children against,” insisted Smith.

He added, “The jubilee is, of course, a significant political event. It is right that pupils discuss it in the classroom. But this should be done from an engaged and academically critical perspective not one of unquestioning celebration. It is the difference between presentation and promotion.”

Republic is seeking further legal advice on the matter and will be putting any concerned parents who wish to challenge their school’s jubilee plans in touch with solicitors.

[Ekk/1]

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