Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Ed-up

I hope my ears were not deceiving me this morning as I heard on the Today programme that the Education minister, Ed 'Balls' Balls, has accused, in Parliament, faith schools of not just accepting but demanding bribes from parents in order to obtain school places. His evidence was one sole email from one parent who had been asked by one unspecified grant-maintained (i.e. not necessarily faith) school for £37 per term towards school expenses. This seems to be a deliberate attempt once more to blacken faith schools. Not only are our schools hotbeds of bigotry and bastions of prestige, but now they are sordidly dishonest, too. The Conservative spokesman accused Balls of throwing up a smokescreen to deflect attention from the poor school placements made this year. I think the problem is deeper.

n.b. There's a useful bit from Auricularius in the comment section —thanks.

1 comment:

Auricularius said...

Fr Sean

This is what Ed Balls said in response to a suggestion from a Conservative MP to the suggestion that his assertion that faith schools were charging for entry was misleading:

“The fact is that voluntary contributions for security or other purposes are entirely legal under the code. What is not allowed is to ask for contributions as a condition of application to schools. The hon. Gentleman should be careful about jumping to conclusions; he should wait for the detailed data that we will publish. The reason why the faith organisations—I could quote the Board of Deputies, the Catholic Education Service or the Church of England—today supported publicly what we are doing is because they know that the credibility of the admissions codes depends on dealing with these issues. Mr. Speaker, may I please give you one example of an e-mail I received from a parent? She said that she was applying to a school where the application “requires parents to state their occupation, sign a form agreeing to give permission to claim Gift Aid...and complete a standing order. The fees chargeable are stated in the prospectus as £37.50 per month. This must be submitted along with the application form to the school. Before I submit any of this information I would like to know if I am legally obligated to do so.” The answer is that she is not obliged to sign a form saying that she will pay £37 a month before applying to a school … “

At this point the Speaker told him to shut up and get on with it. Its difficult to comment without knowing the full facts, but it is not entirely clear that they bear the interpretation that Balls wishes them to. But he’s a politician, so why let the facts get in the way of a good argument?

Separately, Balls is getting lots of plaudits from the National Secular Society for his “stand”. Should we be surprised?