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Note:Francis Bennion sadly died on 28 January 2015.

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Lead letter in The Times

 

Ed Balls attacked over his bullying of schools

 

The Times, 23 Apr 2008

Lead letter

Doc. No. 2008.008 T113L

 

Power to schools

We need to return to a civilised approach to education

 

Sir, Writing of Ed Balls, MP, Charles Clarke (letters, April 21 ) regrets his failure to provide ‘a coherent and focused reform strategy for the 14-19 curriculum’. I, on the contrary, regret that the interview with Mr Balls (report, April 18) revealed far too great a propensity to restrict the liberty of schools to teach as they think fit.

 

Mr Balls says he is ‘determined to fight the battle for excellence for all’. This grandstanding is inappropriate. We do not need these upsetting ‘battles’ between Whitehall and the schools, attempting to ensure that the gentleman in Whitehall gets his way. We do not need our faith schools to be branded as ‘offenders’ by ministers. We do not need bullying ministers who rejoice that ‘local authorities and diocesan officials are now very well aware of their responsibilities’.

 

Instead, we need a return to more civilised days, when in education people at the chalk face were respected, and allowed to get on with the job they knew best. The days when schools were free to choose their pupils, and parents were the judges of a school’s efficiency. The days when excellence was not equated with cowed submission to orders to admit or re-admit unsuitable and trouble-making pupils.

 

Mr Balls says he is not denying that he has made things ‘stressful and uncomfortable’ for some schools. I consider that a shameful admission.

 

Francis Bennion

Chairman Emeritus, Professional Association of Teachers