By Tim Montgomerie
Follow Tim on Twitter
This morning's Express urges Michael Gove to write to every teacher in Britain warning them not to propagandise for the European Union. The newspaper is responding to suggestions that the EU is funding pro-Brussels propaganda in Britain's schools. The EU's Spring Day in Europe project, for example, encourages “debates and pedagogical games [which] should focus on the history, the current developments of the EU, its policies and its future such as: European integration, citizenship, previous achievements and the concrete benefits brought to citizens in their daily lives by the Union”. My emphasis.
In this video we see an EU official, Judith Schilling, at a Birmingham education exhibition being very clear about her intentions:
“We are here to offer to the teachers the resources produced by the European Commission’s office in London but also the ones we are being given by the directorates general in Brussels and Luxembourg. Because everybody has now picked up the idea that we will never succeed in convincing people about the value of being a member of the European Union if we do not start early enough with the young people, before they form prejudices and are misinformed by other sources.”
Following pressure from Tory MP Philip Davies, Michael Gove has now intervened and warned the EU in UK to respectthe 1996 Education Act and its requirement for political balance in the classroom. Mr Davies has passed ConHome the text of the Education Secretary's letter to him:
“I share your constituent’s concern that pupils should not be exposed to politically biased views. When I was made aware of the video to which your constituent refers I asked officials to investigate this matter on my behalf.
UK legislation requires head teachers, governing bodies and local authorities to present political issues in a balance and unbiased way in exercising their responsibility for the education of children and young people. This is set out in Sections 406 and 407 of the Education Act 1996. I am confident that those involved take very seriously their responsibility to present political issues in a balanced and unbiased way.
With regard to the specific comments of the Commission representative on the internet. I have asked my officials to make contact with the Commission’s London office to emphasise our expectation that schools should adopt a balanced approach to the study of international issues in the curriculum, as set out in the Act.
Teaches are free to use their resources they consider most appropriate to design and deliver a curriculum that suits their pupils’ needs. What matters is how they choose to use any materials – we certainly expect them to do so within the context of providing a balanced presentation of opposing issues. In relation to the EU, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Hansard Society have jointly produced The EU Explained Toolkit for Teachers which enables pupils to look at all the issues surrounding the UK’s membership of the EU, including the implications of leaving the EU.
The legal basis for co-operation between the EU and Member States in the fields of education and training is set out in articles 165 and 166 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. These specify that the EU can contribute to the development of education and training in Europe whilst fully respecting the responsibility of Member States for the content and organisation of education and training. The UK’s relationship with the EU in the fields of education and training operates on this basis."