Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Diamond Jubilee Jubilation Could Land Schools in Court: News

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Diamond Jubilee Jubilation Could Land Schools in Court: News

Article excerpt

Republican group says 'partisan' celebrations are against the law.

They could be as simple as a party in the playground or a lesson on the life of the UK's second longest serving head of state. But events that celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee this summer will break the law, republican campaigners have warned.

Education secretary Michael Gove has already publicly declared his enthusiasm for the anniversary, suggesting that a new royal yacht should be commissioned as a present for Her Majesty. While this proposal has not gained much traction, schools and businesses will close in honour of the jubilee, a record-breaking chain of beacons will stretch across the country and, as the centrepiece, 1,000 boats will sail down the River Thames in a celebratory flotilla.

Almost every school is expected to plan some kind of event for pupils and children can even enter a competition for a chance to cook for the Queen. But pressure group Republic claimed this week that, just by mentioning the festivities or pageantry, teachers may inadvertently be in breach of the law. In a letter to Mr Gove, the organisation's chief executive, Graham Smith, warned that schools hosting Diamond Jubilee events could be taken to court.

Sections 406 and 407 of the Education Act 1996 ban schools from "the promotion of partisan political views". Teachers have a duty to "secure balanced treatment of political issues" and to present children with opposing views. As such, Mr Smith believes that teachers and heads who celebrate the Queen's reign without giving other views on the monarchy will be breaking the law.

"We know that many schools are planning to hold their own jubilee celebrations. 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 that surrounds it," Mr Smith wrote in his letter. "The effect - whether or not it is intended - 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.

"The jubilee is, of course, a significant political event. It is right that pupils discuss it in the classroom. …

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