Sidmouth College denies student’s claim letter to parents was ‘political’
PUBLISHED: 12:00 26 May 2017
Sidmouth College has defended sending a letter to parents about the ‘severe threat’ to school funding ahead of the General Election, after a pupil claimed it was ‘politicising education’.
Sixth former Callum Allison in turn penned an open letter to the college’s leadership team, claiming it was not behaving in an ‘impartial manner’.
Principal James Ingham-Hill is one of 3,000 headteachers who has written to parents about school funding and said it was ‘crucial’ to raise it with prospective parliamentary candidates.
A campaign has been ongoing, since before the snap election was called, to secure ‘fair and adequate funding’.
In the letter, Mr Ingham-Hill said: “During all of our campaigning work to improve funding for each and every child in each and every school, we have been careful not to become involved in a politically biased or partisan way.”
Callum, 18, said: “Schools should not be directly involved in any political overture. They should be politically impartial. They have no business commenting on the political climate, especially during such a divisive period in UK history.
“They are responsible for educating children and for providing a platform from which these young individuals can formulate their own ideas and beliefs. Lobbying of this kind should be left to unions and other official non-governmental bodies who state directly their intentions.”
He also questioned the renting out of the school hall to candidates.
Mr Ingham-Hill said the school hall was a publicly-owned building and that all candidates were contacted and offered it as a venue.
He added: “I welcome the fact that one of our students feels sufficiently politically engaged to write such a letter, however, I dispute this characterisation of recent events, communications and the funding landscape for education.
“With regard to the letter and leaflet sent out to parents on Friday, May 19, these documents were drafted without party political bias by secondary and primary headteachers’ associations from 14 counties to encourage our communities to raise issues concerning education with all candidates of all parties.
“This is part of a campaign that has been running since well before the snap General Election was announced. It seeks to raise awareness of the concerns that school leaders have around funding and other issues affecting education. The drafting of the documents did precede the launch of the Conservative Manifesto on May 18, so any announcements made on that date are not referred to in the letter or leaflet.
“I believe that education leaders should be taking part in campaigns which seek to secure sufficient funding to allow us to provide the educational opportunities which students at Sidmouth College and throughout the country deserve. Our participation in education funding campaigns is entirely non-political. We will fight equally hard for our young people regardless of the party in government.”