Chair Blog

The role of politics in our education system

Student working on school computer

Politics can both help and hinder our system of education.  Government sets our terms of reference and provides our income. Their requirements are myriad and occasionally contentious.  Therefore, I was wary during the Spring term when the DfE published a guidance paper "Political impartiality in schools".  However, having read it, the guidance is both helpful and uncontentious.  The Trust Board remains confident that our individual schools are more than capable of handling the often difficult and increasing number of issues that potentially affect our students and their families.  We live in a dynamic world, and we should not shrink from exploring with students relevant live issues, in an age-appropriate manner.

In contrast, because I have a son who lives and works as a nurse in Florida, I follow closely both State and Federal politics that may affect him.  Whilst health & education systems in both of our countries undoubtedly strive for the best outcomes, their respective approaches - practical and cultural - are often different, sometimes startlingly so.  A current issue affecting schools in Florida is the extent to which the State uses both regulatory and financial means to promote the political agenda of its legislature and Governor.  The Covid emergency has polarised political opinion across the USA and Florida's Governor has intervened frequently, along political lines, in how schools have managed mundane factors such as face-masks & remote learning and most recently on gender related issues.  On occasions he has even removed elements of funding from schools that have not followed his policies.  Some schools have even become politicised at a governing board level with appointments rigorously disputed along political lines.

Our education system is inevitably affected by political contentions.  But as I contrast the recent DfE paper on political impartiality with what I see as its antithesis across the Atlantic I value and respect even more the responsibilities we are granted in the UK as governors of schools.  We benefit hugely from the diversity of the non-political cohort from which we can appoint, and the rigorous & challenging, practical & ethical, yet always non-partisan debate I see regularly within our Board & our Academy Councils.  Long may it continue.

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