The @toryeducation Twitter account is the story that just won't leave Michael Gove alone - 18 February 2013
It probably won't have escaped your notice that for the umpteenth Sunday in a row, the nation's broadsheets were carrying stories about the people behind education secretary Michael Gove. While the latest events are unlikely to have the slightest effect on the day-to-day lives of heads and their staff, they are nonetheless worth exploring.
The story revolves around Gove's two so-called Spads (special advisers), Dominic Cummings and Henry de Zoete. Both have been accused of contributing to an unattributed Twitter account - @toryeducation - which has launched sometimes personal attacks on other Twitter users that it deems to be opposing Conservative education policy.
The two advisers vehemently deny being behind the account, which would put them in breach of the civil servants' code of practice. And, being on the Department for Education's payroll, neither can put forward partisan views without going through official channels.
The media scrutiny led to the appearance of a second story involving Cummings, who had allegedly been the subject of a grievance case brought by a civil servant. An employment tribunal was avoided after the complainant was awarded pound;25,000 in a private settlement. Cummings said that he had been cleared of bullying and intimidation and that, contrary to reports, the case was not brought against individuals but against the DfE as a whole.
The story was given added prominence because Gove had given evidence to the Commons Education Select Committee just a couple of weeks previously, stating that he had no knowledge of allegations of misconduct within the Department. This led to accusations that Gove had "misled" Parliament, although the education secretary maintains that he was not aware of the case.
It is not the first time the Conservative MP and his advisers have been the subject of media scrutiny. Two years ago, the trio landed in hot water for using a private email account to discuss government business - and in doing so avoid any correspondence being subject to Freedom of Information requests. The Information Commissioner last year ruled that the emails should be subject to FOI requests.
Are these stories anything more than Westminster village gossip? Probably not. Are they interesting? Well, a little. Regardless of whether the stories are completely accurate, they undoubtedly give a little insight into the relationship between education ministers and the mainstream media.
Will it have any impact on how you deal with class 2B? Not a jot. But it might be something to natter about over a coffee in the next few days.
Don't be afraid to tell the blog's editor Ed Dorrell what you think
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