Shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt has criticised council officials who barred him from speaking at a school, warning that pupils would lose out if politics was “excluded” from the curriculum.
The Labour politician was stopped from visiting Woodbridge High School in Woodford, Essex, yesterday, to speak to sixth-formers during an election campaign visit to the area.
But, when officials at Redbridge Council learned of the plan, the school visit was suddenly cancelled, just minutes before Mr Hunt was due to arrive.
“I am concerned that schools are excluding politics from this period of debate,” Mr Hunt told ITV News.
“If council officials are using the notion of purdah to try and block democratic debate, it's a loss to the school kids.”
The shadow education secretary appears to have fallen foul of strict guidance on political neutrality during the general election campaign.
Academies and maintained schools are duty-bound not to do anything that gives an advantage (or disadvantage) to any party or candidate.
Schools cannot even invite candidates from a selection of parties to appear, according to Lloyd White, head of democratic services at Hillingdon Council in West London. They are obliged to invite every candidate standing in the local constituency.
Mr Hunt was campaigning alongside Labour’s candidate for the Ilford North constituency, Wes Streeting. Mr Streeting is also deputy leader of Redbridge Council, the Labour-run authority that banned the school visit.
Conservative candidate Lee Scott said council officials were right to prevent the visit from Mr Hunt.
“I would assume, as we are now into the short campaign for the election, they would want to be even-handed as a borough and have representatives from the other parties there as well, rather than just one. I was not invited," he added.
No one from the council or school was available for comment.
It’s (political) party time for pupils – but not teachers – March 27, 2015