Gordon Brown given UN education role

Gordon Brown given UN education role

BBC |July 13, 2012

By Sean Coughlan| BBC News education correspondent

Former prime minister Gordon Brown is to become a global education envoy for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Mr Brown’s aim is to see 61 million more children enrolled into education across the world by 2015.

Since leaving office in 2010, the former UK prime minister has produced a series of reports on education in developing countries.

Earlier this year he launched a campaign for an international fund to bring education to all children.

Mr Brown said his new role would be a “great privilege”.

“Ensuring that every child in the world has the opportunity to go to school and to learn is a longstanding passion of mine,” said Mr Brown.

“Education breaks the cycle of poverty and unlocks better health and better job prospects.”

Global goals

The announcement, made in New York, means Mr Brown becomes a UN envoy – supporting UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon.

This unpaid position is the first big job for the former prime minister since he left Downing Street two years ago.

But it does not mean that he will be leaving domestic politics.

His office told the BBC that Mr Brown definitely remained the MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath.

That could lead to further criticism from those who have attacked him for attending few debates and voting in Parliament on only a handful of occasions.

He joins the likes of the former US President, Bill Clinton, and former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.

Mr Brown has been campaigning in support of the millennium development goal that by 2015 all children should have access to at least a primary school education.

While it seems increasingly likely that some of the millennium goals will be missed, Mr Brown has called on the international community to try to keep its pledge on primary education.

Mr Brown earlier this year published a report warning of the “silent emergency” of millions of children not receiving any education – and called for an urgent investment to change this.

He reported that in South Sudan, girls were more likely to die in childbirth than complete a primary school education.

Mr Brown says he wants to support the UN secretary-general’s initiative, Education First, which aims to prioritise education within development projects.

“Enrolling an additional 61 million children and ensuring a quality education for all by the end of 2015 will not be easy – but it is a goal which, working together, we can achieve,” says Mr Brown.

Mr Brown has worked with his wife Sarah on a number of international education projects, including promoting the cause of children in conflict zones who miss out on education.

In a report on South Sudan published in April, he said that more than 40% of the world’s children missing out on education lived in “fragile states” or those affected by violence.

He warned that at present, only 2% of humanitarian aid goes into education.

Mr Brown has said he will continue to serve as MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath.

Gove turns down group’s bid for extra education funding

Gove turns down group’s bid for extra education funding

BBC |July 13, 2012

By Hannah Richardson BBC News education reporter

A group of England’s lowest-funded local education authorities has had its bid for extra funding turned down by the Education Secretary Michael Gove.

Schools run by members of the group, known as f40, get up to £600 less in basic grant per pupil than the local council average.

They had asked for £99m to share between them until a new national funding formula is introduced in 2015.

Turning them down, Mr Gove blamed the economic situation.

The group heard the decision just days before Mr Gove announced approval for about 100 new free schools.

‘Economic situation’

In a letter to the group’s chairman, Councillor Ivan Ould, Mr Gove said: “I am very sympathetic to the case you and your colleagues put forward.

“I agree the current system for funding schools is out of date and complex, and that is why I have committed to introducing a new National Funding Formula.”

He continued: “It is important that we move to a new formula gradually and at a pace which schools can manage.”

He said it was important to consider any changes carefully and get the new formula right.

He added that because of the “reality of the current economic situation” any extra funds would have had to have come from elsewhere in the funding system.

The government has indicated the new funding formula will not be introduced during the current parliament.

‘Fairer funding’

But group secretary Doug Allen said what made the news particularly difficult was coverage of grants to free schools.

“I read recently that Mr Gove is giving £2m to a school in Beccles for a small number of pupils.

“You have to question where is the sense in that, where is all that extra money coming from?”

He added that the campaign for fairer funding had been going on for 20 years under governments of all descriptions.

But this was the first time that the group felt they had won the argument, he said.

The group was asked specifically by Mr Gove in March to produce some financial modelling to show how the issue could be addressed.

He highlighted the disparities in funding using the example of schools close to each other in Leicester City and Leicestershire.

“You could be living in one street and go to a school in Leicestershire that gets £800 per pupil less than the one someone else in that street goes to because it is a Leicester city school.”

He said similar discrepancies existed between the East Riding of Yorkshire and Hull, and Nottingham and Nottinghamshire.

Education and skills have long-term effect on cities’ economic well being

Education and skills have long-term effect on cities’ economic well being

guardian.co.uk |by Robert Booth on July 12, 2012

closed coal mine, barnsley

People living in former coalfield communities of Barnsley are facing a battle against poverty today. In 1901, the town was in the bottom 20 for skills levels. Photograph: John Giles/PA

The long-term economic health of towns and cities rests on investment in citizens’ skills and professional qualifications, according to a study published on Thursday examining the effects of 111 years of change in urban life in England and Wales.

Cities with the highest numbers of well-trained and educated residents in 1901 are found to be among the best performing places today, while those with the lowest skills base in Edwardian times tend to be the most vulnerable economies today, according to the research by the Centre for Cities thinktank.

The report’s authors claimed the research has significant implications for policymakers and “illustrates that short-term cuts in expenditure on the policies that support cities to boost skills, from education to transport infrastructure, are likely to result in a big bill for government in the medium to longer term”.

Seven out of eight of the best performing cities today had above average skills levels in 1901, including Oxford, Brighton, Crawley and London, the study found. Meanwhile 80% of cities with struggling economies today fell into the bottom 20 cities for skills levels in 1901, including Grimsby, Middlesbrough, Barnsley, Stoke and Burnley. Figures for 1901 were collated using census data and the figures for today are based on national statistics and government data.

“History tells us that failure to invest in city economies has long-term effects for the UK economy,” said Alexandra Jones, chief executive of Centre for Cities. “The government needs to preference the policies that support cities to grow – the research shows that skills and transport in particular can shape the economic health of a city. Ensuring the education system prepares children for the world of work when they leave school is vital for those children and for the future health of the UK economy.”

The thinktank is urging the government to combine investment in core literacy, numeracy and IT skills with investment in technical courses such as engineering, a skill it warns is likely to be in shortage over the next decade.

The health of economies was assessed in 2010 using a range of factors including economic output, growth in private sector jobs, unemployment and wages. Skills levels in 1901 were based on numbers in professional occupations such as banking, insurance, accountancy, as well as merchants, and commercial and business clerks.

The study found that cities like Preston, Warrington and Swindon have progressed much more quickly than others. For example, the skills of Warrington’s population are more highly developed now than in 1901, when it was in the bottom 5% of cities. Now it falls within the top 20% of cities for skills and according to the thinktank’s index of economic indicators. The report’s authors attribute the trend to state investment in transport networks, both road and rail.

The balance of power between cities was dramatically different at the turn of the century, according to the analysis. The coastal towns and cities of Southend, Blackpool, Bournemouth, Hastings and Brighton had the highest number of people in higher wage occupations, while Bournemouth, London and Blackpool had the highest property values per member of the population. The city with the most joint stock companies per head of population, a measure of enterprise, was not London, but Cardiff, followed by Bradford and then London. Liverpool, which was described by Benjamin Disraeli as the “second city of the Empire”, was ranked as one of the most economically buoyant in 1901 but by 2011 it tanked among the 20% worst performing in the UK.

Headteachers signed up by ministry to praise Gove’s free school policies

Headteachers signed up by ministry to praise Gove’s free school policies

guardian.co.uk |by Jeevan Vasagar on July 11, 2012

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Michael Gove

Education secretary Michael Gove is due to announce the next wave of free schools soon. Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

Civil servants at the Department for Education were asked by Michael Gove’s advisers to enlist sympathetic headteachers who could act as defenders of controversial government policies, including the creation of free schools.

The PR operation involved creating a database of sympathisers who could advocate policy instead of ministers. Quotes from headteachers on the database were added to official announcements. It was shut down amid concern that it risked politicising the civil service.

The education secretary, who is due to announce the next wave of free schools imminently, has faced mounting criticism in recent weeks.

The Stakeholder and Advocacy team was established within the DfE last April as the government prepared for the opening of the first free schools.

One source with knowledge of the operation said: “It was just a pretty simple database: anyone supportive of free schools or academies or back-to-basics 1950s schooling was just dumped on the database, you could roll them out with an announcement – to back it. It was all driven by spads [special advisers].”

The new drive marked a shift from the traditional civil service method of using data to back government announcements, the source said. “DfE [in the past] would just put out loads of data; Tory spads were from a softer PR background and wanted to use case studies.”

The aim was to have headteachers advancing policy rather than ministers, the source said.

Headteachers on the list included Patricia Sowter, head of an academy school, who spoke before Gove at the Conservative party conference in 2010.

Press releases from the DfE in the past year have frequently included supportive quotes from headteachers. An announcement about the new school admissions code had a quote from Rob McDonough, headteacher at West Bridgford school in Nottingham, which read: “I very much welcome the direction of change. Through greater school autonomy, and the academies programme, which will positively impact upon standards, I do believe this will increase the supply of good school places for parents.”

McDonough told the Guardian: “In that particular instance, I had as a headteacher been invited to work on the working party looking at the new admissions code. The fact that as a practising headteacher I’d been offered the opportunity to look at all the new admissions proposals, I was very appreciative of that. If they’re putting my name to that on a press release, it’s justified.”

External endorsement has been an important source of support at a time when Gove faces intense criticism. The education secretary’s proposed reforms have been attacked by senior figures including Lord Adonis, the former schools minister, and the director of the Institute of Education, Chris Husbands.

Gove is due to announce which free schools are approved to open in September 2013 before parliament rises on 17 July.

While the Labour government also sought out supportive headteachers, Gove’s team wanted to put this PR operation on a formal footing, another source said. The operation was closed down amid concern about how the people on the database were selected, and that civil servants were being asked to do work that was the province of special advisers. The civil service is required to be politically impartial while special advisers assist ministers in areas where the work of the government and governing party overlap.

“If you were being uncharitable you could say it was using civil servants to wheel out Tory supporters,” a source said.

Civil servants would be encouraged to add names to the list by ministerial aides who said: “This guy’s good, we know him from Tory circles.”

In response to questions in parliament from the Labour MP Lisa Nandy, the government confirmed the team was intended to “improve relationships and build understanding of the department’s policies with key stakeholders”.

Nandy said: “I asked these questions because I was increasingly concerned about the politicisation of the civil service. It has been incredibly difficult to get answers to parliamentary questions and FOI requests out of the DfE, and particularly in relation to this group on why it was disbanded so suddenly.

“If you set that within the wider context of the last two years – public money awarded without a proper tendering process to an organisation run by a former [Gove] adviser, Tory donors brought on to the board of the Department for Education, an outside body linked to the Tory party directing civil servants, and private emails used to discuss official business – it seems there is a blurring of boundaries between the Conservative party and the civil service, which is a significant cause for concern, and deserves answers.”

The PR drive was established after the media strategist James Frayne was appointed Gove’s director of communications. Frayne, a former campaigns director at the Taxpayers’ Alliance,  has written about the importance of “mobilising third parties”.

Frayne is leaving the DfE post at the end of August to work for the Republicans in this year’s US presidential elections.

A DfE spokesman said: “The Stakeholder and Advocacy Team was created in the spring of 2011 and existed for just over six months. In that time it helped stage events on the curriculum and on maths and science policy. It also generated lists of interested parties that were invited to events and kept informed about departmental policy. It was closed as part of a restructure which halved the size of the communications team.

“All civil servants operate under the civil service code. Any substantive allegations of breaches of the code would be investigated in the usual way.”

Well-being and education “go together”

Well-being and education “go together”

BBC |July 5, 2012

By Angela Harrison Education correspondent, BBC News
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People who are better educated are more likely to say they are satisfied with their lives, a study suggests.

And they are more likely to say that the things they do are worthwhile, according to research by the Office for National Statistics.

The study is part of a £2m project launched by the prime minister to try to measure people’s happiness and well-being.

It does not say education necessarily leads to happiness.

The researchers point out that many other factors affect the way people feel, including someone’s age, health, income and job.

The study also shows that over time, the UK’s population has become better-educated.

Between 1993 and 2011, the proportion of adults aged 16 to 64 without any formal educational qualifications has more than halved from 27% to 11%, it says.

Meanwhile, the proportion with a degree or equivalent qualification has more than doubled from 11% to 24%.

Among people with A-level or higher qualifications, 81% rated their overall satisfaction with life as seven out of 10 or more.

And 85% felt similarly positive about how worthwhile they felt the things they were doing were.

Among those who left school with no qualifications, 64% rated their happiness with life as seven out of 10 or higher.

Poverty gap

The researchers also quote from a study of the British Household Survey which found that people who were learning part-time in evening classes or in other ways were more likely to rate their well-being as high.

And they point out that in England, while three-quarters of children from the richest families achieve five good GCSE passes (A* to C), only one in five from the poorest homes do so.

The report is one in a series about well-being from the ONS.

It is part of £2m national consultation launched by the prime minister in autumn 2010 aimed at working out how best to measure the nation’s happiness.

David Cameron said he wanted more research on what mattered most to people, saying this could help shape future policy and gauge the effect of government action on people’s well-being and quality of life.

The Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair had also looked at the idea of creating what is often called a “happiness index”.

Do smart devices make smart kids?

Do smart devices make smart kids?

bbc.com  6 July 2012 Last updated at 05:24 GMT

By Jane Wakefield Technology reporter
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I grew up with Ladybird books. They looked pretty old-fashioned when I was reading them and they seem to belong to a bygone age in the era of iPads and e-books.

These days, with the toddler acknowledged as the family’s tablet expert, children often learn to navigate the internet before they learn to read.

But are smart screens making our children smarter or simply creating a new generation of “square eyes”?

In the US most young children have access to a touch-screen device and, according to Daniel Anderson, a professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Massachusetts, using these devices could be more addictive than watching television.

A young child will look away from a TV screen about 150 times an hour, but a well-designed iPad app is more engaging because the child is touching the screen to generate actions.

  Reading crisis       Book or e-book reader? Which is best?

Half of all US 10-year-olds read poorly, according to Dr Michael Levine, executive director of the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, which was set up to research how digital media impact on learning.

One of the centre’s studies, using an iPod Touch, found that the vocabulary of 13 five-year-olds improved by an average of 27% after using an educational app called Martha Speaks.

Another study, using a different educational app, had a similar result, with three-year-olds showing a 17% gain.

Its latest research compared how children learned using traditional books versus e-readers.

The conclusion was that for young children traditional books were more effective in focusing attention on literacy skills while e-readers helped older children maintain attention and excitement with books.

But even then the picture is complicated.

“Children may be distracted by the bells and whistles of enhanced e-books. They may be engaged but many are not comprehending as much,” said Dr Levine.

“It depends on the context and content, but e-readers aren’t going to solve the reading crisis.”

  Book power

The idea that apps and touch screens are now constant companions for young readers was the inspiration for MagicTown, a fantasy world built around classic children’s books such as Elmer, Winnie The Witch and Little Princess.

The site is trying to bridge the gap between the screen-based digital world and a time when families gathered around to listen to stories.

Every time a child listens to a story, they create a new house in the town.

They can choose a variety of modes for stories, from basic listening to modules that require them to participate in the story.

Even in the web age, stories maintain their power said David Begg, chief executive officer and co-founder.

“Story is the best medium to teach children. From the village elder importing stories from generation to generation, it is how people learn about emotions, morals and the structure of society,” he said.

In Magic Town the village elder is a lion called Louis who will tell different stories to children daily.

The tree at the centre of the town grows more leaves the more stories listened to and withers if none are read.

“It is not about ramming books down kids throats but about engaging them,” said Mr Begg.

“We wanted it to be something that parents think is valuable for their children,” he added.

  Screen learning       Not all children have access to books at home

The model of children learning alongside adults is thought to be the ideal, but in parts of the world with low literacy rates it is simply not possible.

In such places, the screen may take the place of a parent or teacher.

Prof Sugata Mitra, whose “hole-in-the-wall” terminals offered children living in the slums of India their first experience of computers.

Now, in conjunction with the Massachusetts Institute of Education, he is experimenting with teaching children to read without adult intervention.

“We are trying to find out if children can learn to read by themselves,” he said.

He and his team have created reading software which has been installed on computers in three villages in central India, one in West Bengal, plus in a slum school and household in Calcutta.

The trial runs until the end of the year.

“The field reports so far are exciting. Children are starting to read already,” said Prof Mitra.

Just how technology can be harnessed to help children learn in better ways may be unclear, but it is obvious children’s perception of books has radically altered.

“Really young children look at a real book and think that it is electronic. They try to swipe it and think it is broken when nothing happens,” said Dr Levine.

Governors hit back at Gove’s ‘badge of status’ comments

Governors hit back at Gove’s ‘badge of status’ comments

BBC |July 6, 2012

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Governors have hit back at the education secretary’s claims that they can be “local worthies” who view their post as a “badge of status not of work”.

Michael Gove said in a recent speech that he wanted to speed up reforms to school governance in England.

Head of the National Governors’ Association Emma Knights said there was not status in being a governor.

Most governors volunteer because they want to give something back, she added.

She told BBC News: “There are very few people who do it for a badge of status. There isn’t even any status in being a school governor.

“In fact what you find is that people volunteer because they want to give something back to their community. They’re interested in children and whether children are getting a good deal.”

‘Local worthies’She said her organisation was “incredibly disappointed by the language of the secretary of state”, adding that she had been in discussions with his department over how governors could best be supported.

She said Mr Gove had focussed on the minority of governing bodies who do not do a good job.

Ms Knights was speaking after Mr Gove said in a speech in London that he wanted to speed up reforms to school governance.

“All too sadly”, he said, people knew what bad governance looked like.

“A sprawling committee and proliferating sub-committees. Local worthies who see being a governor as a badge of status not a job of work.

“Discussions that ramble on about peripheral issues, influenced by fads and anecdote, not facts and analysis.

“A failure to be rigorous about performance. A failure to challenge heads forensically and also, when heads are doing a good job, support them authoritatively.”

‘Volunteers’And he also described good governance, characterised by “smaller governing bodies, where people are there because they have a skill, not because they represent some political constituency”.

“They concentrate on essentials such as leadership, standards, teaching and behaviour,” he said

“Ofsted, in their new inspection framework, will now be asking searching questions on governance – including assessing how well governors hold the head and senior leader to account,” he added.

An aide to Mr Gove said the secretary of state was not critical of all governors and that his intention was merely to improve standards in schools.

There are about 300,000 volunteer governors in England who sit on school governing bodies. They are responsible for working with the head teacher to ensure the school gives a good quality education.

As well as appointing and dismissing staff and deciding how budgets are spent, they act as a critical friend to the head teachers, holding them to account.

England’s schools ‘letting down brightest pupils’

England’s schools ‘letting down brightest pupils’

BBC |July 5, 2012

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England is neglecting its brightest children, leaving them lagging far behind their peers overseas in top level maths scores, a report says.

The Sutton Trust study shows teenagers in England are half as likely as those in the average developed nation to reach higher levels in maths.

Brighter pupils are more likely to go to private or grammar schools rather than other state schools, it adds.

The government said it wanted to “restore academic rigour” to schools.

Researchers at the Centre for Education and Employment Research at Buckingham University examined the proportions of pupils achieving the highest levels in Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) tests.

‘Deeply troubling’

The PISA tests (Programme for International Student Assessment) compare the performance of pupils in different countries in subjects such as reading and maths. The latest results date back to 2009.

The report found that just 1.7% of England’s 15-year-olds reached the highest level, Level 6, in maths, compared with an OECD average of 3.1%.

In Switzerland and Korea, 7.8% of pupils reached this level.

Overall, England ranked 26th out of 34 OECD countries for the proportion of pupils reaching the top level in maths, behind other nations like Slovenia (3.9%), the Slovak Republic (3.6%) France (3.3%) and the Czech Republic (3.2%), which were among those scoring around the OECD average.

The report adds that the situation looks worse for England when a wider global comparison is used.

Singapore, which is not part of the OECD table analysed, saw 15.6% of its students score the top level, while in Hong Kong and Shanghai, which were also not part of the OECD table, 10.8% and 26.6% respectively got the top level.

Sutton Trust chairman Sir Peter Lampl said: “This is a deeply troubling picture for any us who care about our brightest pupils from non-privileged backgrounds.”

The study also suggests that comparing the maths results of 18-year-olds would be even more stark because 90% of English pupils drop the subject after GCSE.

Whereas in many other countries, maths is compulsory up to the age of 18.

The report argues that England is falling down international tables because of successive failures to help the most able pupils.

It calls for bright children to be identified at the end of primary school, with their achievements and progress tracked from then on.

‘Profound concerns’

It says there should also be tougher questions in exams to allow bright youngsters to stretch themselves and show their abilities.

Sir Peter said: “These are shocking findings that raise profound concerns about how well we support our most academically-able pupils, from non-privileged backgrounds.

“Excellence in maths is crucial in so many areas such as science, engineering, IT, economics and finance. These figures show that few bright non-privileged students reach their academic potential – which is unfair and a tragedy for them and the country as a whole.”

Report author Prof Alan Smithers said recent education policy for the brightest had been a mess.

“The government should signal to schools the importance of educating the brightest through how it holds the schools to account.

“At present the accountability measures are pitched at the weakest and middling performers,” he added.

Education Secretary Michael Gove added: “We already knew that under Labour we plummeted down the international league tables in maths.

“Now we see further evidence that they betrayed bright children from poor backgrounds and – worst of all – that their policies drove talented children from disadvantaged backgrounds away from the subjects that employers and universities value most.”

Shadow Education Secretary Stephen Twigg said: “Results for all pupils, including the brightest, improved under Labour.

“While there are always improvements that could be made, gifted and talented pupils were stretched through a National Academy, targeted scholarships and a new A* grade at A-level.

“While we want to see bright pupils stretched, this can’t be at the expense of leaving some behind. Michael Gove’s plans will create a two tier exam system, which will do nothing to help all pupils make the most of their potential.”

Nasuwt teaching union head Chris Keates said the tests used to draw the comparisons, and the way children prepare for them, differed between countries.

“Their conclusions raise more questions than they answer. They are not comparing like with like.

“The education systems are different. The pupils taking the tests are selected differently. Some countries do nothing but prepare for the tests for months. Some, like Shanghai may not enter a pupil sample generally reflective of the student population and use crammer sessions to prepare.”

Disney’s Club Penguin to invest in child safety online

Disney’s Club Penguin to invest in child safety online

BBC |July 4, 2012

Lane Merrifield, founder of Club PenguinLane Merrifield founded Club Penguin as a safe place for young children

Disney, the firm behind social network Club Penguin, is donating £3m worth of space on its outlets towards teaching children how to stay safe online.

The TV, print and website slots will promote third-party campaigns.

The announcement was made at the Children’s Media conference by Club Penguin founder Lane Merrifield.

Keeping children safe online has been under the spotlight since revelations that another network – Habbo Hotel – had been used by paedophiles.

Parental involvement

Mr Merrifield, who would not comment on the problems at Habbo, said the investment was unrelated.

“Safety is important to us. Even though we don’t have the ability to make the entire internet safe, we do have the ability to educate and empower kids to keep themselves safe,” he said.

“It starts with making sure that the parents are involved, making sure kids understand not to share personal information and to tell someone if they experience something inappropriate.”

Disney plans to link up with child safety experts including Ceop (Child exploitation and online protection) and charities such as Childnet.

The advertising “fund” can be spent on space across Disney’s television channels, magazines and child-focused sites in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Club Penguin currently uses filters to prevent inappropriate conversations. The filters limit what can be said on the site.

It also employs over 200 moderators.

“We don’t control who comes on the site but we have a lot of control over what they experience once there,” said Mr Merrifield.

He said that it was “dangerous” to rely purely on technology.

“Language is organic and we use human moderators to stay ahead of new trends,” he said.

Gove’s school food inquiry gets roasting from Jamie Oliver

Gove’s school food inquiry gets roasting from Jamie Oliver

guardian.co.uk |by Denis Campbell on July 4, 2012

school-dinners-report-oliver

‘Now is not the time for more costly reports. Now is the time for action,’ said Oliver.  Photograph: Sarah Lee for the Guardian

Jamie Oliver has accused Michael Gove of obstructing improvements to children’s health by ordering an inquiry into school food that is unnecessary, will waste time and is likely to be ignored anyway.

The TV chef has reopened his feud with the education secretary over what pupils eat by dismissing Gove’s decision to ask two prominent restaurateurs to investigate the quality of canteen fare. Henry Dimbleby and John Vincent – co-founders of the Leon chain of restaurants, which offers conspicuously nutritious dishes – will examine whether the food served in English schools is good enough and draw up an “action plan” to ensure more pupils eat lunches that benefit their bodies and their minds.

Oliver said that while Dimbleby and Vincent would do a thorough job, he could not welcome their inquiry. “Now is not the time for more costly reports. Now is the time for action and that doesn’t seem to be what we get from Mr Gove when it comes to school food and food education. This [inquiry] just delays action for another year or more.”

The chef sought to portray the minister as out of touch on school food, an issue on which they have locked horns several times recently. “I’m fairly confident that the gentlemen from Leon will end up pushing for the same things that I, and many others, have been pushing for years, but the question is, will Mr Gove listen?” he said.

Pouring further scorn on the initiative, Oliver added: “Is it too much to ask for a government which listens and which sees the ill health of our country’s children as a major challenge to be met with important, sustainable policies to actually solve the problems? Will this be just another report by good people which is destined to be ignored? I hope not but fear it will.”

Gove’s choice of Lauriston primary school in Hackney, east London, to make his announcement also raised Oliver’s ire. With its head chef, chicken coop, breakfast club, and fruit and vegetable gardens, it is regarded as a leading example of how schools can offer appetising fare while also encouraging sustainable food and educating pupils about how what appears on their plates is produced. But Oliver said it was “ironic that this morning’s announcement by Mr Gove was given at a lovely school with a kitchen garden, and with a dedicated school caterer creating freshly cooked meals on site.

“But this does not reflect the current resource and reality in most schools around the country. These things urgently need to be the norm in schools,” he added.

Labour set minimum nutritional standards for school food in England in 2008-09 and spent several hundred million pounds overhauling menus after Oliver’s Jamie’s School Dinners TV series in 2005 revealed how unhealthy much school food was, exemplified by the infamous Turkey Twizzlers. Despite that, and experts lauding gains in children’s ability to learn, still only 40% of pupils eat in their canteen.

The chef has previously accused Gove of imperilling children’s health and educational prospects by letting the rapidly growing number of academies and free schools opt out of the standards. Dozens of MPs from all parties have signed a Commons early-day motion, organised by the Tory MP Zac Goldsmith, demanding that Gove do a U-turn and ensure they are mandatory in all schools.

But Gove – who told MPs in April that “I love Jamie Oliver” – has criticised the standards as unwelcome “conscription”, which restricts headteachers’ freedom and leads to production-line food like McDonald’s.

The Leon co-founders will by 2013 “create an action plan to accelerate improvement in school food and determine the role of food more broadly in school life”, Gove said. “They will try to set out what more should be done to make tasty, nutritious food available to all schoolchildren and to generate excitement among pupils about school food so they want to eat it.”

Gove’s move comes after the School Food Trust found that just 22.5% of schools provided pupils with at least one portion of fruit and vegetables a day – which should be standard – and half of secondaries serve up pizza and starchy food that has been cooked in oil most days of the week.

Judy Hargadon, the trust’s chief executive, disagreed with Oliver and said it was “a sensible time” to review school food as improvements were still needed.

However, Daniela Wachsening, education policy adviser at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: “It beggars belief that a government which has exempted academies from complying with nutritional standards is now commissioning the proprietors of a restaurant chain to examine school food.”

Lynda Mitchell, national chair of the Local Authority Caterers Association, agreed that the review was unnecessary, given the large amount of evidence already available on the subject. It should recommend the end of a damaging “two-tier system” under which pupils not in maintained schools were not guaranteed food that met the standards, she said.

Dimbleby said he and Vincent were “apolitical” and Gove had asked them to carry out the work after a chance meeting. “I met him [Gove] earlier this year through a friend of a friend and was sat next to him and  talked to him about school food at some length. Although I’m relatively apolitical, I have this old-fashioned view that when the government asks you to do something, and you think you can add something, it’s your duty to do it, regardless of persuasion.”

He added: “Too much school food is still not good enough. It’s better, but still not good enough yet. There’s been an increase in uptake and improvements in nutrition. But a lot of schools still provide fried food every week.” He is open-minded as to whether the standards should apply to all schools, and the inquiry will consider this.

Gove has not promised to implement the Leon duo’s recommendations. “The secretary of state completely trusts the two guys from Leon to make the recommendations they feel are necessary – they will have a free rein – and he knows that some recommendations may be challenging,” said a Department for Education spokeswoman, adding that while Gove was “fully open” to their suggestions, he was “prepared to look at them” rather than necessarily implement them all.

How they compare

School dinner*

Chicken marengo with savoury vegetable rice

Vegetarian chilli with savoury vegetable rice

Roasted mixed peppers

Steamed broccoli

Apple crumble with custard

Yoghurt, fresh fruit platter

Leon

Chicken and chorizo club with brown rice and  Herb slaw

Superfood salad with broccoli, peas, cucumber, avocado, quinoa and feta

Freshly made lemonade

Brownie

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