Tag Archives: Michael Gove

Honeyball’s Weekly Round-Up

The Conservatives came under fire this week for only hiring ‘yes men’, after Baroness Sally Morgan, former Labour advisor, was sacked as Chair of the schools watchdog Ofsted.

While Education Secretary Michael Gove insisted the decision was “good corporate practice”, claiming there was no political motive, figures ranging from former head of Ofsted Sir David Bell to the Lib Dems’ David Laws were quick to accuse the government of working to an agenda. Labour’s Tristram Hunt said the Department for Education was playing “political games” and others suggested the government were ‘battening down the hatches’ already, as pressure begins to build in the run-up to the 2015 election.

The Ofsted Chair role is not the first high profile post in which a non-Tory has been removed. The Arts Council, National Heritage and the Charity Commission have all, of late, seen Conservative loyalists parachuted into the top jobs. Morgan herself said there was “absolutely a pattern” to her dismissal.

With nearly half of Sixth Form heads claiming they have had to discontinue core A Level courses because of £100 million cuts by the Department for Education, it is little surprise Gove wants to short-circuit the debate. His decision is a mark of how the Tories have changed – or, rather, shown their true colours – since taking office in 2010. Cameron’s early attempts to detoxify his party and adopt a more conciliatory and consensual approach – Morgan was, in fact, a Tory appointment – have been exposed as a sham. In almost every policy area the Conservatives have fallen back on hard-right policies, designed to placate their backbenchers rather than serve the electorate.

Good leadership involved having a range of genuinely independent voices around the top table, not just hiring members of the converted to preach to. Gove’s choice of personnel for the Chair of Ofsted is just the latest signal that the Conservatives are less interested in reasoning with those who disagree with them than they are in appeasing prejudices within their own ranks. Gove suggested on yesterday’s Andrew Marr show that by sacking Sally Morgan he was “refreshing” his team; I’d argue that it’s the government which, after the hubris of 3 years in office, needs refreshing. Getting rid of dissenting voices is not the way of doing this.

Speaking of diversity in decision-making, Lloyds Banking Group this week took the radical step of setting a 40% target for the number of women in Senior Management positions by 2020. The figure for the company’s 5,000 senior managers is currently around 28%. The announcement – which is expected to be formally enshrined as a target by CEO Antonio Horta-Osorio – at a speech next week, will make Lloyds the first FTSE 100 Company to set such a goal. Fiona Cannon, the organisation’s head of inclusion said the move made good business sense, pointing out that to be successful the firm’s top brass had to reflect its “incredibly diverse” customer base.

I am delighted that companies are starting to recognise the advantages of pluralism. Whilst getting women on boards rightly receives a lot of attention as a means of driving the direction of travel and setting a benchmark, it is vital that progress is not limited to non-exec positions. To make meaningful progress on the issue of workplace equality, we need women to be rising up companies at all levels, so that there is a steady progression of female candidates arriving in senior posts and knocking on the boardroom door.

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Honeyball’s Weekly Round-Up

Michael Gove sparked anger this week when he said increases in the use of food banks were the result of people not being able to “manage their finances”. The comments were roundly criticised by Labour MPs. Ed Miliband called Gove an “absolute disgrace”, and Steve McCabe branded him “out of touch”.

Gove is not the first person to suggest people forced to use food banks have brought their situation upon themselves. Jamie Oliver courted controversy last month when he suggested food poverty was the result of people spending money on the wrong things. Both his comments and Gove’s have been condemned by charities tackling the issue on the frontline. Rather than pointing the finger at the victims they blame low pay and the cost of living for increases in the use of food banks.

Gove’s words proved poorly timed, with a report released two days later showing the impact of food poverty on education standards. The study found that one in seven children now go to school hungry – a figure described as “shocking” by Pete Mountstephen, Chair of the National Primary Headteachers, and one which has a clear knock-on effect for levels of attainment.

According to Oxfam half a million people have come to rely on food parcels. The issue is particularly acute in London, where the cost of living is greatest. Last week food banks in Kingston-upon-Thames – one of the capital’s more affluent boroughs – fed their 5,000th person.

With small signs of economic growth Gove and other Conservatives are indulging in a premature victory lap. In so doing they show themselves to be frighteningly out of step with the lives of ordinary people, many of whom feel under terrible strain. Gove’s comments can be brushed under the carpet as a ‘gaffe’ which will be forgotten by next week. But his choice of words reveals something deeper about him and his party.

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Honeyball’s Weekly Round-Up

It emerged over the weekend that David Cameron will be teaming up with Kenneth Clarke this week to make the case for Britain’s continued membership of the EU.

In a speech ahead of next week’s G8 meeting of world leaders in Northern Ireland, Cameron is planning to say that the country faces a battle for its economic future, involving major domestic reforms and greater foreign ambition.

He’s planning to support Britain’s membership of the EU, describing it as part of a “desire to shape the world” by sitting at the “top table” of major international institutions. And he will urge the country to nurture a “sense of opportunity” that was “lacking for too long”.

Cameron’s staunch defence of Britain’s EU membership, a month after Michael Gove and Philip Hammond said they would vote to leave now, will be reinforced by Clarke who will warn that Britain will be “reduced to watching from the sidelines” if it leaves the EU.

The prime minister will indicate his sympathies lie with Clarke and not with his friend Gove when he outlines how Britain can improve its standing in the world.

The prime minister plans on saying: “Membership of these organisations is not national vanity – it is in our national interest. The fact is that it is in international institutions that many of the rules of the game are set on trade, tax and regulation. When a country like ours is affected profoundly by those rules, I want us to have a say on them.”

It’s hard not to feel that Cameron has let this issue completely run away from him within his own party.  I agree with his assessment of the importance of continued membership of the EU, so I have to ask him why he and his party have put it in such jeopardy.

Last week there was much discussion of the state of gender equality as people marked the 100 year anniversary of the tragic death of Emily Wilding Davison.  A lot of the discussion centered on our failure as a nation to properly venerate important and influential women from our past.  In the Observer yesterday people wrote in with their observations about the lack of Blue Plaques to women, including the extraordinary revelation that the plaque on the house of Millicent Garrett Fawcett reads “Henry Fawcett … lived here with his wife and daughter, 1874-1884.”

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Recognising the Benefit to Britain of European Union membership

First it was Tory Grandee and former Foreign Secretary Geoffrey Howe. He was  closely followed by leading business figures including Richard Branson and Martin Sorrell. The voice of reason on the European Union is at last being heard, emerging from the muffled clouds where it has hidden for so long while the sceptics gained ground.

The EU question is far bigger than David Cameron, and it’s unfortunate if predictable that our hapless Prime Minister David Cameron has become the centre of the story. Lord Howe was, of course, preceded by Nigel Lawson, another grandee from a past age, whose comments were, of course, diametrically opposed to Lord Howe. Meanwhile Cabinet Ministers Michael Gove and Philip Hammond pursue their own ambition. The Tories are indeed aping the Labour Party of the 1980s; we have even seen similar insults, swivel- eyed loons being the most public, being thrown around in 1980s Labour fashion.

Labour too was anti-Europe, opposing the Common Market as it was known during the 80s. It is certainly convenient to centre discontent on the EU, an often opaque organisation whose many good points are obscured by certain rabidly Eurosceptic British newspapers.

 The tragedy of reducing the European Union to a political party squabble, admittedly a large one, is that is obscures what is really at stake. Geoffrey Howe was absolutely right to draw attention to the fact that the UK is unlikely to hold anything like the position of power to which it aspires without the vehicle of the EU, unless the country was to join the United States, stating, “Leaving the union would, by contrast in my view, be a tragic expression of our shrinking influence and role in the world – and the humbling of our ambitions, already sorely tested by the current crisis, to remain a serious political or economic player on the global stage.”

Most of us in the UK do not take easily to the idea that Britain can no longer go it alone. I, along with millions of others, attended primary school in the late 1950s and early 1960s when much of the world map was still pink, a constant reminder of the empire on which the sun never sets. I too love England’s green and pleasant land, often spending time with my family in the Gloucestershire countryside. And to add icing to the cake, I also truly believe London is the greatest city in the world (and I’ve seen a few others in my time).

We must not let such sentimentality cloud our judgement. Britain is no longer the world leader. The inevitable shifts in global power to the United States of America and now China, India and possibly Brazil and other South American countries have ended British dominance. Though still near the top, we are no longer “it”. Britain therefore has to make painful adjustments.

Many of us thought such adjustments were well under way when we joined the EU in 1973, 40 years ago. Yet this appears not to be the case. Certain backwards-looking elements particularly in the Conservative Party have continued the anti-EU fight, gaining ground as the benefits of EU membership have been progressively downplayed.

Yet those benefits are essential for our very well being. The seat at the top table is hugely important. As a nation used to international influence and respect, Britain has much to offer in terms of long experience and extensive knowledge of defence and diplomacy. To be cut ourselves off from a meaningful role on the international stage would be sheer folly. To remain at the top table Britain must accept that the only realistic choice is to do this as a member of the European Union. We should also remember that neither Norway nor Switzerland, those two countries held up as examples of survival outside the European Union, has any real power in the world.

There are also massive economic benefits from European Union membership. The EU is the UK’s biggest trading partner. Everyone, most Eurosceptics included, agree that the EU internal market matters to the UK as the majority of our exports go to the single market. Leaving the EU would mean throwing away this trading advantage, which is obviously the main reason prominent business leaders want to stay in the EU. Make no mistake, if we left the EU we would not be able to stay in the single market. It really is all or nothing. The kind of cherry-picking talked about by some Eurosceptics is quite simply not on the table.

The reality is that Britain is in the EU. We have been there for 40 years and it’s our only viable future. The British people have no choice but to move forward and embrace the European Union. There is quite simply no alternative.

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Honeyball’s Weekly Round-up

Taxes will have increased some 300 times by 2015 when the Coalition Government’s term will end, the Tax Payers Alliance (TPA) warned earlier in the week.

The TPA researched tax policies since the Coalition Government was formed and the Alliance claimed there had already been some 254 tax rises and at least 45 more planned before the next election.

You can read the full report here.

There was a very curious story on the front of this week’s Observer. The lead, front page story accused Gove advisors in the Department for Education (DfE) of smear tactics on journalists and opponents. The article warned that official guidelines may have also been broken.

The story concerns the Observer’s allegations that the DfE has undertaken a propaganda campaign using an anonymous twitter account called @toryeducation.

The account, so the Observer story reveals, is used to attack critical stories about the secretary of state for education, Michael Gove, and the department. “It is often abreast of imminent Tory policies, suggesting it is coming from close to the centre of government. However, it is also used to rubbish journalists and Labour politicians while promoting Gove’s policies and career,” the article warns.

You can read the Observer’s full report here.

Last week saw some embarrassing confusion from the Coalition Government over the child care shake up. Early Years Minister, Elizabeth Truss, announced on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme that child minders and nurseries could increase the number of children they care for if they improve their qualifications.

However, just hours later Tory MP, Claire Perry said: “I think she [Truss] perhaps got a little bit ahead of herself with the announcement.”

Critics argue they are unhappy with the ‘fixation’ to alter the ratios. You can read more on this subject here.

Also this week, Olympic Gold medalist Mo Farah and his wife criticised the Government’s Games legacy. Mrs Farah said, in an exclusive interview with the Observer that she and her husband wanted to see an increase rather than a reduction in school sports budgets.

She told The Observer that “having both come from a school where PE at grass roots level was widely accessible, Mo and I are acutely aware such a system can have on the younger generation.”

She went on to say that it is at this stage that gifted students are discovered and they should be nurtured. You can read the full story here.

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Ten myths about the European Union

These 10 myths about the European Union were posted on Progress Online by Denis MacShane MP in August this year. Since Denis’ excellent piece didn’t get much coverage at the time, I think it’s worth giving it another airing.

Debunking the myths is, of course, becoming increasingly important as Tory anti-EU mania reaches worrying proportions.

Home Secretary Theresa May is seeking to opt out of 130 Justice and Home Affairs measures only, apparently, to then try and opt back into some of them.

Meanwhile Michael Gove and, seemingly, nine members of the Cabinet want a referendum on the EU.

As someone once said, we live in interesting times. Chaotic may be a better word.

Myth 1

The euro causes mass unemployment So how come unemployment is much lower in Germany, or the Netherlands than in Britain? Spanish unemployment was around 25 per cent well into the 1990s. In fact, the only time unemployment in Spain came below 10 per cent was when the euro replaced the peseta. It is government policy that determines economic success not the EU or the single currency per se.

Myth 2

Youth unemployment has surged under the euro Can anyone in Britain, with one in four 16-24-year-olds without work, make this claim with a straight face? Corrupt, clientalist politics in Spain and Greece have refused reform of the youth labour market to give young people a job but if the euro is responsible should we blame the pound for Britain’s lost generation of school and university leavers?

Myth 3

The EU makes all our laws. Sorry, but the House of Commons researches this every year and can never find more than about seven per cent of UK primary legislation which stems from Brussels. Just think of the rows over legislation in the Commons since 2010 – student fees, tax cuts for millionaires, NHS ‘reform’. Gove’s free schools, attacks on disabled people, five-year parliaments, cuts in local government provision – all these are made-in-Britain laws and have nothing to do with Europe.

Myth 4

The euro was badly designed and Greece should not have entered Agreed. But if Greece is forced out there will be a massive run on banks. It is not the single currency that allowed such lax regulation of banking in recent years. That began in America with Robert Rubin and Alan Greenspan who removed all the rules in place since the 1930s to make banks behave responsibly. Britain (I would rather not mention which government) awarded an honorary knighthood to ‘Sir’ Alan Greenspan and his bust still stands in the Treasury. If we worship false gods of greed first we should not be surprised when they destroy us. The dollar is no more responsible for the Greenspan-Rubin tragedy of errors than the euro is for bad policy in the EU.

Myth 5

Devaluation is the way forward. So how come the British economy has been belly-up since the major devaluation of the pound four years ago. The pound lost about 25 per cent of its value against the euro. Did this lead to an export boom? UK balance of trade has never been worse. Belgium exports more to India than Britain. One day perhaps China will allow British exports to get a foothold – maybe when the Chinese have stopped killing British businessmen like Neil Heywood – but all the Commonwealth countries have various forms of protectionism in place – just ask anyone who tries to trade with India.

Myth 6

The EU is run by technocrats with no democratic oversight. Actually all the decisions taken in Europe are approved by democratically elected ministers responsible and accountable to their parliaments and public opinions. Decisions are slow and tortuous and are often so late in becoming policy they may be no longer relevant. The number of EU commissioners should come down from 27 to 10 but will the UK give up having a commissioner? Ask Nick Clegg.

Myth 7

The euro has caused riots and the rise of extremist parties That’s for Nick Griffin and the other BNP MEP to answer. Europe has always had extremist politics hovering at its fringe. The French communist party was xenophobic and supported one of the world’s great tyrannies for decades. Long before the euro existed there were ultra-nationalist and racist politicians elected under PR systems to different national and regional parliaments. Jean-Marie Le Pen’s glory days were when France used the franc. The biggest riots in Europe since the world capitalist crisis began in 2008 happened in London last year. Unlike the riots of Athens which were largely confined to its main square, the London riots spreads across the nation, turned into mass arson and looting with five deaths and huge damage caused. Last time anyone checked, Britain was not using the euro so is the pound to blame for the August 2011 riots? No and it is just as silly to blame the euro for social unrest and extremist political parties.

Myth 8

The EU imposes terrible burdens on British business This whine from the right has been a constant ever since the concept of social Europe was promoted. Tory MPs want to repatriate all rules from Europe that give some modest protection to workers and unions. For the left to act as bag carriers for this attack on social justice is bizarre. In fact, if you look at the nations that are best surviving the current crisis from Finland to Austria they are all based on EU social partnership systems which are anathema to Conservatives. And they all use the euro.

Myth 9

Housing bubbles were caused by the euro Again, it is national governments (including Labour) which did not put in clear rules insisting on minimum deposits and have a solid programme of social house building. Labour allowed 500,000 social housing units to be sold under Thatcher’s right-to-buy legislation. Ireland, Spain and Greece allowed unlimited credit well beyond the repayment capabilities for borrowers. That has nothing to do with the single currency but with bad government policy.

Myth 10

The euro is creating a European super-state. Please. Ten years ago the EU budget was roughly 1.2 per cent of Europe’s collection GDP. It is now down to one per cent. Of that one per cent, 85 per cent is returned to governments to pay for agricultural subsidies and regional investment. A BAP (British Agricultural Policy and payments system) would be more costly than the CAP. The EU gets many things wrong just as all governments do. But with an income of just one per cent of Europe’s total annual income the idea this is a new super-state is just silly propaganda.

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Honeyball’s Weekly Round-Up

Hardly anyone can have missed the banking scandal story which dominated headlines for most of last week. In the Mail on Sunday this weekend Ed Miliband offered his vision for the future of big banking.

This morning he is due to reveal his plans. He will say that the high street banks sell off 1000 local branches and that the big five banks become seven. Miliband wants them to be forced into small businesses and to see them put an end to selling complex and dangerous products.

The Mail on Sunday article reveals the extent of his anger. He is furious at their arrogance and extravagance. “Look at Bob Diamond, a £22mn pay off, £120mn over the last few years. You think ‘aghh’ that’s totally off whack.” And if by ‘off whack’ he means inappropriate, then he’s completely right.

The interview is perhaps one of the most revealing to date and discusses the influence his father, Ralph had on him. If you are unsure of what Ed Miliband is about then this interview gives a thorough insight into his vision, his plans and his agenda. You can read the full article here.

Last week the business magazine, Management Today announced its top 35 women under 35. Yesterday’s Sunday Times had full profiles of the rising stars as listed by the magazine. They hail from all walks of life, including jewellery designers, bankers, tax experts, art directors and lawyers. It’s lists like these that remind us why encouraging women to aim for the top jobs can and will pay off.

It’s a reality that many of these women are still operating in a male dominated environment, yet they are young, ambitious and determined.

You can read the full profile of all the women in the latest issue of Management Today.

Also in the Sunday Times this week is a revelation that celebrity Chef Jamie Oliver has been side-lined by education secretary, Michael Gove, in the minister’s latest attempt to improve school food. Instead of using the campaigning chef who has worked tirelessly over the last few years to highlight the lack of quality school meals offered to our children, Gove appointed to restaurateurs.

Insiders believe the snub which has resulted in Oliver being rules out of a formal advising role, relates to the Chefs repeated attacks on Gove and praise for the Labour’ governments policy.

Gove had an opportunity to use and experienced and passionate campaigner who knows and understands the situation; instead he chose to snub the chef because of his apparent attacks. I had thought politicians were made of thicker skin? You can read the full story here.

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The British Chambers of Commerce call for tax breaks for firms to teach foreign languauges

The notorious British inability to speak foreign languages was brought into sharp relief yesterday by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC). According to a poll they undertook at 8,000 firms, reported in the Daily Mail  “very few [staff] can speak well enough to conduct deals in international markets”.

This is an appalling indictment of our educational priorities. It is all too easy to feel that since English has become the international language, it is not necessary to speak anything else. Such an attitude is short-sighted in the extreme. Obviously, when everyone else speaks English, the premium which comes as a mother-tongue speaker is diminished, and the lack of any other language becomes more apparent.

Of those who responded to the BCC poll, less than one per cent said they could speak Russian or Chinese to “a very good level at which they could make business deals”. The figure rose to just 1.2 per cent for Italian, two per cent for Spanish, 2.8 per cent for German and 4.2 per cent for French.

Given the truly dire state of affairs represented by these statistics, I would certainly support the British Chambers of Commerce when they say they want tax breaks for small firms offering foreign language training to workers.

Education Secretary Michael Gove would also do well to take on board what the BCC are saying, especially there call that every child should should learn a foreign language to GCSE.

I have, in fact, blogged on the British foreign language problem on more than one occasion. It is very apparent in the European Parliament where expert knowledge of at least one other, and often two or three, languages is the norm among MEPs from other member states. It is also to our shame that the only two European Commissioners who do not really have another language are those from the UK and the Republic of Ireland.

There are, of course, sound economic reasons for speaking a foreign language. The BCC are quite right when they say that having every child learn another language would help our ailing economy. It would also provide our students with far greater potential. English together with Spanish would open up South America while the possibilities of English with Chinese may well be where the future lies.

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Britain’s Olympic Hopefuls – Goldie Sayers

Goldie Sayers, Britain’s number one female javelin thrower since 2003, will represent Great Britain for the third time at the London Olympics this summer.   

Her first Olympic appearance for Team GB at the Beijing Games in 2008, saw her beat her own UK record with a massive throw of 65.75 metres. Despite this record-breaking throw she narrowly missed out on a medal by just 38 centimetres. 

Besides competing in two Olympic Games, Goldie has taken home gold from six consecutive national championships, and has stood on the podium at several international fixtures, including taking the gold medal at the European Cup in 2007. Goldie also holds a first class honours degree in sport and exercise science from Loughborough University. 

Goldie broke her first record for the javelin throw at the age of 11 when, with a throw of 29 metres, she beat her school’s seniors record. It wasn’t until the age of 18 however, that she began to compete in athletics full time. Up until this point, with the support and encouragement of her school, Goldie focused on team sports including hockey and netball.  

Goldie has previously said that playing team games from an early age was crucial in her athletics career. In 2006 Goldie remarked that “Team games are so important and should be on the agenda, without fail, in every school in the country, starting with primary schools”. In the same interview she pointed out that “If we want elite sport to get better, we have to instil competition in schools”. 

Between 2003 and 2010, under the last Labour Government, the number of secondary school children playing sport for two or more hours a week rose from 20% to 85%. Labour also set up a network of school sports co-ordinators who were responsible for working on an inter-school basis to increase the range and quality of sports available for pupils. 

In an interview with the Guardian, school sports coordinator, Jo Marston has called these the “halcyon days” on the basis of a previously unseen breadth and depth of competition in school sports. 

In 2010 Michael Gove abolished the networks of school sports co-ordinators set up by Labour in the face of much outrage from both teachers and athletes. He later back-tracked and continued to fund the position, albeit at a reduced rate of one day per week. He has also ended ring-fencing for the post. 

Luckily for Jo Marston and her pupils, the schools that she works in saw the great benefits of keeping her on for three days a week in this position. Because of the lack of ring-fenced funding, many schools have chosen to use this money to plug holes elsewhere in their budgets. I can only feel sadness for the many children who won’t benefit from this excellent initiative. 

This summer I will be clapping Goldie on as she runs up for her throw; I am keeping my fingers crossed that I will also be able to cheer for her as she climbs onto the podium in triumph!

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Honeyball’s Weekly Round-Up

When children are the ones affected by the governments cuts the country begins to listen, or at least it should do.

The budget for renovating school buildings is expected to fall by more than half in real terms over the next four years, universities will see their funding cut by almost half (40%).

But the most explosive impact the cuts will have is on nursery education. Nurseries and playgroups, and “early years” education funding is to be reduced by a fifth, the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) has warned.

The IFS study also revealed that it is children from more affluent backgrounds which will be hit the most. Under the coalition’s plans those in the poorest neighborhoods are likely to be the most protected.

The report on funding is the most depressing since records began some 50 years ago. You can read the full story here.

There was further concern in a report from the local paper the Ealing Times. It found, that young women are most worried about money, more concerned than they have ever been before now.

 

The third annual Girls Attitude survey found that those who plan to leave education and training at 18, more than one in five (22%) said this is because they cannot afford to study, up from just 8% in 2009.

 

The report also found that a third of 16 to 21-year-olds “need a couple of drinks for courage before a night out”.

 

What a sad place we must be in so many young women are so concerned about finances they have decided to not go to university.

 

We are letting down an entire generation of bright young people who had hoped they would be able to continue their education in the way that we have been able to do so.

What their future will turn out to be is uncertain and so it’s hardly surprising that they remain anxious and rely on a ‘couple of drinks’ to ensure they have a successful night out.

 

You can read the full story in the Ealing Times here.

 

And children will be failed in other areas- aside from education, but still related to it, as more than half of school breakfast clubs face closure, despite evidence showing that they are one of the surest ways to achieve better results for primary school children.

A hot meal in the morning is one of the surest ways to achieve better results for primary school children, for one in four of all UK children, school dinners are their only source of hot food.

Malnutrition, even scurvy, are rising and children coming to school hungry is not unusual in some of the poorest parts of the country.

Interviewed for the Guardian, Theresa Landreth, a head teacher in an inner London school sums up the effect a poor diet has on children: “It becomes pointless to teach because they aren’t going to progress throughout the morning. Breakfast club has transformed our school,” she said.

Behavior, attendance and performance at Mitchell Brook have dramatically improved since they introduced a Breakfast Club, but for how long it may continue is anybody’s guess. Over to you Mr. Gove?

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