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Not a party political broadcast – Headmaster’s Blog 17 April 2015

April 17, 2015

As the current coalition draws to a close in the run up to the election, there is perhaps an opportunity for reflection.

For so long in educational circles, both amongst independent and maintained school teachers, there has been a feeling of frustration over Mr Gove’s reforms as Education Secretary. Whilst most accepted that reforms were needed, not least to bolster confidence in the public exam system, there was much despair over a perception that Mr Gove wasn’t listening to those at the ‘chalk face’. It also seems apparent that even after his move from this position, Mr Gove has continued to exercise significant influence at the Department for Education.

All of this notwithstanding, I have been challenged by a recent article written by Mr Gove for the ‘Spectator’ (4th April 2015) called ‘Why I am a Christian’. The article is brave and forthright but, in my view, perceptive and cogent. Gove takes issue with the following generally accepted view in British society: ‘…to call yourself a Christian in contemporary Britain is to invite pity, condescension or cool dismissal. In a culture that prizes sophistication, non-judgmentalism, irony and detachment, it is to declare yourself intolerant, naive, superstitious and backward’. In his article, Michael Gove goes on to consider why this has happened in a society which once revelled in its Christian roots, values and drive.

I find myself (perhaps against the grain for a teacher,  I know) concurring with much of what Gove argues – and I would encourage readers to consider the full essay in the ‘Spectator’. At Ballard we are uncompromising in promoting our objectives which include an aim to promote Christian values. This does not mean that all profess the Christian faith – far from it – but we do seek to be respectful of those who do and to consider the claims of Christ. We are respectful, too, of those of other faiths and those of none. I hope, too, that we recognise that doing good in our society and seeking to help those going through difficult times both at home and abroad, can be motivated appropriately by those with Christian faith and also by those who promote such charity out of more humanistic or other faith values. Gove’s contention, and mine too if I am frank, is to take issue with the perceived orthodoxy of our age – relativism. ‘Christianity’, Gove writes, ‘helps us to recognise and confront those weaknesses (which we have) with a resolution – albeit imperfect and fragile – to do better…it encourages us to feel a sense of empathy rather than superiority towards others because we recognise that we are as guilty of selfishness and open to temptation as much as anyone else’.

At Ballard we believe in the unique and valuable nature of every individual (whatever our faith position) and this makes us angry about oppression, racism and prejudice. We do all we can to help others either though ‘random acts of kindness’ in an unsung and generally unnoticed way as well as more openly by our support for charities in the UK and overseas. There is no shame in doing this out of a Christian faith position and neither is there any censure for doing this simply because ‘it is the right thing to do’.

Alastair Reid

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