Anger at National Front inclusion in government inquiry

By Simon Rocker, March 4, 2010

The Board of Deputies has protested over the participation of the National Front in a government inquiry into racism in schools.

In a letter to the inquiry head Maurice Smith, a former Chief Inspector of Schools, chief executive Jon Benjamin said it was "deeply concerned" to hear he had met representatives of the NF.

Mr Benjamin wrote: "We are at a loss to understand what you hoped to gain by dignifying the National Front with your time and your attention.

"We are aware of proposals to prevent members of far-right groups from taking jobs as teachers but we are unsure what benefit a personal meeting with these groups could have since they would inevitably resist the introduction of such measures with all means at their disposal."

He said the Board felt "quite strongly" that the meeting had lent the NF "credibility that they do not deserve".

Mr Smith, who is director of education at the Manchester diocese of the Church of England, declined to comment. He submitted his review last month to Schools' Secretary Ed Balls.

According to the NF's website, the meeting with Mr Smith took place in November. "Ed Balls is seriously looking into banning National Front Members as well as members of other nationalist parties from being teachers," wrote NF press officer Tom Linden.

"I felt it was also important to point out that a teacher who was a member of the National Front would be as 'professional' as any other."

A spokesman for the Schools Department said: "Maurice Smith is independent of government and how he collects evidence for his review is totally up to him.

"But any report that ignored certain views could be seen as unfair and biased."

Last updated: 4:57pm, March 4 2010