Schools out of Tottenham Palestine Literary Festival

Eight schools pulled out of a literary festival organised by pro-Palestinian campaigners after Education Secretary Michael Gove intervened.

Pupils from the primary schools in the north London boroughs of Haringey and Islington were due to attend workshops led by anti-Israel activists at the Tottenham Palestine Literary Festival last weekend.

They were to have been encouraged to write about "children under occupation" and to examine "the themes of human rights" through rap, poetry and short story-writing.

But their schools pulled out after Mr Gove wrote to headteachers giving them an ultimatum to withdraw or explain how their participation complied with the schools' statutory duty to present the youngsters with a "balanced presentation of opposing political views".

The planned participation of the children in the festival – organised by the Haringey Justice for Palestinians branch of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign – had been criticised by the Board of Deputies.

Both Haringey Council and Islington Council had encouraged their schools to reconsider the plans to take part.

A Department for Education spokesman said all the schools had responded to Mr Gove's letter confirming their pupils would no longer attend.

Last updated: 4:04pm, October 3 2011