Campaigners for sport and common sense secured something of a victory in forcing something of a U-turn when Schools Secretary Michael Gove foolishly took the axe to the excellent School Sports Partnerhips brought in by the last excellent government.
Now Gove has got his axe out again and come out with another foolish move, namely the scrapping of the government grant to the excellent (I am feeling in excellent mode today) Bookstart charity which delivers a pack of books to children just after birth, just before starting school, and again before starting secondary school.
The scheme costs the government £13m, which sounds a lot if you are talking about a footballer’s annual salary, but in a department like Mr Gove’s is roughly akin to what you will find down the side of the cushions on the sofas.
Yet such is their antipathy to the idea of the State pretty much doing anything that when George Osborne asked for Gove for cuts, he could not resist either sport or books. And, to remind you, he is in charge of education.
There was a theory developed over school sport that Gove never much liked it himself, which is why he just does not get it. Fair to say he does not exactly exude athleticism. But I wonder if his own experience is not also behind this latest move. Mr Gove reads a lot. His children read a lot. I know that because I have met them – at a book festival. Now for a child to traipse round Cheltenham Festival they have to be interested in books, and fair play to them, and to their parents.
But surely Mr Gove knows that not all households are as bookish as his, not all children have the same access to books as his do, and not all parents are as seized of the importance of books as he is. So why, for the sake of £13m, is he scrapping one of those schemes that does a lot of good and very little harm that I can detect?
Throw in their approach to tuition fees, so-called free schools, and the scrapping of EMAs, and you do wonder whether they are not determined to build an education system for the few and not the many, and that they will actually be raher proud of it when they do. All very odd. As for where the Lib Dems have been on this one, those great fighters for progressive causes, fighting from within, yes, you might well ask.
Anyway the campaign is under way and if you want to know more about The Bookstart charity go to http://www.bookstart.org.uk/about-us The campaign twitter account seems to have taken off too at twitter.com/savebookstart. Good luck to all who get involved.