Elections and Politics in Schools
Types of Maintained School

Elections and Politics in Schools

Political education is very close to political indoctrination and Parliament has been worrying about the political indoctrination of school children since 1986. Here is what Nick Hancox said about it in The Law of Education, paragraph A [1370]:

Politics at school
Political indoctrination in maintained schools is banned and junior pupils (Year 6 and below) may not become involved in partisan political activities at all (Education Act 1996, section 406). Maintained schools must present political issues (both in school and in extra-curricular or out-of-school activities) in a way which offers a balanced presentation of opposing views (Education Act 1996, section 407. See also the Court decision in
Dimmock v Secretary of State for Education and Skills [2007], concerning the distribution to schools of the DVD called An Inconvenient Truth).

This law does not apply at independent schools, nor in fact at Academies, although in both cases, the people funding the school might well have strong views on the matter.

Does it mean that high schools can ban their pupils from standing in a mock general election as a BNP or Stalinist candidate? No it does not mean that. (Although a ban of one or more extremist 'parties' might well be lawful in a school election, if the ban can be shown to be politically 'balanced'.) What it means is that if somebody does put forward an extreme point of view, than the pupils need also to hear the opposite view.

Balance is what it is all about; balance instead of indoctrination.

Types of Maintained School

As Nicholas Hancox wrote in the Glossary of Butterworths' Law of Education, There are very many separate (and often different) statutory definitions of "maintained school". Most often, a "maintained school" is a community, foundation, voluntary controlled, voluntary aided, community special or foundation special school, (see s 20 School Standards and Framework Act 1998), but other definitions exclude special schools and some include either "maintained nursery schools", or "pupil referral units" or both.

Academies and Free Schools are not " maintained schools", even though they are funded almost entirely by the state. Academies and Free Schools are largely independent of their local authority and funded by the DfE through the Education Funding Agency.

The Narrative of Butterworths' Law of Education adds:

"Clearly, most schools can be and are categorised in several different ways. A school with a big sign outside that says "Avenue School" may not be telling the visitor much, but the categorisation exists nevertheless. "Avenue School" may be a co-educational voluntary aided primary school, or a boys' community grammar school for 11 to 18 year olds or a foundation middle school operating in a federation with two local primary schools, or almost any other combination of categories. One easy way to find out is to find the school's status on the local authority, Ofsted or DfE websites. The local authority's composite admissions prospectus ought also to give the answer and the school's Instrument of Government certainly will.
Many educational institutions are not "schools" at all. The London School of Economics provides Higher Education. The Nottingham Law School is part of a University. Pupil referral units provide education to children of compulsory school age, but are, for most purposes, not schools. Further Education Colleges teach 14 year olds some of the time, but that does not make them "schools".