Gove’s times get harder

This morning I posted about Education Secretary Michael Gove’s decision to axe its funding for Bookstart, a scheme designed to ensure that school-age children have access to free books.

In the face of a public furore led by Philip Pullman and Andrew Motion, the Education Department appears to have climbed down:

But in a joint statement, the Department for Education (DFE) and Booktrust said that the DFE would now continue to finance the programme which benefits 3.3 million children a year in England.

“The Department for Education and Booktrust are determined to ensure that reading for pleasure is a gift every child can enjoy. That is why the DFE will continue to fund Booktrust book-gifting programmes in the future,” the statement said.

“Although the current contract will end in April the department is talking to Booktrust about how to develop a new programme which will ensure that every child can enjoy the gift of books at crucial moments in their lives while ensuring we develop an even more effective way of supporting the most disadvantaged families to read together.

“The department and Booktrust will be working together, with publishers, in order to ensure that we can make every possible saving in developing an enhanced programme.”

The apparent U-turn comes hard on the heels of Education Secretary Michael Gove’s hurried retreat over plans to axe funding for the School Sports Partnership scheme in England, which had been slated to close.

It’s not a complete climbdown, of course. Questions still need to be resolved about the level of funding and the operation of the scheme, and the announcement contains no guarantees about funding so it’s a bit early to claim victory. But it demonstrates two things – first, what the Coalition’s natural instincts are when it comes to encouraging literacy and, second, that Gove’s stewardship of the Education Department is a complete shambles. It would be interesting to know who has sat on whom to bring about this Boxing Day U-turn.

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