Labour’s shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt banned from school over Redbridge Council ‘bias’ concerns
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The council has defended banning shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt from visiting a school over concerns about ”political bias”.
The Labour chief was due to visit Woodbridge High School in Saint Barnabas Road, Woodford Green, on Monday after being invited by the party’s Ilford North candidate Wes Streeting – who is also deputy leader of the council.
But the visit was cancelled at the last minute after Redbridge Council stepped in – with organisers taking Mr Hunt straight to KidsOwn nursery in Maybank Road, South Woodford.
Mr Streeting said: “Although we had a great visit to KidsOwn to talk about early years and childcare, I’m disappointed that Woodbridge High School didn’t get the chance to showcase their fantastic language provision to the man who might be the education secretary in four weeks’ time.”
Purdah – the period immediately before elections – started on March 30 with the dissolution of parliament.
During this time, councils must “not publish any material which, in whole or in part, appears to be designed to affect public support for a political party”, according to government guidance.
But Mr Streeting said: “Politicians from all parties are visiting schools across the country – including local authority maintained schools. I don’t see why Redbridge has to be different, but at least people know I don’t expect or receive any special treatment as a member of the council.”
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He added he hoped to take Mr Hunt to the school “as the next education secretary”.
Conservative candidate Lee Scott confirmed he had not visited any schools during purdah.
“I thought during the election, if any politician was speaking to a sixth form group others had to be given the same chance,” he added.
A council spokeswoman said: “We were made aware of the visit on Monday and advised the school of our pre-election guidance around visits such as these, issued to reflect the secretary of state’s current guidance on political publicity.
“The school was concerned about breaching this guidance due to publicity surrounding the visit and acted accordingly.
“It is vitally important that during the pre-election period the council and local authority maintained schools are taking all necessary steps to ensure there is no political bias.”