THE most striking feature of the Conservative leadership contest has been the virulent spread of Boris Derangement Syndrome. Those infected make increasingly outlandish claims, a recent example being ‘Headteacher blasts “racist” Boris Johnson for helping fuel school bullying crisis’.
That arresting headline was how the Leftist Huffington Post spun the content of a letter sent last week by Andy Byers, head of Framwellgate School, a state secondary in Durham, to all parents.
My blog this week is a letter I never thought I would have to write (copy below too ?) Please share https://t.co/ZbdyBZJ810 @fram_official @FSDSixth @humanutopia @Ed_Dorrell @tes pic.twitter.com/yMIDyZEVYC
— Andy Byers (@Framheadteacher) June 28, 2019
Byers’s bulletin had the laudable aim of preventing bullying amongst pupils. However, he soon overreached: ‘It is an inescapable fact that students are exposed to some abhorrent and unpleasant views’ – a phenomenon for which the school head blames ‘our political leaders, perhaps the worst we have ever seen, [who] espouse many of the things we are teaching students to be wrong’.
The first named culprit, naturally, was Donald Trump, for having ‘publicly mocked a disabled journalist and boasted about sexual violence against a woman’. Byers then indicted ‘our possible next prime minister [who] has made Islamophobic remarks about the burka and, according to the news, racist comments about the French’. And to be fair, Corbyn also copped it for ‘allowing those members and MPs who are anti-Semitic to remain within the party’.
Andy Byers is entitled privately to hold all of these views. But a letter to parents is no place for a school head to flaunt his political opinions and prejudices – particularly his hugely contentious statement that ‘Nigel Farage, and a depressing number of politicians, have stoked up hatred of immigrants to justify their Brexit ideals’.
The head again lazily linked leaving the EU to xenophobia and racism when he was interviewed by Stephen Nolan on BBC 5 Live (from 1:17:00). Asked why his rogues’ gallery includes Farage, Byers’s rather garbled explanation inevitably included ‘that poster’, plus ‘use of language that suggests immigration is too high’ and ‘an implication that immigrants somehow are a problem in society’.
In his overbearing letter to parents, Andy Byers had complained of there being ‘hatred . . . streamed into households daily’; from his radio interview, this enmity includes Nigel Farage daring simply to suggest that ‘immigration is too high’. Byers’s epistle also damned ‘some parents who share and agree with these views or leave them unchallenged’.
Byers further lamented that the offspring of these unreconstructed parents ‘hear no counter argument, other than at school’. You can bet that any non-PC opinion will indeed be contradicted at school, especially at Framwellgate where the haughty head sternly lectured: ‘If you are a parent who thinks I am over-reacting or who finds the views or actions of Trump, Johnson, Corbyn or Farage in relation to minority groups acceptable, then I am concerned. I doubt I am able to change your views but I need you to know that these are being passed on to your children.’
Of course a school head is entitled to expect that his pupils are raised to be respectful of others. But let Byers beware that he far exceeds his authority when urging parents to inculcate politically correct values, including the notion that immigration brings unalloyed joy and is a boundless benefit. Andy Byers’s threat to parents that he ‘won’t hesitate to report concerns to the police, particularly when I believe there to be suspicion of a hate crime’ was downright sinister.
He stops short of calling it a hate-crime, but Byers does accuse those Brexit Party MEPs who shunned the EU’s ‘anthem’ of setting a bad example. Perhaps the ‘right message’ for his students were the LibDem MEPs in ‘B****cks to Brexit’ T-Shirts? On that he makes no comment; however, we do know that for this school head the symbolic protest against a supranational bureaucracy lacked ‘tolerance and respect’.
Schools have a statutory duty to promote the British Values of tolerance and respect. This is why I’m concerned that our students aren’t getting the right messages from some of our politicians. These MEPs are turning their backs on children! https://t.co/3y6o9jVG8k
— Andy Byers (@Framheadteacher) July 2, 2019
For publicising his anti-Brexit sentiment, perhaps arrogant Andy drew inspiration from his recent reading. A month ago the Framwellgate head tweeted that he ‘Can’t recommend this book enough’. The title Byers acclaimed was How To Be Right . . . in a World Gone Wrong, the personal manifesto of lofty liberal and rabid Remainer James O’Brien, possibly Britain’s most bumptious man.
— Andy Byers (@Framheadteacher) June 8, 2019
James O’Brien and Andy Byers: the cocksure commentator and his Framwellgate fan-boy, each deserving of the other.