Michael Gove’s Bibles for schools ‘ignore needs of disabled students’
In previous news we discussed Michael Gove’s move to send a Bible to every state-funded primary and secondary school in England, not only has it been criticised by non-religious groups, branded a “vanity project” and called a waste of hundreds of thousands of pounds, but it now has new critics: special schools.
According to the website Political Scrapbook, there have been complaints that the Bibles have been sent out to schools with no consideration of the needs of disabled students. Critics argue that schools with children who have visual impairments and dexterity problems are finding the Bibles impossible to use.
A source told the website that the entire project was a mistake. “The small print means students with sight problems can’t read it, while the thin paper rules it out for many students with physical disabilities. Why didn’t they consult with special schools?”
In his covering letter to head teachers, the education secretary wrote: “I believe it is important that all pupils … should appreciate this icon, and its impact on our language and democracy.” But the materials provided with the Bibles – which cost £370,000 to send to schools – made no reference to accessibility or special educational needs.
A Department for Education spokeswoman said the department was supporting Dyslexia Action and the Royal National Institute of Blind People to develop a service providing digital versions of texts so schools could adapt them for use by making the print larger, changing colours of text or backgrounds for dyslexic pupils, or changing them to audio files.
She said the aim of the project was to give every pupil the opportunity “to understand the profound impact the King James Bible has had on our culture, history, language, literature and democracy”.
She added: “There is a large range of multimedia support materials online that will help schools bring the text alive for all children, including those with special educational needs. Teachers are skilled at adapting and presenting material to suit the needs of pupils whatever their learning difficulty.”
Gove’s plan to send copies of the Bible to schools across England has already been criticised by non-religious groups, which said schools would already have Bibles and suggested the money could have been better spent, while others suggested the move was a vanity project, with each Bible marked “presented by the secretary of state for education”. Gove said the scheme was funded by philanthropists and it was important to mark the 400th anniversary of a “literary masterpiece”.