The dangers which Peter Wilby points out (Does Gove realise he is empowering future dictators?, 31 January) were recognised 70 years ago. Unfortunately secretaries of state know very little history. The Oxford historian Dr Marjorie Reeves, when invited to be on the Central Advisory Council For Education (England) in 1946, was told by the permanent secretary, John Redcliffe-Maud, that the main duty of council members was “to be prepared to die at the first ditch as soon as politicians try to get their hands on education”.
A war had been fought to prevent the consequences of such concentrated power. The 1944 Education Act, hammered out during the war years, created a “maintained system” of education as a balance of power between central government, local government responsibility, the voluntary bodies (mainly the churches) and the teachers. That balance is now disappearing fast, without the public debate it needs and with hardly a squeak from Labour. The existing education legislation refers to the fast-disappearing “maintained schools”, leaving academies and free schools exposed, without the protection of the law, to whatever whimsical ideas are dreamt up by the present or future secretaries of state, to whom they are contracted with minimal accountability to parliament.
Professor Richard Pring
Green Templeton College, Oxford
• The removal of 3,100 vocational subjects from the school performance tables from 2014 (Report, 31 January) has major implications. It is certainly the case that “perverse incentives” were created by the league tables to use soft options to boost school league table positions – the phenomenon known as gaming. However, the cull to 70 accepted vocational subjects, with 55 allowed on the margins, essentially destroys vocational and technical education. Given that the old basis is the one for the current (2012 and 2013) tables, a whole raft of students are on worthless courses.