The dreaded ‘elf & safety

The Secondary school in my county division is named The Warriner School.  It is well regarded as a quality rural school but its real claim to fame is to have a 115 acre school farm attached to it.  This is used as a real learning resource to teach children academic, vocational and life skills.

I have decided to allocate the whole of my Councillor’s Community Budget of £10,000 to the Warriner School Farm.  Children attending all schools in my Division have access to this resource and I have seen what a wonderful facility it is both educationally, vocationally and in terms of building confidence and life skills in the children who go there.

I am sorry to say that the money will be spent on satisfying the ‘elf & safety brigade who had insisted on a whole range of measures that sound to me as if they are trying to prevent the children from coming into contact with the realities of farm life.  However, faced with the choice of not funding this and seeing the School Farm restricted in what it can do or shelling out the money to keep the ‘elf & safety brigade at bay, I am quite clear that I need to support the school.

Here is my final comment on the bid form that I have signed off to allocate this funding:    I deeply regret the School Farm has had to find such a large sum to satisfy the ‘elf & safety brigade.  I believe children will learn about life by falling into cattle excrement once in a while, by tramping through and falling into mud once in a while and by coming into contact with the reality of animals as food and the reality of nature.  However, I believe the work of the Warriner School Farm is hugely valuable and I trust them to minimise the insidious influence of the ‘elf & safety brigade and to ensure the children who enjoy the Farm will learn that meat comes from living animals and not in plastic pre-packs; that learning can be achieved in a farmyard as well as in a sanitised classroom; and will worry less about taking home a little cow dung on the sole of their shoes than the ‘elf & safety brigade give them or their parents credit for.

While writing about the School Farm, I see some local lefties are trying to make a political point at the expense of our hard working MP, Tony Baldry.  The Coalition government has recently changed the way in which schools are funded, taking away some of the flexibility that local councils used to have.  As a consequence, the council can no longer provide a special school farm grant out of the funding from government for schools.  This will mean a loss of some £40,000 to the farm starting from 2013/14.  However, the outcome of the formula changes is to increase the overall funding for The Warriner School by £74,822 pa.  The schools is, therefore, a net winner.  Local lefties have been harping on about “cuts” to the school and have called on our local MP to make good the cut in School Farm Grant by writing out a cheque from his own pocket.  When you remember we are in this terrible financial mess both as a country and as local government because the Labour Party spent money it did not have in every one of its 13 years in government you may agree with me that it takes some real brass neck to ignore this and to bang on about “cuts” to the school when it is, in fact facing an increase in its overall resourcing.    

About Keith R Mitchell CBE

Qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 1967. Pursued a successful career in financial training and publishing until selling his interests in 1990. Elected a County Councillor for the Bloxham Division in 1989. Leader of Oxfordshire County Council 5 November 2001 to 15 May 2012. Chairman of the South East England Regional Planning Committee July 2002 to July 2005. Chairman of the South East England Regional Assembly July 2005 to July 2008. In HM the Queen’s 2007 Birthday Honours, appointed a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in recognition of services to local government.
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