STUDENTS, activists and politicians thundered in to Stroud to get their messages across to Education Minister Michael Gove this afternoon.
As some Marling and Stroud High School for Girls students left for the day, more than 100 picked up their placards and joined Labour, Green Party and Stroud Against the Cuts members to form a protest reception party in Cainscross Road.
Very few met with the Minister, who was at the boys grammar which was recently rated as “outstanding” by Ofsted and benefited from a £3.7million refurbishment in the past six months.
Many were concerned at proposals for a free Steiner school in Stroud, which Labour party members fear could hit existing schools with surplus places hard.
“Before any free school is granted we always want to know what the impact will be on other school,” said Mr Gove, who was accompanied by Stroud MP Neil Carmichael. “Sometimes we allow them when parents want a particular type of school.”
However he said one in four applications succeed and he was listening to arguments from both sides in Stroud.
Although they didn’t get the chance to meet him face to face, some disruption was created, as police guarded the science laboratory where he met staff and students, and members of the media were shuttled from one venue to another around the school in an apparent attempt to evade the protesters.
Despite slipping in to the school unnoticed, he couldn’t have failed to have heard some of the protesters’ chants of “Gove Home”.
When asked if he would meet them, he said they were welcome to arrange a trip to the House of Commons through Mr Carmichael.
“They (the student protesters) are part of a fantastic school,” he said. “I remember being a teenager myself and it’s part of what growing up is all about.”
Blackadder’s Captain Darling, Tim McInnerny, was educated at Marling and Mr Gove created controversy this week, accusing “left-wing academics” of using Blackadder Goes Forth as a propaganda tool for teaching children about the First World War.
He sought to calm the waters on that front.
“I’m a great fan of Stephen Fry and Tim McInnerny is a very fine actor,” he said. “I did not know he was an old boy of Marling School. I thought the argument (about how the First World War is taught) deserved a wider airing.”
Mr Gove visited Bournside School and Sixth Form Centre in Cheltenham earlier in the day when he said he wouldn’t want to “inflict” himself on primary school pupils after he was asked if he would grant a petition request demanding he gain first-hand experience on the teaching front line.