Alan Dee: Isn’t Gove’s good book gift just ghastly?

PARENTS, do you fret about the standards at your little darling’s school? Have you been unsettled by this week’s industrial action that is surely evidence of a deep morale malaise affecting our nation’s educators?

Are you fed up with all those embarrassed begging letters from the head teacher asking for yet another contribution to help balance the books and provide the little extras of school life?

Worry not, education secretary Michael Gove has a handle on all these problems and more, and he’s got a spiffing idea to take everyone’s mind off it – he’s going to ship a brand new copy of a 400-year-old book to every state school in the land, and he’s convinced that the estimated £375,000 this will cost is a proper use of public money.

The book in question, you may or may not be disturbed to hear, is the King James Bible, a landmark tome and no mistake but hardly the most relevant piece of reading matter for today’s youngsters.

And as an additional benefit, our Michael – that’s him in the picture – is going to pen a little introduction explaining why he’s done it – a little bit of legacy planning, if you like, which might come in handy when he eventually gets to the Pearly Gates and has to answer some awkward questions.

So here are a few questions for the class: How many schools are there that haven’t got a copy of the Bible knocking around, or could quickly lay hands on one at short notice? How many schools are there where the majority of pupils are not of the Christian faith, or of any faith at all? Isn’t this sort of political posturing at the expense of the public purse frankly infuriating?

If you answered yes to the last one, you are surely not alone.

In my privileged position as life partner of an education professional, I have been privy to all sorts of inside info about the way money has been poured into sundry black holes in the education sector in recent years.

The constant chopping and changing has cost millions, of course, but the initiative that sticks most in my mind was the project to equip every teacher with a laptop for all sorts of obvious reasons.

A good idea, up to a point. But at the time the Dee household was in proud if slightly puzzled possession of three laptops and two PCs, and there were only four of us.

Mrs Dee was already ahead of the game in using modern technology, and tried to decline the generous offer. Don’t need it, she said, give it to someone who will use it. No way – everyone had to have a laptop, whether they needed one or not. Hers is still sitting, unused, in the corner.

That also seems to be the philosophy with this Bible nonsense.

It’s designed purely to play to the Tory faithful and will be trotted out in speeches to show how much the government cares about our cultural traditions and Christian values – but I can guarantee that just about every copy that turns up at schools across the land will be stuck on a shelf and never opened.

And that, of course, will be a waste of a good book as well as a waste of public money