WALES’ biggest teaching union yesterday accused a High Court Judge of acting like Big Brother by ruling a film about climate change can only be shown in schools if accompanied by new guidance notes to balance its views.
All schools and colleges in Wales were sent free copies of Al Gore’s film An Inconvenient Truth in a programme backed by the Welsh Assembly Government earlier this year.
A High Court challenge mounted by a parent in England, which also sent out copies of the film, resulted in a ruling yesterday that the film, much acclaimed by environmentalists, could be shown in schools as part of a climate change resource pack, but only if it was accompanied by new guidance notes to balance Mr Gore’s “one-sided” views.
Last night the WAG said it was considering the ruling’s implications, although no similar complaints from parents have been made here.
NUT Cymru campaigns officer Rhys Williams said he was “outraged” by the judge’s ruling which appeared to imply teachers would not support the film with debate.
He said it was inappropriate for a judge to dictate how films or other creative work was taught in schools and that all literature from Shakespeare to Doris Lessing was political.
“This response from the High Court in London is outrageous. It is scary. It’s like the thought police. It’s 1984 arriving in 2007,” he said. “It’s a slap in the face to teachers to suggest they are incapable of chairing a mature discussion to go with showing this film.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate for a judge to say what should be taught in schools and how. The only body that could do that would be the General Teaching Council for Wales.”
Making his ruling, the judge also turned film critic, highlighting “nine scientific errors” in Al Gore’s Oscar-winning documentary. He said some of the errors had arisen in “the context of alarmism and exaggeration” to support the former US Vice-President’s thesis on global warming.
The decision to show the film in secondary schools in England was challenged by father-of-two Stewart Dimmock, a Kent school governor and a member of political group the New Party, who accused the Government of “brainwashing” children with propaganda.
The judge said it might be necessary for the Department of Children, Schools and Families to make clear to teaching staff that some of Mr Gore’s views were not supported or promoted by the Government, and there was “a view to the contrary”.
He said he had viewed the film and described it as “a powerful, dramatically presented and highly professionally produced film”.
When the judge indicated last week what his findings were likely to be, Children’s Minister and Cardiff West MP Kevin Brennan said, “The judge’s decision is clear, that schools can continue to use An Inconvenient Truth as part of their teaching on climate change in accordance with the amended guidance. We have updated the accompanying guidance, as requested by the judge, to make it clearer for teachers as to the stated IPCC position on a number of scientific points raised in the film.
“However, it is important to be clear that the central arguments put forward in An Inconvenient Truth, that climate change is mainly caused by man-made emissions of greenhouse gases and will have serious adverse consequences, are supported by the vast weight of scientific opinion.
“Nothing in the judge’s comments today detract from that.”
Last night a WAG spokesman said, “We are currently considering the implications of the ruling. A copy of the film was provided to schools and colleges in Wales as part of a climate change resource pack.
“The resource pack contained a clear statement drawing attention to requirements under section 406 and 407 of the Education Act 1996 and the need to present the material in a non partisan manner and to highlight areas of debate on climate change.
“The resource pack also included lesson plans and suggestions of other activities that pupils can undertake in relation to climate change. The pack specifically included activities that aim to stimulate discussion on different points of view on the issue of climate change.”