Teachers preparing for a return to school later this week expressed themselves flabbergasted by a Government decision to ban childhood classic, “The Silver Sword”, by Ian Serraillier, from reading lists this autumn.
A spokesman for the Department of Education explained: “It is true that we may, in the past have given the impression that the Silver Sword was a heart-warming tale of human endurance in the face of adversity – and that the story, of a family fleeing their homes in war-ravaged Poland, bravely making their way across Europe, to Switzerland, where parents and children are re-united and find refuge, was somehow to be encouraged.
“Whereas, in light of recent events in Calais and elsewhere in Europe, we now realise that this view was hopelessly naive and on all counts to be discouraged.
“We are particularly concerned that one of the characters in this book regularly consorts with black marketeers and is involved in criminal activity: the fact that this is carried out in order to prevent his family from starving appears to be a thinly disguised attempt to excuse anti-social behaviour.”
Respect for authority
They added: “We were additionally disturbed by an incident in which one of the children shoots at a member of the Gestapo.
“This may have been considered acceptable conduct in 1956 when the book was first published: however, it is our considered opinion that opening fire on representatives of the State – even where that state is Nazi Germany – gives out the wrong message about the proper attitude to authority and may well fall foul of current guidelines on extremism and radicalisation.”