Panic over ‘Islamists’ in Birmingham schools is blatant racism

April 26, 2014 in Gus in the Media, Print

The following article was published by Socialist Worker on April 22nd, 2014.

A wave of Islamophobic panic has followed claims that “Islamists” are plotting to take over Birmingham schools.

And in the wake of the controversy, hated schools inspectorate Ofsted has been accused of telling some of the schools they will be failed for “not teaching anti-terrorism”.

Park View is one school being probed over claims of ‘Islamist plot’

Parkview is one school being probed over claims of ‘Islamist plot’

The claims of a “takeover” were detailed in an anonymous letter sent to Birmingham council last year. It refers to the alleged plot as “Operation Trojan Horse”.

Teachers and governors say the letter has sparked a rash of sensationalist reporting in the press that bears no relation to reality.

Even Labour’s shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt jumped into the fray. He welcomed the investigation into the “so called Trojan Horse conspiracy” in a speech to the NASUWT teachers’ union conference.

Springfield primary school is one of those included in the Trojan Horse claims. A Daily Telegraph report last Saturday claimed that Ofsted would rate the school as “requiring improvement” following the allegations. Read the rest of this entry →

A tribute to Athelston Winston Best

March 29, 2014 in Blog

It is impossible to speak or write about the British schooling system and its engagement with the post-war Black presence these last 50 years without calling the name, Winston Best, over and over again.  Without doubt, Winston stands in the vanguard of the black working class movement in education and schooling as both an educator and an activist.

Athelston Winston Best. Photo courtesy of the Best family.

Athelston Winston Best. Photo courtesy of the Best family.

Winston (pictured right) was born on 15 August 1930 in Sugar Hill, St Joseph, Barbados, the first of six children of Luther and Lillian Best. Luther was a road builder and Lillian a market trader. Winston was big brother to Eulene, Gloria, Moriah, Lloyd and Owen. Gloria in Canada, Moriah in Brooklyn, Owen in Atlanta, Lloyd in Barbados and Eulene in Ipswich, East Anglia. Winston and later Lloyd came to England, Lloyd returning to Barbados after almost 40 years.

Winston attended Southborough Boys School, Clifton Hill, St Thomas. At that time, only primary schooling was free. Winston’s parents paid for him to attend secondary school. After secondary school, he left and went to work in Curacao where he spent 12 years with Shell doing oil refining. He became very active in labour organisation there with Len and Albert Mason.

Winston was therefore able to assist his parents in paying for his siblings to attend secondary school; he makes particular mention of Lloyd at Cumbermere and Owen at Lodge School. Lodge School was one of the most racially segregated schools in Barbados. Winston acknowledged that Patrick Simmons, former Barbados High Commissioner in England, was one of those who was instrumental in helping to break down what Winston described as the ‘apartheid schooling system’ at Lodge School and in Barbados generally.

In time, Winston took charge of the care of his parents. His mother died in 1984. Mert Pitt, childhood friend of Winston and lifelong friend of the Best family, helped to care for his mother in her twilight years. Read the rest of this entry →

Could you name a British black intellectual, now Stuart Hall has gone?

February 15, 2014 in Gus in the Media, Print

The Guardian newspaper published the article below on 15/02/2014

As a pioneer of cultural studies and coiner of the term “Thatcherism”,Prof Stuart Hall, who died this week, was in the truest sense a public intellectual. He was also something else: probably the only black British intellectual who most people could readily name.

A bit of prompting might produce mention of Paul Gilroy of King’s College, author of The Empire Strikes Back and Black Atlantic, who has recently returned to Britain after several years in America’s more fertile ebony towers. But how many other black British thinkers have a public profile? Read the rest of this entry →

Jamaican Cultural Theorist Stuart Hall Dies, Aged 82

February 10, 2014 in Gus in the Media, Print

Stuart Hall. Photo: The Voice (http://bit.ly/MEM5wE)

Stuart Hall. Photo: The Voice (http://bit.ly/MEM5wE)

JAMAICAN CULTURAL theorist Stuart Hall has died aged 82, according to reports.

Hall, who grew up in Kingston, Jamaica, studied at Oxford and emerged as one of Britain’s leading sociologists.

Last autumn, Hall was brought to the big screen, in The Stuart Hall Project, a documentary and labour of love from acclaimed director John Akomfrah, for whom the academic is a personal hero.

Akomfrah said: “Stuart Hall was one of the few people of colour we saw on television who wasn’t crooning, dancing, or running…he was a kind of rock star for us [black teenage bookworms], a pop icon with brains whose very iconic presence on this most public of platforms – television – suggested all manner of ‘impossible possibilities’.” Read the rest of this entry →

Independence in Schooling, Except from Gove!

February 6, 2014 in Blog

Prime Minister David Cameron and Education Secretary Michael Gove open the new Perry Beeches III Free School. <br/>Credits: Number 10/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Prime Minister David Cameron and Education Secretary Michael Gove open the new Perry Beeches III Free School.
Credits: Number 10/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

There is a stirring in the soul of Michael Gove that does not augur well for the nation’s children and the schools to which parents are legally bound to send them. The Secretary of State appears to want to bombard the schooling system with at least one new policy initiative per week. It would not surprise me, therefore, if his next target is ante-natal clinics and the monitoring data they could produce on children yet unborn.

Michael Gove is clearly fixated on the role of schooling and education in determining Britain’s economic competitiveness in the global market. The view of schooling he projects, therefore, is of children who should be regarded as economic units from birth, whom schools should process into products that can guarantee the nation’s economic competitiveness. The ‘independent sector’, as reconfigured by Gove to include academies, free schools and state maintained schools that would mirror the traditional independents, is clearly considered to be better at honing those economic units than local authorities and the voluntary aided sector could.

But the one issue Mr Gove seems determined not to pronounce upon, other than the market oriented utilitarianism of schooling, is ‘what is education for’? Read the rest of this entry →