‘Trojan Horses’ and Policing ‘Extremism’ in Schools

June 7, 2014 in Blog

School class

What happens in a secular schooling system when, free from ‘the shackles’ of elected local government, parents exercise the choice the state gives them and their school chooses to reflect its community’s aspirations in the way it caters for the “spiritual, moral, social and cultural development” of children? What happens when the community that school serves is predominantly Muslim, even though the school is not a faith-based school?

The intriguing ‘Trojan Horse’ school debacle in Birmingham is set to run and run. What is extraordinary about it, however, is the fact that although it says more about the unmanageable shambles that is schooling provision in the country right now, than about Islamic extremism in schools, however that’s defined, there is very little comment about this aspect of the whole sorry saga.

The first and most obvious thing to be said is that Park View School is an Academy, a Mathematics and Science Academy, in Alum Rock, a socially deprived area of Birmingham with a largely Muslim population. As such, it enjoys the unrestricted powers of any other Academy, including the right to set its own curriculum and not follow the National Curriculum. It is not a denominational school like the Jewish, Roman Catholic and Church of England schools to be found in many a city in England, but its student population is predominantly Muslim.

The second obvious thing to be said is that, like any predominantly Christian community, people who call themselves Muslim do not all believe the same things, behave in the same ways or have the same expectations of schooling. Christians vary widely in their views about salvation, gender and gender subordination, wealth, social justice, sex education, sexual conduct, same sex relationships, crime and punishment, and much else besides. So do Muslims.

What, then, is Michael Gove’s and Ofsted’s definition of ‘Islamic extremism’? Read the rest of this entry →

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 →

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 →

Free schools failing on equalities, new research shows

November 9, 2013 in Blog, Gus in the Media, Press Releases

Fenton Classroom, by Wolfram Burner (Flickr)

Fenton Classroom, by Wolfram Burner (Flickr)

Race on the Agenda (ROTA) has published new research that shows that free schools are failing to comply with statutory requirements on equality.

The research appears soon after the recent Ofsted inspection of the Al-Madinah free school in Derby, which found that statutory requirements, including those on equality, were not being met.

The Equality Act 2010 requires all schools, including free schools, to fulfil the public sector equality duty. By 6 April 2012, all schools should have published information to demonstrate their compliance with the duty, and should have published one or more specific and measurable equality objectives. Read the rest of this entry →

Educating the British: Gove, choice and free schools

October 25, 2013 in Blog

"Deputy PM and Education Secretary visit Durand Academy" by Cabinet Office (Flickr - CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

“Deputy PM and Education Secretary visit Durand Academy” by Cabinet Office (Flickr – CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Much has been made about the spat between deputy prime minister Nick Clegg and education secretary Michael Gove regarding the latter’s plan to liberate Free Schools and increase their numbers by authorising them to employ non-qualified teachers and set their own curriculum.

Michael Gove will have us believe that in order to raise standards and improve school effectiveness such that Britain can outshine its G8 neighbours in economic competitiveness, schools and those who run them should be ‘free’ from the shackles of locally elected representatives of the people whom we charge with the responsibility to ensure that every child matters and that there is a good school for every child in every community, capable of delivering to every child their educational entitlement in accordance with International Human Rights Law.

Nick Clegg, on the other hand, believes that ‘it makes no sense to have qualified teacher status if only a few schools have to employ qualified teachers’ and that free schools should have to stick to the national curriculum and provide school meals ‘that meet standards set by the Government’. Read the rest of this entry →