Thursday, February 21, 2008

Faith schools to get own inspectorate

It appears that the discernment of the present government is waning, for it is to bestow upon faith schools a new independent inspectorate which will supplant Ofsted. The new body – to be called ‘The Bridge Schools Inspectorate’ - will be responsible for monitoring standards in the schools belonging to the Christian Schools Trust and also those belonging to the Association of Muslim Schools.

Presumably, Christian or Muslim schools which belong to neither will continue to be inspected by Ofsted, which will also be charged with inspecting the inspectors of The Bridge Schools Inspectorate. The argument made in support of the body centred on the need for inspectors to have a special appreciation of the curriculum, traditions and ethos of particular faith schools.

But a scheme which sends ‘religiously sensitive’ inspectors into religious schools is not what the country needs at this time, and it will lead to further religious segregation. While the objective is to ‘contribute to community cohesion’, the proposal is manifestly divisive, and will lead inexorably to Muslim inspectors inspecting Muslim schools, Roman Catholics inspecting Roman Catholic schools, Sikhs inspecting Sikh schools, and Jedi Knights ensuring a fair moderation process. It is noteworthy that a body called The Schools Inspection Service already inspects 26 schools affiliated to Focus Learning Trust (FLT), an umbrella organisation of the Exclusive Brethren. But this was established in quite a different era, before preachers of Islamism became synonymous with subversive views, treason and terrorism, and there is no compulsion to replicate the model to accommodate the present ‘sensitivities’ of other faith groups. Yet this is being deemed an appropriate model for dealing with the burgeoning number of faith schools, even though the Exclusive Brethren are not noted for their aversion to British culture or Western values.

It is true that the Independent Schools Inspectorate inspects most of the 1300 private schools which are affiliated to the Independent Schools Council, but these are set apart by their wealth, not by political or religious ideology. And what is there to appreciate about the curriculum of faith schools when the national curriculum is supposed to be taught by all schools in receipt of state funding? Or are they to be permitted opt-outs from the statutory requirements to promote the Christian faith and heritage of the nation, or the daily act of ‘broadly Christian’ collective worship? Is ‘Citizenship’ to be adapted to accommodate the views of those who wish to dispense with democracy and Parliament and adopt shari’a law?

The chairman of the Commons schools select committee Barry Sheerman MP said that some councils were finding it difficult to know what was going on in some faith schools - especially Muslim schools – and this somehow justified the new inspectorate. But why are they finding it difficult? Why can’t Ofsted carry out spot checks like they do in every other state school? Why can’t the LEA audit and monitor? The Sheerman justification is no justification at all; indeed, ‘specialist’ inspections may make the whole process even more opaque to the kaffir councillors.

Michael Gove MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (was a government department ever so clumsily named?) affirmed the Conservative Party’s commitment to faith schools, but stressed that it was important ‘to ensure that we build a society which is cohesive and make a success of diverse Britain’.

Quite how he intends to do this, he has not yet revealed.

But Cranmer wonders why the term ‘faith school’ only ever seems to refer to Roman Catholic, Jewish or Muslim schools. Why should Church of England schools not also be scrutinised by inspectors sensitive to their unique ethos?


Cranmer has received an email from a helpful communicant relating Hansard on a recent debate between Mr Gove and Secretary of State Mr Ed Balls:

4 Feb 2008 : Parliamentary Debate Children, Schools and Families: Topical Questions
Michael Gove (Surrey Heath) (Con): Last week, the Department gave the Association of Muslim Schools, a group of independent Islamic faith schools, a new right to establish its own separate inspection arrangements, and according to its own website, the association has also received £100,000 in Government funding. But the association's deputy chair, Mr. Ibrahim Hewitt, the head of the Al Aqsa school in Leicester, is on record as saying that

"the word integration doesn't even belong in a true democracy".

He has also called

"political zionism a threat to world peace",

and said of

"zionist control of the media"

that there is no smoke without fire. He has objected to Holocaust memorial day, and he is the UK chairman of Interpal, an organisation under investigation by the Charity Commission following a "Panorama" examination of its links with Hamas. Against that background, does the Secretary of State not think that we need to be more, rather than less, rigorous in policing the growth of separatist Islamism in education?

Ed Balls: Of course we do, and that is why the inspectorate the hon. Gentleman mentions will itself be inspected by Ofsted and come under the tough rules in the Bill now before the House. It is revealing that when we published our children's plan in December, the hon. Gentleman did not make a single reference to any of the issues raised in it, and also that, although he is now publishing his own children's plan, he does not raise the issue of children's policy in the House. That shows what his priorities are.

Michael Gove: I am disappointed by the Secretary of State's partisan tone on this serious issue. We have faced the problems that I have described before. The King Fahad academy, which the hon. Member for Liverpool, Riverside (Mrs. Ellman) referred to, has used textbooks that describe Christians and Jews as pigs and monkeys, and Ofsted has acknowledged that it did not study the details of all the textbooks concerned. Indeed, of 606 visits by inspectors to Muslim faith schools, only 94 have been made public. The Chairman of the Children, Schools and Families Committee has pointed out that we just do not know what is being taught in many Muslim schools. What steps will the Secretary of State take to ensure that we have proper inspections by independent figures who are fluent in the relevant languages and aware of the ideological challenge posed by separatist Islamism?

Ed Balls: That is what our legislation is doing, and the Ofsted oversight of all inspection is the right way to achieve it. We cannot have different rules for different schools; they must all come under one legislative framework. On the instances raised of particular problems in recent months, we have taken action, and so has Ofsted; where action needed to be taken, it was taken. That is what independent inspection is all about. As I have said, it is very revealing that on the day that the hon. Gentleman publishes a flimsy document on children's policy, he and his colleagues have made no reference to it whatever.


Blogger Bob said...

But Cranmer wonders why the term ‘faith school’ only ever seems to refer to Roman Catholic, Jewish or Muslim schools. Why should Church of England schools not also be scrutinised by inspectors sensitive to their unique ethos?

A logical argument could be made that as the Church of England is an established Church, it should follow that all schools in England and Wales, excepting those which adhere to another ethos, would (or at least should) have an Anglican ethos, and that the inspectors appointed by the State would (or at least should) inspect them accordingly. I would assume that the implication isn't that Anglican ethos schools are faithless schools.

21 February 2008 at 10:11  
Anonymous hear o israel said...

your grace
i am greatly encouraged by mr gove and his approach to this matter.
however this inspection mess will not help, we already seem to appreciate that multiculturialism does not create the peacefull appeasement that was promised.
it also seems to foster a very different set of british values,when these children grow up how much longer before arabic is to be on equal terms in the class room to english in order to maintain eqality , perhaps road signs will soon have to have arabic content.

by all means the it says in the bible that you should show kindness to the forienger , however it seems quoran has very little on how to live in country with a long established christian foundations.

i have seen some muslims schools that seem more like the madrasas , christian schools do not ensure that the bible is known off by heart , nor do they teach that that islam is bad .

as muslim school on the other hand if the quoran is taught to be learnt off by heart will indeed know where the christians place is .

as there point of origin of history is different did the battle of hastings occure in 1066 or 1466 .

just how sensative can it be in these matters without losing accuracy of education or confusion

21 February 2008 at 10:43  
Blogger AethelBald, King of Wessex said...

How much deeper do we have to get into this mess do we have to get before we abandon state funding for all faith schools?

The USA has such a flourishing faith activity as would put all British religious activity in the shade. They also explicitly prohibit government funding of schools that do religion. Those here who object to this simple and effective idea, which really works, are either lazy or thick.

Faith: It's not about the money.

Unless it is.

21 February 2008 at 10:56  
Blogger Bob said...

Those here who object to this simple and effective idea, which really works, are either lazy or thick.

As opposed to those who make sweeping generalisations who are invariably hyper-intelligent and enlightened souls...

21 February 2008 at 11:13  
Anonymous najistani said...



Muslim school 'that taught pupils from race hate textbooks made photocopies after order to shred them'

A prestigious Islamic school in London was forced to shred 2,000 textbooks used to poison pupils' minds with lessons of hate, a former teacher claimed yesterday.

Colin Cook, who taught English at the King Fahad Academy for 18 years, told a tribunal how "incompetent" Ofsted inspectors reported that the school's teaching of Islamic studies was "mostly good".

But their report was wildly inaccurate, he said, because pupils as young as five were being taught by rote from Arabic textbooks describing Jews as "monkeys" and Christians as "pigs".

Colin Cook outside the Saudi school which sacked him for misconduct

Mr Cook said that when he exposed the racist teaching, the school's head Dr Sumaya Alyusuf lied on television, insisting that hateful passages had never been taught.

Under public pressure the Academy eventually agreed to destroy 2,000 books but photocopied them first for future use, he told the tribunal.

The school, in Acton, West London, opened in 1985 for the children of Saudi diplomats and is funded and controlled by the Saudi government.

Its 1,250 pupils have included the five children of jailed claw-handed cleric Abu Hamza and those of Abu Qatada, who was said to be Osama Bin Laden's right-hand man in Europe.

Mr Cook, 58, said that when he queried how the preachers could be paying school fees when they were said to be on state benefits, he was told to mind his own business.

Giving evidence to the hearing in Watford, Mr Cook claimed the school was seen as an extension of the Saudi Embassy rather than part of the UK, with Saudi teachers even enjoying diplomatic immunity.

He said some pupils made "inappropriate" remarks about killing Americans and praised the 9/11 attacks.

"When I heard such nonsense I challenged and tried to reason it through with the pupils," he added.

The King Fahad Academy in West London was attended by the five children of infamous Muslim cleric Abu Hamza among others
He said that misbehaviour by Saudi pupils was sometimes overlooked.

A school trip to Arsenal Football Club's museum in December 2005 ended in chaos when some King Fahad pupils chanted "Saudi, Saudi, Saudi" and fought with non-Saudi pupils, Mr Cook told the hearing.

"Apparently we were the first school ever to be thrown out of the museum, which was humiliating. None of the Saudi pupils was challenged over their behaviour by management."

Mr Cook, of Feltham, South London, is claiming unfair dismissal, race discrimination and victimisation, which the school denies.

He was earning £35,000 a year and is seeking £135,000 in compensation for lost earnings, injury to feelings and aggravated damages.

The school has vigorously denied encouraging any form of racial hatred. It insists that the offending passages in the books were "misinterpreted".

After Mr Cook's allegations in February last year, Dr Alyusuf went on BBC2's Newsnight and told presenter Jeremy Paxman that she was aware of the books but refused to withdraw them because they had "good chapters that can be used by the teachers".

Mr Cook told the hearing: "Dr Alyusuf simply lied about her knowledge of the contents of the books and tried to pretend that the books were not taught in the school. She failed to repudiate the racist views expressed in the books.

"The truth is she cannot go against the Saudi ministry of education. She is their puppet."

Mr Cook said the Ofsted inspection in March 2006 failed to identify major issues including parental complaints, unqualified teachers and indiscipline.

He added: "The Ofsted report was very inadequate. This is partly due to what the Academy did not tell the inspectors and partly due to, at best, incompetence by Ofsted."

He says he was sacked on trumpedup grounds in 2006 after he blew the whistle on the school for covering up cheating by pupils in a GCSE exam.

"In any normal workplace, an employee would not be sacked for whistle-blowing or indeed treated as a second-class citizen for not being Saudi Arabian," he said.

"However, as the head of human resources put it, 'This is not England. It is Saudi Arabia'."

He said he had to teach 28 lessons a week when Saudi colleagues had between three and 12. He said that when he realised the school was not going to carry out a proper inquiry into the alleged GCSE cheating, he took his complaints to exam board Edexcel.

The school claimed Mr Cook failed to observe proper procedure and fired him for gross misconduct.

The hearing continues.

21 February 2008 at 11:13  
Blogger AethelBald, King of Wessex said...

those who make sweeping generalisations who are invariably hyper-intelligent

OK. You got the man. I overcooked the rhetoric.

Now see if you can take down the argument.

21 February 2008 at 11:27  
Blogger Snuffleupagus said...

That is because Ofsted does not serve to inspect anything. The public is led to believe that inspectors visit schools to check that all is well. What they forget to tell you is that Ofsted's inspectors are ex-teachers who often could not cut it in the classroom, and all they do is go into schools, read their SEF (Self Evaluation) and confirm that what is on there is true. They spend a couple of days, with 2 inspectors, looking into lessons for 10-15 mins. It is an absolute joke. I must write a blog about this.

So the very concept of 'religiously sensitive' inspectors is nonsensical. No such thing is needed for the inspections that are currently carried out. This is a bluff - again, to fool the public.

My guess is that this is a move to appease the Islamic schools as they are often the most aggrieved. Why not CofE schools? Because they aren't claiming that they are ill-treated, so there is no need to appease them. I am guessing of course but it is as His Grace has suggested - it is about pretending to make Britain more cohesive, when in fact one is making it more divided (not deliberately, but by pandering to the unreasonable demands of some minority communities, thinking that one is helping them).

However Your Grace, I am intrigued as to why you believe it is acceptable to have different inspection boards for the poor and the rich but not for different faiths. Or perhaps I have misunderstood.

21 February 2008 at 11:32  
Blogger mongoose said...

Your Grace will be aware that on the statute book there is the specific criminal offence of inciting racial or ethnic hatred. I wonder is it now time to add "religious"? Personally, I think not. It is surely time for a bit more religious INsensitivity.

I'd rather that we just take out "racial or ethnic" and be satisifed with "inciting hatred".

21 February 2008 at 14:27  
Blogger Homophobic Horse said...

You're reight aethelbald, you are lazy and thick. Getting rid of state funding (though it would be a start, along with the complete abandonment of state education in general) isn't going to stop the problem of Muslims raising their children in an Islamic maner.

21 February 2008 at 15:46  
Anonymous najistani said...

homophobic horse said.."Getting rid of state funding ... isn't going to stop the problem of Muslims raising their children in an Islamic manner."

Spot on! The hate indocrination starts way before school age. Check out this three year old Arab bombino:

Teaching Islam should be classifed as a form of child-abuse.

21 February 2008 at 17:03  
Blogger AethelBald, King of Wessex said...

Homo and the Najster,

Islam is not the only religion of hate. Northern Ireland also has its prize haters, all Christian.

We should abandon state funding of all religious schools. If you are religious, look at America and know that you have nothing to worry about.

Abandon state funding of all schools? I'd have to think about it, but on its face I agree.

Lazy and thick? Homo, you sound like my wife.

21 February 2008 at 20:11  
Blogger Homophobic Horse said...

"Islam is not the only religion of hate. [Such as?] Northern Ireland also has its prize haters, all Christian." [Now you're discussing individuals]

You changed the subject in two sentences. Northern Ireland also has a long running ethnic conflict that the American Irish haven't forgot about. So why are you so desperate to draw an equivalence? You are an egalitarian; being an egalitarian - and therefore radically opposed to reality - you have to wilfully misrepresent and twist facts to create a world view in which all people and groups are equal. Which you demonstrated with your above line.

Condeleeza Rice does this as well. She said in Baghdad that "America had a long road to democracy as well." Grrreat. Only 200 years to go.

21 February 2008 at 20:53  
Blogger ultramontane grumpy old catholic said...

Your Grace.

Aethelbald King of Wessex has raised the issue about the need for faith schools and says that it would be sensible to abandon state funding for them.
That would be akin to nationalisation of schools as Voluntary Aided schools are owned by their trustees (which normally the local diocese).

It is true that in the US, the schools do not 'do' religion. But in the UK, we have a different tradition. Until 1870, the Churches provided all the education for children.
Even as late as 1939, Church schools educated about one third of all children. In 1944, the Education Act offered a partnership whereby the state would provide part funding in lieu of a measure of control.
My own grammar school was holding out against that in the late '50s, but eventually got into line. The grant from the LEA for new buildings and repairs can be up to 90%.
This will make Aethelbald splutter into his mead, but 10% is not a sum to be sneezed at and in the past it used to be 50%.

As a Roman Catholic I want to have the opportunity to have my children or grandchildren educated in an RC ethos. If the government put the squeeze on and we had to raise extra funds, so be it. It would make the Faith stronger, but would also marginalise Catholics in the UK.
I would have thought society has a big enough problem as it is. A sweet solution would be to adopt the voucher scheme that has been used with success in Sweden and is interesting the Conservatives. Nulabour of course wont touch it with a bargepole as they would lose their control.

As for the main point which prompted Your Grace's comments, the idea of specialist religiously sensitive inspectors focused on specific faith schools is dangerous and is has echoes of the stories we are getting about the Police being culturally sensitive to honour killings.
If the Offstead team is a good mix of all faiths and none and the team members work well together and are professional about it, there should not be an overall problem.

21 February 2008 at 21:40  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your Grace, OT but you may be encouraged to visit Certainly its authors,'Hope Man' and 'Peace Man', deserve encouragement.

21 February 2008 at 21:49  
Blogger AethelBald, King of Wessex said...

ultramontane grumpy old catholic said...

As a Roman Catholic I want to have the opportunity to have my children or grandchildren educated in an RC ethos. If the government put the squeeze on and we had to raise extra funds, so be it. It would make the Faith stronger, but would also marginalise Catholics in the UK.

Something fundamental is in the balance here.

.. voucher scheme ... Nulabour of course wont touch it with a bargepole...

I think it's the teacher unions driving this one and what a sad lot they are. But this doesn't get around the issue of state-funded religious ethos inculcation, which is fundamentally what is at issue here. Vouchers are worth a try but they should, in my opinion, only be redeemable at schools that eschew religion. That said, anything that cracks teachers' job-for-life mindset will work for me. Religion is a separate issue.

22 February 2008 at 09:08  

Post a Comment

<< Home

Newer›  ‹Older