Monday, 9 June 2014

Birmingham affair reinforces need for accountability through LAs

Today's  report on Birmingham schools has revealed many contradictions but the one that strikes me most is that some of the most serious allegations are about an academy school which of course is allowed to ignore the national curriculum and exercise its own 'freedom from local authority control'.

Ignoring that Gove is to require all schools to promote 'British values' that could easily become, given Gove's record on history become 'Gove values' or 'Daily Mail' values. Poor kids, but not far away from some of Katharine Birbalsingh's comments about what will be promoted at her Micheala Free School.

I welcome then the calm and balanced comment from Christine Blower, General Secretary of the NUT:
From an unsigned and undated letter has grown this so-called ‘Trojan Horse’ affair. 
The highly inflammatory deployment of an anti-terrorism chief to head up the inquiry, the unprecedented and clearly political inspection of 21 schools by Ofsted, and the public squabble between Theresa May and Michael Gove has not been positive for Birmingham schools and the children they educate. 
There seems to be a redefinition of ‘extremism’ from the Secretary of State for Education, and as yet lots of speculation and not a little hyperbole.
What all this does show is that if schools sever their connection with a local authority, the levers to monitor or effect change available at local level are lost. 
What is clearly needed is local authorities with powers to monitor and support schools, clear national agreement on the importance of Personal, Social, Health and Economic education (PSHE) and the need to promote community cohesion and the aim to create schools in which individuals feel at ease with themselves and are respectful of difference. Knee jerk reactions from government on the basis of personal predilections are not what is required. 
Any issues which arise in a school should be capable of discussion and resolution at a local level and be addressed speedily and proportionately.
The charge of Islamophobia will stick to this affair unless the schools and their wider communities are seen to be engaged in the solution rather than castigated as being the problem.

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