Thursday, June 18, 2015

'Teach British values in schools', says head of Ofsted

The teaching of British values in schools is vital to help prevent pupils being lured abroad to join ISIS, the head of Ofsted said yesterday.

Sir Michael Wilshaw, chief inspector of schools, insisted that young Muslim pupils ‘need to believe that they belong to our society’ and have a future here.  This will help stop them from falling for the promises made by terrorists in Syria and Iraq.

The former headteacher warned that schools which fail to promote British values – such as tolerance for other faiths – will be failed by the watchdog.

He spoke out following the death of 17-year-old Talha Asmal, who beacme Britain’ s youngest suicide bomber. The teenager, from Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, had quit his A-levels to wage holy war in Iraq.

Just days later it emerged that three sisters from Bradford and their nine children – thought to be aged between three and 15 - have joined Islamic State in Syria.

Sir Michael was asked for his reaction to the two controversial cases by LBC radio show presenter, Nick Ferrari, yesterday morning.  He replied: ‘It is worrying and it is shocking. We are inspecting against British values at the moment.

‘When this was introduced by the government, people said to me: is this an extra burden on Ofsted and your HMI and inspectors?’ And I said no. ‘It’s one of the most important things that we do.

‘It’s really important that all schools, whether they are faith or non-faith schools, whether in monocultural communities or not, teach British values: the importance of tolerance, the importance of understanding other cultures and other faiths.

‘And if they don’t do that and they don’t promote tolerance, then we will mark them down and we will fail them as we have done in some cases.’

Sir Michael referred to schools inspected by Ofsted in connection with ‘Trojan Horse’, an alleged plot by hardline Muslims to infiltrate state schools.

It had emerged last October that five Birmingham schools declared as failing by inspectors as part of this probe had still not improved.

Sir Michael said: ‘If you cast your mind back to the Birmingham schools, they were preaching intolerance to those youngsters in those communities and we failed them as a result of that.

‘It’s quite easy actually for inspectors to go in and say: are you teaching about the predominant faith in your school and others?

‘Are you teaching about the importance of tolerating other people and other cultures? Are you doing it through your RE lessons?

‘Are you doing it through your PSHE programmes? You can tell very quickly whether a school is doing that or not and if they’re not doing that, they’re going to fail an Ofsted inspection.’

When asked about how big a problem the country faces in light of recent events, he said: ‘I think it is a problem.

‘I think these youngsters need to believe that they belong to our society.  ‘They need to believe that there is hope for them, that the education system is there for them, that they will do well in their examination, that they will be able to get a job and they will have a real strong and secure future in this country and that they will be appreciated by society.

‘If they don’t believe that then the temptation is to listen to the voices that say: ‘come across to Syria’.’

Mr Ferrari asked if it was fair to suggest that the British education system has let these young people down.

Sir Michael replied: ‘Well, they have been let down in some institutions and we have highlighted those institutions.

‘But we’ve got to make sure that these youngsters in these areas, in these monocultural areas, particularly in areas with large Muslim populations, (that) they have terrific schools which show them that British education is doing well by them. That’s really important.’

Private and state schools have been required by the government to ‘actively promote’ British values – including democracy and the rule of law - since last September.  Prior to this, schools only needed to ‘respect’ these values.

Children as young as 11 are among hundreds of people being identified as at risk of radicalisation, it was revealed yesterday.  Some 973 people from the north west have been referred to the government’s anti-radicalisation programme, Channel, since it was set up in 2007.

Of the 350 under-18s feared to be at risk, 224 were aged between 12 and 16 while 63 were under 12, according to the data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act from The National Police Chiefs Council.

Between 2011 and 2012, the number of children being referred from the region shot up by 127 per cent from 29 to 66 - and has remained steady ever since.

Rochdale Labour MP, Simon Danczuk, warned the country is ‘sleepwalking into radicalisation’.  He said: ‘I am horrified that growing numbers of pre-pubescent children in our region are being referred to the government agency dealing with people being drawn into terrorism.

‘Children under the age of 12 should be thinking about Lego and football not terrorism in the Middle East. These figures should act as a wake-up call and demand urgent action.

‘We’re sleepwalking into a big problem with radicalisation. The government’s Prevent programme is failing miserably, social media companies need to do more to stop radicalisation online and mosques and the wider community need to be vigilant about people being groomed for terrorism.’

Channel was created under the last Labour government to support those at risk of being drawn into violent extremism.

It forms part of Prevent, the national anti-terror strategy, and draws together a range of agencies - including schools, universities, police, social services and probation - to identify people thought to be vulnerable to radicalisation.


Parents' anger after British school bans children from performing cartwheels and handstands at break times

Parents have blasted a primary school after its head teacher has banned children from doing cartwheels and handstands at break times over safety fears.

Pupils at Old Priory Junior Academy in Plympton, Devon, were told they couldn't perform 'gymnastic movements' in the playground after a number of children had been left with injuries.

Emma Hermon-Wright, the school's interim head, said she has introduced the break-time ban because the children were attempting moves which are 'beyond their capability'.

But angry parents have criticised the school's decision, which has been described as 'ridiculous' and one woman says her daughter has been left 'distraught' as a result of the new rule.

The mother, who did not want to be named, said: 'Are we to wrap them up in cotton wool every morning before sending them in to school? What happened to kids being kids?

'Climbing, running, jumping and indeed cartwheels are all part of childhood.  'When I was at school, coming home with a grazed knee and bruised shins meant that you'd had a good day.

'Not to mention the fact that you are moving your body, gaining confidence, building self-esteem, developing resilience, working on balance, strengthening and stretching muscles, developing co-ordination, taking risks and delighting in shared play experiences.'

Sarah Evans, of Plymouth, Devon, whose two children Josh, 10, and Charlie, eight, who both attend the school, said: 'It is officially the world gone mad.'

'I can see why they are probably doing it - but I wouldn't say I agree with it. In this world of health and safety I am not surprised.

'They are taking away a child's right to be a child and they are taking away the things we took for granted as children. 'As a parent I just simply don't agree with it. Bumps and scrapes are all part of the rough and tumble of being a child.

'If I was not allowed to do cartwheels and handstands as a child I would have felt deprived. I remember my childhood when we used to do them all the time. It is a great shame the school has made this decision.'

Another parent, who asked not to be named, said: 'The first thing we heard was when a friend sent it to me on Facebook.

'It is ridiculous. They are banning children from being children. Injuring yourself is all part of growing up. How can you grow up without injuring yourself sometimes?  'They are not allowed to run, play conkers and now they can't do handstands. They are not allowed to take any risks. Handstands and cartwheels are just part of normal play. Banning them is stupid.'

Mrs Hermon-Wright, defending her decision, said: 'Following a number of minor incidents we took action to ban these gymnastic activities during play and lunch.

'Through PE lessons in primary schools, pupils are carefully taught to develop movements of their bodies in safe, controlled and supported ways.

'At playtime our children were not performing these in such a way and pupils were attempting gymnastic movements beyond their capability. This was resulting in injuries.' 

She added that the safety of pupils at Old Priory is the responsibility of the school and the most important thing to her school.  'This action was carefully considered in order to safeguard the pupils of Old Priory which is the most important thing to us,' she said.

'We are happy to discuss any matter with parents and would have done prior to this report.

'Ultimately safety and well-being of the pupils whilst at Old Priory is our responsibility and I feel very strongly that this is the correct decision to make at this time.'

Chris McGovern, chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, described the ruling as 'tragic' and 'unwise' by the school.

He told MailOnline: 'This decision is robbing children of their childhood. It is part of the growing up process and the sense of adventure.

'If we remove all risk from children's lives we are damaging the children rather than helping them. We need to encourage them to take risks rather than mollycoddling them.

'One of the reasons the school may have taken this decision is due to legal claims, and I understand that but they should be taking sensible precautions.

'This school has made an unwise ruling and quite frankly it's tragic to take this away from their lives.'


Knowledge – it builds character

UK education secretary Nicky Morgan recently announced a new education initiative ahead of the Rugby World Cup. Schools up and down the country, she said, will be welcoming premiership rugby coaches into the classroom in order to help students develop strong ‘grit and resilience’. It is part of Morgan’s ongoing drive to develop ‘character education’ in schools. At a time when many are concerned about children’s basic levels of literacy and numeracy, such a bland and uninspiring project, unconcerned with anything remotely academic, seems suspect.

Morgan announced that more than £500,000 will be allocated to 14 professional rugby clubs to ‘design and deliver programmes to use the sport’s ethos of discipline and respect to build character and resilience in pupils’. The project is one of 14 initiatives to receive a share of the Department for Education’s (DfE) £3.5million character grant scheme. Morgan has said that the scheme will give children the ‘chance to fulfil their potential and achieve their high aspirations’, and help the government achieve ‘real social justice’.

While this particular initiative, coming as it does amid the campus war on rugby teams and ‘lad culture’, is a somewhat welcome promotion of the positive aspects of sport, the character-education scheme more broadly is one in a long line of government programmes that completely misunderstands social justice and the positive contribution education can make to children’s development.

A subject-knowledge-focused approach to education has, once again, been pushed aside in favour of a therapeutic approach, which is more concerned with teaching children the ‘soft skills’ they apparently need to navigate the modern world. While those children lucky enough to attend the top independent schools learn the classics, read great literature, study histories of human civilisation and marvel at the wonders of the universe, state-school pupils, perhaps considered too ‘vulnerable’ to tackle hard subjects, receive a rather less demanding education. Hence, rather than encouraging pupils to look beyond themselves and learn about the great triumphs of humanity, schemes such as Morgan’s urge state-school pupils to focus on the development of narrow ‘life skills’.

Worse still, when subject knowledge is removed from the classroom, replaced by demands to impart ‘skills and confidence’ in pupils, the authority and academic expertise of the teacher is sidelined. Without the ability to offer students something of inherent academic value, teachers become increasingly superfluous.

If this government is to achieve ‘real social justice’, it must have faith in the ability of state-school pupils to grapple with the best that has been thought and said. By helping pupils understand the great achievements and triumphs of humanity, we can impart to younger generations the confidence to go out into the world and make their own mark on history. That’s character in anyone’s book.


No comments: