The government and the teaching unions both want to see the education watchdog Oftsed reform itselfby John Harris / July 17, 2014 / Leave a comment
The academy’s work to raise students’ awareness of the risks of extremism is inadequate… Students are not taught citizenship well enough or prepared properly for life in a diverse and multicultural society… During a recent academy fête, raffles and tombolas were banned because they are considered un-Islamic…”
On and on they go: scores of observations, long since streaked across the media, from five Birmingham schools that were recently placed in so-called “special measures” at the height of the “Trojan horse” affair—that spectacular drama centered on allegations that, perhaps thanks to a plot, an array of non-faith state schools in England’s second city were pushed into embracing conservative practices based on religious dogma. At the heart of it all, clinging on to ideas of fairness and due process while controversy simmered away, there sat the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted), founded by the-then Education Secretary Kenneth Clarke in 1992, and currently at its all-time peak of visibility.
Between March and May, Ofsted inspected 21 schools alleged to have been subject to Islamification (see p64), passing judgement on them in early June—though some people still wonder if it should have been involved at all. Among them is Tim Brighouse, the Chief Education Officer in Birmingham from 1993-2002, and subsequently Commissioner of Schools for London. His basic contention is simple: “You don’t send in inexperienced people who have probably never looked for [radicalisation and extremism] before. Ofsted should have said, ‘We have no experience of doing this, and we’re not equipped for it.’”
Having worked as an English teacher and secondary head, Michael Cladingbowl was until recently Ofsted’s National Director of Schools, and is now charged with leading wide-ranging changes to its work. When we talk about the Trojan horse story, he guides me through a couple of the relevant Ofsted protocols, and then sounds a contrasting note of hardened confidence. “If there’s a serious concern about leadership or safeguarding in a school, we will go in and inspect it,” he insists. “The inspectors did their work using our normal procedures, and we found a number of schools that were doing things really well, and a number of schools that were doing things really badly.”