Norfolk headteachers and the Bishop of Norwich have their say on Trojan Horse scandal
18:06 10 June 2014
A leading Norfolk headteacher has said the proposed promotion of British values in schools should not be at the expense of helping pupils understand other cultures and parts of the world.
Plans for schools to promote “British values” have been drawn up by Education Secretary Michael Gove’s in response to concerns about an Islamist takeover in Birmingham schools - otherwise known as Trojan Horse.
Mr Gove said he wanted democracy, mutual respect and tolerance taught.
The government has also asked Ofsted to introduce routine no-notice school inspections in England following the regulator’s findings of an “organised campaign to target certain schools” in Birmingham.
Today, Ian Clayton, principal of Thorpe St Andrew School, said in response to the plans: “[British values] is certainly a part of what a school should be doing. We are not just an exam factory. It’s about that and British culture and way of life, but it’s also about widening opportunities and understanding.
“The danger is it is becoming too narrow in what is being promoted and that leads to a lack of understanding of other people. That would be a dangerous backwards step.”
The government and Ofsted have produced the proposed changes to school governance after the publication of an inspection report on 21 Birmingham schools.
Ofsted found “a culture of fear and intimidation” had taken grip in schools following claims in an anonymous letter that hard-line Muslims were trying to impose their views on some of the city’s schools.
Tony Hull, principal of Costessey infant and junior schools, said: “I see nothing wrong with teaching British values at all. Potentially the danger is that in a predominantly white area such as Norfolk, we are actually being encouraged to think about being more multi-cultural to allow more pupils to know about what’s going on out of our area, but here we have a directive that seems to fly in the face of that.”
Rob Anthony, associate headteacher at the Hewett School, which is not an academy, said the school taught citizenship as part of the national curriculum, and valued it as a subject because it covered issues such as justice, democracy, human rights and community cohesion.
He said: “I think the issue is that Michael Gove has made it the case that academies no longer have to follow the national curriculum. The government has de-regulated a whole area of public services and then been upset when schools have chosen to do something they have not wanted them to do.”
Meanwhile, the Bishop of Norwich has suggested the ‘marginalisation’ of religious education by the Department for Education may have contributed to the controversy about alleged extremism in schools in Birmingham.
Speaking in a House of Lords debate about the topic, Rt Rev Graham James said: “Given that none of the schools subject to these inspections in Birmingham were faith schools — although listening to our discussion, you would have thought otherwise — does it not seem that appropriate, well balanced and enriching religious education may have been an area of neglect?
“I cannot help but wonder whether this has been facilitated too easily by the way in which religious education has sometimes been marginalised in the curriculum by the Department for Education in recent years and whether we are reaping some reward for that.”
In response, education minister Lord Nash said: “I agree entirely with the comments made by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich. This certainly raises issues on how we inspect for religious education.”