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British values to be inspectable

13 June 2014

SHUTTERSTOCK

Rule of law: a detail of the exterior of the Old Bailey central criminal court, in London

Rule of law: a detail of the exterior of the Old Bailey central criminal court, in London

OFSTED's findings called for a "robust response", the Prime Minister said. The Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, said that, from the opening of the new school year in September, there would be a new, explicit requirement for all schools to promote British values.

"We want to create and enforce a clear and rigorous expectation on all schools to promote the fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs," he said.

It is understood that talks with OFSTED have already begun on how to measure fulfilment of this expectation, which is a step change from the current requirement that free schools and academies should respect British values.

Also on the horizon are mandatory training for governors, welcomed by the National Governors' Association; and the introduction of no-notice OFSTED inspections, a move likely to be resisted by schools.

In Birmingham, however, there is deep concern among community workers, church, and other faith leaders that the "Trojan horse" affair has distressed members of the large Muslim community, who feel that their faith has been demonised, and could undermine hard-won community cohesion.

The Bishop of Birmingham, the Rt Revd David Urquhart, who is a member of the council's group of city leaders reviewing the allegations, said that the time for reflection would be in July, when the group reported its findings. "For now," Bishop Urquhart said, "it is vital that we promote the common good of all our children, so that learning, faith, and full civic engagement combine to prepare all people for their participation in a contemporary UK."

This week, Liam Byrne, the MP for Birmingham Hodge Hill, asked Bishop Urquhart to lead an interfaith task-force to support the city's Muslim community. Ministers had treated Muslims as extreme for seeking education in line with their religion, he said.

Call for abolition of faith schools. As the Association of Christian Teachers warned this week of a backlash from "those who want to remove faith and religion from schools", the British Humanist Association (BHA) called for the abolition of faith schools.

But a comment from the Church of England described the request as "a shaky attempt to build one of the BHA's long-held aims into the news agenda".

The Bishop of Chelmsford, the Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell, said in an interview that religious education was becoming increasingly important in educating young people about faiths other than their own, and creating informed and tolerant attitudes.

A similar plea for RE was made on Wednesday by the former Labour Home Secretary Charles Clarke, during an interview on Radio 4's Today programme. Mr Clarke, now Professor of Politics at the University of East Anglia, was asked, as a former Home Secretary, to respond to OFSTED's "Trojan horse" findings.

Part of his prescription was good religious education, for its contribution to interfaith understanding.

THE C of E's head of school policy, the Revd Nigel Genders, is to succeed the Revd Jan Ainsworth as its Chief Education Officer. Mrs Ainsworth retires this summer.

Mr Genders was diocesan education officer for Canterbury before moving to Church House in 2012.

Mr Genders said that an immediate priority was ensuring that the Church of England played a significant part in the provision of the estimated 130,000 new school places in England urgently needed because of the rise in the birth rate.

Any new church schools would be open to all, with no places reserved for children from Anglican families, he said.

 

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