FRONT-line schools, including church schools in ethnically mixed
urban conurbations, are likely to be those most affected by the
Counter Terrorism and Security Bill, introduced into Parliament on
The Bill will place a statutory duty on schools, colleges, and
universities to put in place anti-radicalisation policies and ban
visits from extremist speakers. Similar provisions will apply to
prisons and local councils. The Bill has all-party support, and is
likely to become law by Christmas.
Commenting on the implications of the Bill for schools, the
Church of England's chief education officer, the Revd Nigel
Genders, said: "We need to take the threat of terrorism very
seriously, and we are committed to being part of the solution.
"But if schools are to be held to account, they need very clear
advice about how they can prevent young people being drawn into
terrorism. We don't want just to prevent the development of
extremist views, but to promote a positive vision. This includes
effective religious education that teaches pupils that those who
advocate violence, hatred, and intolerance are distorting their
This week, teachers' leaders accepted that schools had a part to
play. The general secretary of the Association of School and
College Leaders, Brian Lightman, said that the task for schools and
colleges was to divert young people from organisations that held
unacceptable extremist views. "We are preparing guidance for school
and college leaders, setting out actions they can and should take
when they suspect young people may be vulnerable to radicalisation
But he warned members "to be careful about making assumptions. .
. It is not neces-sarily the case that, because a vulnerable young
person behaves in a certain way, or has certain experiences, he or
she is either committed to extremist ideology or may become a
The general secretary of the National Association of Head
Teachers, Russell Hobby, said that schools had a duty to protect
children and neighbourhoods. But he also said: "They are not a
police service. A school's main contribution to the cause of
anti-extremism is to provide a balanced curriculum and a safe
environment where human rights are respected." Where school leaders
saw signs that students were at risk of radicalisation, they should
involve specialist agencies, he said.
INTENSIVE lessons on the dangers of Islamic extremism were
already taking place at Sir John Cass and Redcoat School, in east
London, last week as the Church of England school - one of the most
successful of its kind in the country - was placed in special
measures by OFSTED, writes Margaret Holness.
The reason given by inspectors was: "The school has not put in
place steps to ensure that students, staff, and governors
understand the risks posed by extremism."
The 1500-pupil comprehensive, where more than 90 per cent of
pupils are of Bangladeshi heritage, lost its previous "outstanding"
status after a snap inspection by OFSTED in September, which
confirmed suspicions that some members of the sixth-form Islamic
Society were misusing social media, including a dedicated school
Postings included links to extremist sites and messages
discouraging students from attending school events that did not
"adhere to a particular religious viewpoint". One warned that any
student who attended a leavers' party or indulged in "free mixing"
and "listening to music" would face severe consequences later, the
The report shows that the school's senior leadership team and
governors had reacted inadequately to warnings given earlier this
year by counter-terrorism police. Arrangements for vetting visiting
speakers and monitoring student groups were "not robust
Communication between the head, Haydn Evans, members of the
senior leadership team, and gov-ernors was poor, inspectors
A statement from the London Diocesan Board for Schools (LDBS)
said that urgent action was already under way to tackle the issues
raised by OFSTED. "Extremism has no place in our society,
especially not in our schools." Diocesan staff are understood to be
involved in an improvement plan, which draws on the
anti-radicalisation Prevent programme, now in place at Sir John
Cass. They hope that the school, which will be subject to frequent
visits from OFSTED inspectors, could regain its former Outstanding
rating by Easter.
Mr Evans briefed parents about the OFSTED report, and the
measures being taken in response, at special meetings last Friday.
They were chaired by the Revd Trevor Critchlow, Rector of St
Dunstan's, Stepney, and the new chairman at Sir John Cass, and
attracted a high turnout, it was reported.
Sir John Cass and Redcoat is the only C of E school so far to be
inspected in relation to the Government's anti-extremism agenda.
The criticisms it faces are vastly different from those levelled at
the Birmingham schools - none of them faith schools - involved in
the "Trojan Horse" inquiry (News, 24
Where inspectors in Birmingham found evidence of co-ordinated
efforts by some teachers and governors to make their schools more
compliant with a conservative form of Islam, Sir John Cass senior
teachers and governors are criticised for failing to monitor the
internet activity and behaviour of some of their sixth-formers.
The Chief Inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, also appears to draw a
sharp distinction, in his advice note to the Secretary of State,
Nicky Morgan, between the findings of the snap inspection of Sir
John Cass and OFSTED's simultaneous unan-nounced visits to six
independent Muslim schools, two of them con-nected to the East
All six were found to be inadequate in all respects, the general
curriculum compromised by concentration on Islamic teaching. Sir
Michael recommends that the Education Secretary use powers under
the Education Act 2002, likely to lead to closure.
In the case of Sir John Cass, he promises robust evaluation of
school and local-authority improvement plans, and early
special-measures monitoring visits.
As news of the downgrading of Sir John Cass was made public,
parents, former pupils and other locals piled in with praise for
the much loved school, which is a beacon of success in a deeply
disadvantaged area. Heads of neighbouring schools rushed to the
defence of the head of Sir John Cass. Mr Evans was appointed CBE in
the last New Year Honours list for his stewardship of the school
for nearly 20 years. Earlier this month, he was awarded an honorary
degree by the University of East London for the same reason.
Sir John Cass and Redcoat was a failing school when Mr Evans
took over in 1995. He introduced rules that improved standards of
behaviour and academic achievement. By 2004, the school was seen by
OFSTED as a model for educating pupils of Bangladeshi and similar
backgrounds. In 2008, it was rated Outstanding.
Mr Evans was reportedly "shell-shocked" by the result of the
snap inspection. A response from Tower Hamlets council emphasising
the overall success of the school included a brief statement from
Mr Evans. He was "surprised" by the finding. His priority was to
rectify the problems OFSTED had identified, the statement said.