Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Is Ofsted up to the job?


In the news today is the announcement that Ed Balls has asked the official education watchdog Ofsted to survey a selection of independent Muslim schools and rate them for their promotion of British moral values. This move is in response to concerns raised by Civitas in a survey they carried out reported in an online book: Music, Chess And Other Sins: Segregation, Integration, and Muslim Schools in Britain. However it is clear that none of the journalists reporting this news have bothered to check the findings of the Civitas report and it is this issue I will address here.

In the Guardian's Balls orders Ofsted survey of faith schools' moral values, Anthea Lipsett reports that

David Lyscom, the chief executive of the Independent Schools Council, said: "ISC is not aware of concerns being raised about the practices in any of its member schools. All ISC schools foster tolerance, openness and social engagement throughout their activities."

In the BBC's report Ofsted checks on school extremism it notes that-

The report from think tank Civitas, called Music, Chess and other Sins: Segregation, Integration, and Muslim Schools in Britain, claimed that some Muslim schools were allowing extremist views to be promoted.

The Association of Muslim Schools had attacked that report as "divisive and dishonest".

In 2005 the then chief inspector of schools, David Bell, sparked a row when he said that independent Muslim schools must make greater efforts to show pupils a "common heritage".

In the Times' Inquiry to check faith schools are teaching right from wrong it says:

There are hundreds of independent faith schools. The Association of Muslim Schools has 127 members, although a few are state schools.

Mohamed Mukadam, chairman of the Association of Muslim Schools, said: “I’ve yet to see any surveys or Ofsted reports that show big concerns about Muslim schools. While we welcome the survey to see how best practice can be spread, we are confident that most of our Muslim schools are doing an excellent job in preparing children and young adults for life in modern British society.” He added: “I’m not naive enough to say that every single faith school is [like this]. There must be some schools that have just come on board, that lack resources and expertise, and these schools must be helped.”

Last year a former teacher at an Islamic school who alleged that it taught an offensive and racist view of nonMuslims won his case for unfair dismissal.

Colin Cook told a tribunal that children at the King Fahad Academy, which is funded and run by the Saudi Arabian Government, were taught from Arabic books that likened Jews and Christians to monkeys and pigs.

Now these are all interesting and relevant to the news item but all miss a fundamental point directly pertinent to this story - that one of the key findings of the Civitas report was the inadequacy and inability of Ofsted to carry out this type of research!

As an earlier Civitas study argued, Ofsted has proved to be unsuited to its role, a conclusion reinforced by its failure to discover the failings in Haringey’s social services that led to the tragedy of ‘Baby P’.

We realized from the outset that we would not be able to obtain textbooks of our choice or spend time as observers in classrooms. First, there was the sheer scale of what observation would entail, secondly the fact that, as with Ofsted inspections, schools would be on their best behaviour during visits. That was not, we believed, the best methodology for getting more in‐depth information, including information on the schools’ connections.

Now some of the methods used by Civitas to avoid the "best behaviour" issues is why the Association of Muslim Schools called this report dishonest- because Civitas obtained data in an underhand way without the schools being aware of it and so were unable to not carefully prepare it as they do for Ofsted.

We have drawn attention, without criticism, to the shortcomings of some Ofsted reports. This is done in a spirit of cooperation, and in recognition of the difficulties schools like these present for the uninitiated inspector.

They devote a whole chapter - out of six chapter in this book - to the relation between Ofsted and Muslim schools. And apparently none of this criticism is in dispute or at least is not reported as such by any of the journalists wring today's news item. Some of Civitas' recommendations are:

2. A sufficient number of Ofsted inspectors, non‐Muslims and identifiably moderate Muslims, must be trained properly in all relevant aspects of Islam, so they can identify suspect lessons or connections.
3. Ofsted must consider how to tackle the problem of how to inspect Urdu‐speaking, Arabic‐speaking, or Bengali‐speaking schools without depending
exclusively on Muslim inspectors. Transparency is vital.

Civitas deals with some of the limitations of Ofsted's methods by recommending that:

Under the wise chairmanship of Barry Sheerman, the House of Commons Select Committee on Children, Schools and Families has proved to be an effective organisation and an investigation carried out under its auspices would have the necessary independence.

Now Civitas may be correct or mistaken in its analysis of Ofsted, but this surely is the real story today that any decent journalist would have uncovered. They should be asking: Why is Ed Balls response to this report from Civitas - especially granted the argued the shortcomings of Ofsted reporting on independent Muslim Schools - to authorise Ofsted to do exactly what Civitas argues its cannot do effectively!?


Anonymous said...

The demand for Muslim schools comes from parents who want their children a safe environment with an Islamic ethos.Parents see Muslim schools where children can develop their Islamic Identity where they won't feel stigmatised for being Muslims and they can feel confident about their faith.
Muslim schools are working to try to create a bridge between communities.
There is a belief among ethnic minority parens that the British schooling
does not adequatly address their cultural needs. Failing to meet this need could result in feeling resentment among a group who already feel excluded. Setting up Muslim school is a defensive response.

State schools with monolingual teachers are not capable to teach English to bilingual Muslim children. Bilingual teachers are needed to teach English to such children along with their mother tongue. According to a number of studies, a child will not learn a second language if his first language is ignored.

Bilingual Muslim children need state funded Muslim schools with bilingual
Muslim teachers as role models during their developmental periods. Muslims
have the right to educate their children in an environment that suits their
culture. This notion of "integration", actually means "assimilation", by
which people generally really mean "be more like me". That is not
multiculturalism. In Sydney, Muslims were refused to build a Muslim school,
because of a protest by the residents. Yet a year later, permission was
given for the building of a Catholic school and no protests from the
residents. This clrearly shows the blatant hypocrisy, double standards and racism. Christians oppose Muslim schools in western countries yet build
their own religious schools.

British schooling and the British society is the home of institutional
racism. The result is that Muslim children are unable to develop
self-confidence and self-esteem, therefore, majority of them leave schools with low grades. Racism is deeply rooted in British society. Every native child is born with a gene or virus of racism, therefore, no law could change the attitudes of racism towards those who are different. It is not only the common man, even member of the royal family is involved in racism. The
father of a Pakistani office cadet who was called a "Paki" by Prince Harry
has profoundly condemned his actions. He had felt proud when he met the
Queen and the Prince of Wales at his son's passing out parade at Sandhurst
in 2006 but now felt upset after learning about the Prince's comments. Queen Victoria invited an Imam from India to teach her Urdu language. He was highly respected by the Queen but other members of the royal family had no respect for him. He was forced to go back to India. His protrait is still in
one of the royal places.

There are hundreds of state schools where Muslim pupils are in majority. In my opinion, all such schools may be designated as Muslim community schools with bilingual Muslim teachers. There is no place for a non-Muslim child or a teacher in a Muslim school.
Iftikhar Ahmad

faithlessgod said...

Hi Iftikhar Ahmad

Replied in my latest post