When the Durham Free School and Grindon Hall Christian School were excoriated by Ofsted last year for a raft of educational deficiencies (not least of which was failing to promote ‘British values’ by not teaching what Muslims believe and what lesbians do), they were very publicly named and shamed for their ignorance, bigotry and discriminatory views. Actually, it was apparently the ignorance of just a few individual pupils, but that didn’t matter to Ofsted. As one inspector concluded: “Leaders are failing to prepare students for life in modern Britain. Some students hold discriminatory views of other people who have different faiths, values or beliefs from themselves.” Such intolerance is absolutely intolerable, so these Christian schools were placed in special measures and closed down or taken over. You simply can’t have schools with a Christian religious ethos propagating un-British values as mediated and determined by Ofsted. This is the new orthodoxy.
When Muslim School X (it may not be named) is deemed to be inadequate, the Ofsted report must be quashed and the school shielded from public shame. A High Court judge (no less) has determined that censorship is justified on the grounds that disclosure is likely “to generate a media storm and tensions and fears for parents and the local community”.
The deficiencies in this case are an allegedly inadequate sex-segregation policy which makes girls feel inferior. It may or may not be the case that girls are forced to sit at the back of the class and may only consider careers in medicine and motherhood: we simply can’t know on what basis the judgment has been made. All that we have is:
But in a court hearing earlier this week, an Ofsted inspector told the court that the school’s own pupils had criticised its gender segregation policy. He said they felt it ‘was having a negative effect on being prepared for life in modern Britain’. The Islamic voluntary-aided School X is for ages four to 16 and separates boys and girls from age ten, for all lessons, lunchtimes, clubs and trips.
The inference is that of unlawful (‘un-British’) sex discrimination; the denial of dignity and equality. As with the Christian schools, the Ofsted judgment appears to be based on comments made by pupils. Muslim School X is perfectly entitled to appeal Ofsted’s inspection findings (natural justice requires such provision, and Ofsted has an established complaints procedure), but this clearly isn’t acceptable to the headteacher and governing body, for whom secrecy and suppression are the preferred approach.
The ban on naming Muslim School X remains in place until deliberations are completed and the judgment is published. If the High Court finds in Ofsted’s favour, presumably this Muslim school will suffer the same termination/takeover fate as the Christian schools. If there is a finding in the school’s favour and Ofsted is overruled, the censorship will most likely be indefinite, and we may never know the facts.
This is a taxpayer-funded school, no doubt using taxpayers’ money to fund its expensive High Court action to suppress a report of HM Inspectorate of Schools. How much does judicial review cost? How is this not a matter of public interest? Why are parents not permitted to know how this school treats girls differently from boys? Why can’t academics scrutinise reports of how the school’s culture deviates from its statutory ethos to promote ‘British values’? Why is educational justice being determined in secret rather than by the open and transparent procedures established by Parliament and which are deemed sufficient for Christian (and all other) schools?
Why does a High Court judge believe that public disclosure of a specific Islamic approach to sex-segregation is likely “to generate a media storm” or raise “tensions and fears for parents and the local community”. Certainly, there would be Daily Mail opprobrium and mutterings at Britain First’s next AGM, but ‘storm’ and ‘fear’? Didn’t sunlight help to disinfect the ‘Trojan Horse’ scandal in Birmingham? Didn’t parental scrutiny help to defuse corrupt attitudes and allay community fears? If there are hardliners running Muslim School X, doesn’t the duty of care to guard children against potential radicalisation trump the need for censorship?
Surely media blackout and special exemptions for taxpayer-funded Muslim schools are far more likely to generate a media storm and raise tensions and fears? Yet if, as Shadow Home Secretary Andy Burnham avers, British Muslims “should be allowed to bypass police” when reporting hate crime owing to a “lack of trust” between the two parties, why should they not also be permitted to bypass Ofsted owing to its institutional anti-religious prejudice?