Whether or not there is a coordinated plot by Islamists in schools, one thing is certain – religion should not play a part in the governance of our schools, which should all be secular. Religion has for too long played a part in our education system and Christian denominations are just as pernicious in their control over the curriculum, assemblies, governing bodies and admission policies. This is not to say that religion can’t be taught – understanding the historical developments of world religions and their ideology is important. But they should be the subject of debate and analysis.
The Trojan row has neatly exposed the contradictions of government policy. In fragmenting the education system and undermining the role of local authorities and with it accountability, both Labour and the Coalition have now allowed interests from dodgy businesses to religious propagandists to control schools. Local Authorities have lost their ability to plan and control admissions. Local inspectors and advisers who once had their finger on the pulse of every school have been thrown out of work.
The inadequacies and punitive nature of our inspection service have been revealed – the focus on paperwork, targets and league tables have failed to pick up on potential problems.
Gove and Cameron have bleated on about British values, though there appears to be no definition of these. If they knew anything about the education system in this country they would understand that the Part 2 of the current Teachers’ Standards already require teachers not to undermine fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty etc.
Although Citizenship promoted a largely social democratic view of our institutions, it also encouraged discussions about politics at all levels, as well as a range of topics such as crime and punishment, the environment, the media etc. Now it is no longer a compulsory part of the curriculum. Indeed, the government has allowed free schools and academies the freedom to set their own curriculum and this has apparently led to some dropping subjects such as art and music, either for religious reasons or because there is an unhealthy focus on the core curriculum and league tables for children in their SAT test years.
It is time for teachers, parents and other educational professionals to develop a vision for our education system which encompasses working class values, rather than those of the public school politicians who only want low paid cannon fodder for their business chums.
For some ideas on a vision for education go to http://www.theworker.org.uk/br-education.htm