Why the Trojan Horse furore is about bad policy, not extremism

Steve Richards@steverichards14
Tuesday 10 June 2014 11:50

The furore over extremism in Birmingham just highlights the confusion in the government's schools policy. Here's why:

1. Who's in control?

(Picture: PA)

Michael Gove is a passionate believer in the current fractured schools system - chains running academies, the expansion of free schools, with others remaining under the control of local education authorities (LEA).

2. Confusion abounds

(Picture: Getty)

But Gove is also the most prescriptive Education Secretary in modern history, believing that all pupils would and should benefit from the type of education that he personally received.

3. The real issue

(Picture: Alamy)

The result is what has happened in Birmingham. The schools at the heart of the scandal are academies which are outside LEA control and regulated by Ofsted.

4. Ofsted's role

(Picture: Susannah Ireland)

But Ofsted head Sir Michael Wilshaw still cannot personally supervise the progress of every school, and his inspectors cannot always make nuanced judgments on whether schools are failing to alert pupils to the threat posed by extremists.

5. A British value system?

As a result, Gove becomes more prescriptive. Yesterday he announced that all schools must promote “British values”. Whatever they are...

6. You do the maths

(Picture: Getty)

But it doesn't add up: Gove cannot champion individuality in schools while at the same time seeking uniformity in what pupils learn.

7. The crux of the matter

(Picture: Getty)

By definition, specialist schools, faith schools, academy chains without expertise in education, free-standing academies and free schools all combine to make uniformly high standards, and a uniform set of values, difficult to achieve. If Gove seeks uniform values and standards he needs to establish a structure that provides them.

8. Perfect storm

(Picture: Getty)

The scrapping of a universally applied national curriculum just adds to the chaos

9. What now?

(Picture: Getty)

Finally, it is not clear that the schools in Birmingham were a breeding ground for terrorism - but if they were, there are not yet reliable mechanisms or structures to prevent it.

More: Read Steve Richard's full piece here.