For years our schools have been answerable to groups of unrepresentative people often with no knowledge of education. These have often been businessmen, landowners, parents, clergymen and other local worthies.
They have imposed on schools what they think is best. Resources have been tilted to their whims. That is why some schools excel in some sports, in music or drama. Important subjects like languages are routinely ignored. Is it surprising that people of certain religious persuasions have seen what goes on and got themselves elected as school governors and have tilted the education the way they want it? Because they are Muslim and do not afford equal treatment to males and females we are outraged.
Why have school governors? They do not have them in other countries. We should have is a standard curriculum practised by all schools, set by professionals at the Department of Education. Let us ditch these antiquated Victorian institutions.
The constant reorganisation of our education system over the past couple of decades has been based on many mistaken assumptions: that anyone (including creationists, self-made millionaires, faith groups and parents) can run schools better than local authorities or teachers; that teaching qualifications are unnecessary; that parental choice is always possible; that the National Curriculum is good enough for some pupils, but not others; that religious groups are so very different from each other and those of no religion that their children should be segregated and taught differently from the mainstream.
Successive governments have been so blinded by all this dogma that they failed miserably to prevent the all too predictable consequences, such as the current problems in Birmingham schools.
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown (8 June) is only partly correct when she states that no faith-based schools should be state-funded, because they are places of segregation and separation.
Why should any school, whether funded privately or by the taxpayer, be faith-based? Is religious sectarianism in schools any more tolerable if it is privately funded?
A faith-based education is a misnomer. It sounds better than indoctrination, which is what it is, or to give it its modern euphemism, “spiritual development”. This should not be the function of any civic education system, no matter how it is funded. If parents want to pass on their faith to their children, then they can do so in the home or by taking them to church, mosque, gurdwara or synagogue.
National Secular Society
Like Mr Gove, I am an advocate of teaching British values in our schools. For too long the schools’ role in the socialisation of children has been undervalued and now comes a distant second to achieving good test results.
As a result, most young adults seem embarrassingly ignorant of value systems and how they are reflected in our nation’s constitutional arrangements. Instead they are beguiled by celebrity and the need for popularity.
However, I do not trust any politician to define those vital British values on my behalf, especially a government whose reforms have delivered greater freedom to schools to manage their own curriculum and adopt faith, not fact, as the basis of their teaching.
If we are to avoid education becoming increasingly political it is vital to know what our values are and have proper control over how they are to be taught, control which has been undermined by Coalition policy and savage education cuts.
Saxmundham SuffolkReuse content