Schools are being used to 'indoctrinate' students with extremist ideology, warns Ofsted boss

The chief inspector has given her support to a London primary school headteacher who planned to ban girls under 8 from wearing the hijab in class

Eleanor Busby
Education Correspondent
Thursday 01 February 2018 10:44 GMT
Amanda Spielman will speak at the Church of England schools conference today
Amanda Spielman will speak at the Church of England schools conference today (PA)

Schools are being used to “indoctrinate impressionable minds with extremist ideology”, the head of Ofsted is warning.

Head teachers need to tackle those who “actively undermine fundamental British values” – instead of adopting a “passive liberalism” for fear of causing offence, the chief inspector of the schools’ watchdog will say today.

In a speech at the Church of England schools conference, Ofsted’s boss Amanda Spielman will offer her support to the head of St Stephen's primary school in London who faced backlash when she tried to stop girls under eight from wearing the hijab.

The school ended up reversing their decision after more than 19,000 people signed a petition against the move.

But Ms Spielman will say today that it is “regrettable” that the school has been subjected to abuse by the parents and community leaders.

She will say: “School leaders must have the right to set school uniform policies in a way that they see fit, in order to promote cohesion.

“It is a matter of deep regret that this outstanding school has been subject to a campaign of abuse by some elements within the community.

“I want to be absolutely clear, Ofsted will always back heads who take tough decisions in the interests of their pupils.”

It is has been reported that Ofsted inspectors entered St Stephen's primary school yesterday even though the ‘outstanding’ school was not due a routine inspection.

Speaking later today at the conference in London, Ms Spielman will say: “Ofsted inspectors are increasingly brought into contact with those who want to actively pervert the purpose of education.

”Under the pretext of religious belief, they use education institutions, legal and illegal, to narrow young people's horizons, to isolate and segregate, and in the worst cases to indoctrinate impressionable minds with extremist ideology.

“Freedom of belief in the private sphere is paramount, but in our schools it is our responsibility to tackle those who actively undermine fundamental British values or equalities law.”

She will add: ”That doesn't just mean Ofsted, but everyone involved in education. Rather than adopting a passive liberalism, that says 'anything goes' for fear of causing offence, schools leaders should be promoting a muscular liberalism."

Speaking to the Church of England schools conference, Ms Spielman will warn against assuming that "the most conservative voices in a particular faith speak for everyone".

She will say: "Schools must not be afraid, to call out practices, whatever their justification, that limit young people's experiences and learning in school.

“In that regard schools must not, in their entirely correct goal of promoting tolerance, shy away from challenging fundamentalist practice where it appears in their schools or communities.

”Similarly schools must not allow pressure from certain elements of school communities to dictate school policy, nor should we allow vocal parental minorities to pressure other parents and children to act or dress against their wishes. Giving way to the loudest voices is the opposite of tolerance."

Additional reporting by PA

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