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Extremism in Schools

my column published  16th June 2014

“There is something rather un-British about seeking to define Britishness”-

The only problem with that statement is that Michael Gove said it seven years ago before he became Education Secretary.

It didn’t stop him and ‘Britain’ losing the plot over the “Trojan Horse Plot”. There was however no plot uncovered of Muslim extremists trying to take over Birmingham schools.

Four inquiries were triggered by an anonymous person who wrote an unsigned and undated  letter.

Normally such a ‘spurious’ letters targeting one section of a community would get binned instead it led to an hysterical orchestrated attack on the Muslim Community and their right to religious freedom. And before you say it, not one single school banned Christmas.

Of the 21 schools inspected 5 were placed in special measures. Putting it in perspective that meant five schools were downgraded to inadequate.

So why then did Gove need to appoint the former National Co-ordinator for Counter Terrorism to head an investigation. What message was he trying to portray?

Will British values defeat Extremism in Schools?

Just for one minute try to define what ‘British Values’ are, ask your wife what they are, ask the guy at the pub. Are they Welsh, English, Irish or even Scottish, and what about Italian Brits or Pakistanis?

Therein lies the problem it’s impossible. Can we really trust the Tories to define for our children what British values are? I don’t think somehow that the terrorists who carried out 7/7 did so because they hadn’t been taught British values at school.

The Department for Education said every school would be expected to teach the British values of “democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths”. Shame the Government doesn’t practise what it preaches.

Why is it such a big deal if a Muslim child wants to eat halal meat or observe his prayers? Racist scapegoating of a community won’t eradicate extremism but only increase it. Anyone who watched the teachers of Park View couldn’t mistake their heartbreak at being branded an extremist school, when in 2012 they were previously described as ‘Outstanding’ by the Chief Inspector of Schools.

If Gove cares so much about stamping out extremism in schools why not start with Eton where parents spend hundreds of thousands in segregating their sons from the rest of society. Where Latin is the language of choice rather than Arabic and where children are taught that their ancestors civilised the world. They boast of orchestral rehearsal rooms, of teacher to pupil ratio of 1 to 8, of music lessons that cost £250 for a half hour and where children have it drilled into them that they are the leaders of the future.

If you can’t afford £40,000 a year in fees for your boy don’t worry he can sit the scholarship exam. One year it asked the boys to imagine themselves as the PM making a speech to the nation and to morally justify the use of force to kill 25 protestors.

Oh and guess what nearly half of the British Cabinet just happen to be Etonians. Of course the children or parents of Parkview never had any delusions of grandeur in their crumbling schools but their teachers did try to succeed against all odds. Teachers and parents had turned around this school in an area ridden with poverty, drugs and crime, where over 72% of the pupils needed free school meals.

Finally the community had something to be proud of as educational standards rocketed and the waiting list grew. But Michael Gove and his ‘witch hunter inspectors’ could not even wait a few weeks until the students at these schools had finished their GCSE exams before they dehumanised and humiliated them. Who are the real extremists?