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Education Secretary to draw up new 'code of conduct' for madrassahs

Education Secretary to draw up new 'code of conduct' for madrassahs

Categories: Latest News

Thursday May 22 2014

The Guardian and The Times this week covered news of the Education Secretary’s mooted plans to introduce a ‘code of conduct’ for madrassahs to regulate practices and curricula in Islamic supplementary schools across the UK.

The Guardian quotes a policy official who said the code “…will make sure that all teachers are CRB [Criminal Records Bureau] checked, and that no corporal punishment is dealt out. 

“The schools may also be required to teach a standard syllabus, because right now they can teach whatever they want. The syllabus will be supportive of the government’s preventing-extremism strategy, so there will be no fundamentalist teaching.”

The Times observes that the new measures are based on the recommendations made in the Taskforce on Tackling Extremism 2013 report. The Taskforce agreed to “improve oversight of religious supplementary schools” through “a voluntary code of practice which will depend on schools implementing robust policies to protect children and young people from harm, including exposure to intolerant or extremist views.”

However, the Guardian takes note that the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board, which has over 600 members, already promotes good governance in mosques and imam training institutions through a process of voluntary self-regulation. In addition, staff at the 2,000 madrassahs known to local authorities have undergone the necessary checks to create a safe and secure teaching environment.

Similarly, a 2011 report by IPPR, based on a survey of 179 Islamic supplementary schools, found that the majority did operate a child protection policy, including carrying out CRB checks on staff.

It is particularly interesting that the plans to introduce new regulations have emerged following the Ofsted inquiry into the alleged ‘Trojan Horse plot’ involving several Birmingham schools. Ofsted is expected to publish its inspection reports next month although it would seem from the announcement concerning the code of conduct that policies are being devised before the conclusion of Ofsted inspections as well as the results of current investigations into the provenance and authenticity of the letter which sparked off the ‘Trojan Horse’ furore.

The Guardian takes stock of the views of former Children’s Minister, Tim Loughton, who criticised the proposed regulations as inviting undue focus on madrassahs which could appear as discriminatory and reinforce existing negative stereotypes.

The apprehension around discrimination seems fair when one considers other reports in the press about Ofsted inspectors inquiring about attitudes toward homosexuality on their visits to certain schools. The Times notes the proposal in the Taskforce report on Tackling Radicalisation concerning extremism, with the reports stating: “All schools in England [. . .] must expect that they will be inspected and assessed on their measures to protect their pupils from extremist material.”

How ‘extremist material’ may come to be defined will cause justifiable anxiety following news of Ofsted’s visit to Olive Tree Primary School in Luton where inspectors, in the absence of teachers and parents, asked a group of 9-10 year old students about their knowledge and attitudes towards homosexuality such as if they had been taught about it “in a good or bad way”.

The Head of Ofsted, Sir Michael Wilshaw, defended the inspectors’ behaviour and line of questioning stating:

The Head of Ofsted, Sir Michael Wilshaw, stated “I am satisfied that the conduct of the inspection team was entirely appropriate throughout the visit. They handled the discussion with a group of pupils sensitively, taking proper account of the age of the children involved. I utterly reject the suggestion that the inspectors’ questions could in any way be construed as advocating a particular lifestyle or risked ‘sexualising young children’.”


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