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Government abandons code of conduct for religious supplementary schools

Government abandons code of conduct for religious supplementary schools

Categories: Latest News

Thursday October 23 2014

BBC News reports that the Department of Education has abandoned its plans to introduce a voluntary code of practice for religious schools in an attempt to tackle radicalisation of young people.

The code was intended to cover supplementary schools operating outside the mainstream education system such as evening classes, weekend schools or private tuition centres. A draft version of the code was expected to be published by the Department of Education before the end of the year and was one of the proposed recommendations put forward by the Taskforce on Tackling Radicalisation report last year.

Although the Home Secretary, Theresa May, was adamant the code should be mandatory in the wake of the alleged ‘Trojan horse’ plot in Birmingham schools, the Extremism Taskforce recommended in its report last year to improve regulations of religious supplementary schools through “a voluntary code of practice which will depend on schools implementing robust polices to protect children and young people from harm, including exposure to intolerant or extremist views.”

The government has now dramatically changed plans with a DfE spokesman revealing that “The government has been considering this carefully over recent months and we believe that there is more to be done within the existing regulatory framework.”

The government will be targeting schools where there is a ‘particular concern’ despite not proceeding with a code of practice.

BBC News further reports the plan for a code of conduct was dropped partly because putting it into practice proved too difficult. The poor review of extant regulatory mechanisms and implementation processes forcing the Government to reverse its policy recommendation smacks of the same reactionary judgment which has forced plans to revise the Religious Studies GCSE onto the backburner. Plans by Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, to alter the scope of the GCSE course compelling schools to teach another ‘world religion’ as part of the qualification has been widely challenged by faith groups.

The benefits of supplementary schools are further apparent in a research study by the Institute for Policy Studies in Education (IPSE) at the London Metropolitan University into the “Impact of Supplementary Schools on Pupils’ Attainment” in 2010. Using a sample of supplementary schools in England, the IPSE’s survey found that 60% of supplementary schools served one ethnic community with 85% of the schools providing education in culture and heritage.

Moreover, 68% of schools taught National Curriculum subjects including Maths and English. 70% of schools provided coaching for exams for Key Stage 1, 2 and 3 tests as well as GCSEs and A Levels. Supplementary schools were also found to play a significant role in raising the level of educational attainment among ethnic and migrant communities.

These benefits are further reinforced by Migrant Forum who highlight that many supplementary schools genuinely supplement mainstream education to address the low attainment levels of ethnic minorities in addition to preserving language, heritage and cultural identities.

Despite this, there has been significant media reporting focusing on oversight and regulation of Muslim supplementary schools particularly madrassahs.

In 2011, BBC Radio 4’s File on 4 investigated abuse in madrassahs after seeking disclosure from more than 200 local authorities in England, Scotland and Wales about allegations of physical and sexual abuse since 2009.

The interest in madrassahs and their portrayal in the media was the subject of another study in 2011, by think tank, IPPR.

The study found that media coverage of madrassahs had increased exponentially with ’11 times more articles in 2010 than in 2002’.

The study also found that some newspaper titles were more disposed to negative coverage than others, concluding “Nationally, The Times, Guardian, Daily Mail and Telegraph have included more articles referring to madrassas in the UK than other news sources. Locally, there have been greater levels of coverage in the Yorkshire Post, the Bradford-based Telegraph and Argus and the London-based Evening Standard.”

“An initial comparison of headlines immediately reveals a national versus local divide. Local newspapers have equal proportions of negative and objective headlines (32 per cent), and a slightly higher proportion of positive headlines (37 per cent). However, national headlines are significantly more likely to be negative (54 per cent) than objective (27 per cent) or positive (19 per cent).

“The data indicates that the majority of stories about madrassas in national newspapers have been negative (and are more likely to use inflammatory language and biased representations), while local papers have been more objective.”

The report argued that madrassahs are “frequently mentioned in the context of debates about radicalisation and extremism, and it is likely that this has had an important impact on the way that they are perceived by policymakers and in communities in Britain.”

It would seem that policy surrounding Muslim supplementary schools is driven by a perceived notion of culpability rather than reliable, concrete evidence of wrongdoing.


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