Ofsted on Muslim Faith Schools: Islamophobic? Ignorant? Or both?

24th Dec 2014

Talha Ahmad

On November 21, Ofsted Chief Inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, published an advice note for the Secretary of State for Education, Nicky Morgan, to accompany the publication of inspection reports of seven schools in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. Of the seven schools, six are independent Muslim faith schools and all of them failed their inspections in respect of each of Ofsted’s judging category. The seventh school, a state funded Church of England School, failed primarily on grounds of failure to take action in relation to activities on a facebook page which advertised events held at the school, a page which reportedly contained reference to consider extremist materials.

The advice note paints a grim picture. In recommendation, Sir Michael states: “I am extremely concerned about the large number of failings in each of the six independent schools inspected. I am not convinced that the leaders of these schools have sufficient capacity to bring about the necessary improvements to safeguarding, the curriculum and the quality of teaching and learning. I believe that, in all six schools, pupils’ physical and educational welfare is at serious risk. Given the evidence gathered from these inspections, particularly in relation to the narrowness of the curriculum, I am concerned that pupils in these schools may be vulnerable to extremist influences and radicalisation.”

Now, let us be clear – it is evident from the reports which have not been challenged by the schools concerned in relation to any aspects of the report – the reports make grim reading, at least in respect of the quality of teaching, learning environment and progress made by the pupils. There are concerns too about the quality of leadership including governance and sufficiency of resources to facilitate proper learning. We should be unequivocal and loud that these are not conditions acceptable for our children and these must improve. There should be no excuse for poor quality teaching resulting in poor quality learning and insufficient progress.

However, the primary cause for concerns mentioned in the recommendations to the Secretary of State is the issue of “narrowness of curriculum” which in turn raises possible vulnerability to “extremists influence and radicalisation”. Yet, on careful consideration of the reports and indeed the summary in the advice note, one will not find any evidence of actual radicalisation, or tolerance, encouragement of radical and/or extremists views, attitude or acts.

This therefore begs the question whether the OFSTED is merely advancing a politically driven agenda akin to Islamophobia. Is the OFSTED ignorant so much so that the Islamic faith schools’ “disproportionate” emphasis on the teaching of aspects of Islamic faith and some arguably conservative cultural attitude and practice led it to believe that these schools are becoming soft target for radicalisation? Either way, coming after the scandalous “Trojan Horse” saga and at a time when Islamophobia is believed to be at all-time high, OFSTED’s intervention risks causing serious damage to confidence of the Muslim community on the education watchdog. There is a real risk that the OFSTED’s action is aiding further alienation of the Muslim community and re-enforcement of the suspicion which many in the community feel in relation to how the Government treats the community.

Whilst this space is not sufficient to forensically examine the content of each report in any degree of details, it is worth however visiting some of the key findings of the reports. The advice note states:

“All six schools were providing a narrow curriculum that failed to promote pupils’ understanding of other faiths and cultures. All schools focused intensively on developing Islamic knowledge and understanding at the expense of other important areas of the curriculum.”

Whilst the summary of findings outlined in the advice note recognised pupils’ development of spiritual, moral, social and cultural development, it was not to the satisfaction of the inspectors because of “the schools’ failure to provide an appropriately broad and balanced curriculum.”

The report also stated: “In all six schools, there was a clear difference between the quality of teaching in the Islamic curriculum and teaching in other areas. Typically, teachers gave good instruction in Arabic studies, Hifz (memorisation of the Qur’an) and Islamic studies. In these areas, pupils were making good progress.”

What is evident from inspection reports is that each school provides strong development of pupils’ spiritual, moral and social development within the Islamic context, quality of education on Islamic subjects are good and that student generally develop strong understanding of their faith. It is claimed that this is done at the expense of other subjects such as arts and history and that as a consequence, pupils from these schools are poorly prepared for life in modern Britain.

It seems that “poorly prepared” is the main evidence behind assertion that these students may be vulnerable to radicalisation and extremism. That of course is capable of being interpreted as saying that strong grounding on Islamic faith and conviction on its principles is not sufficient to protect children against radicalisation and extremism. It is this that puts into question the Ofsted’s goodwill or their understanding of the challenge of radicalisation and extremism and indeed essence of Islamic faith.

2 Responses to “Ofsted on Muslim Faith Schools: Islamophobic? Ignorant? Or both?”

GenieDecember 25, 2014

Dera Nadine. Here is my most humble and sincere suggestion to you. Whether you live in the USA or not you should not criticise the slave takers of the people of the USA. Why? You increase the risk of being kidnapped and tortured like those people who were kidnapped and tortured.
The slaver takers of the people of the USA do not know of any ethics or laws of civility. They are people who have come out of the jungle and know only the Laws fo the jungle. People are known by their ways. Have those people of the jungle not given enough proof of what they are?

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Iftikhar AhmadDecember 26, 2014

What gives OFSTED the right, or indeed any Brits, to preach to minority groups about how they should live their lives. This is a cosmopolitan country, the Muslim community have the right to educate their children how they choose. What has being British got to do with your religious belief? In Britain there are Hindus Sikhs pagans Jewish Buddhists atheist Zoroastrians Rasta’s and many more should they all change there religious beliefs because they are British? Studying the Qur’an will certainly help towards these children becoming fully integrated citizens of the UK.

Muslim schools should be inspected by Muslim members of the Ofsted. They understand the needs and demands of the Muslim children as well as their parents. Twenty leading educationalists and Muslim leaders have questioned Ofsted’s impartiality in the Birmingham ‘Trojan Horse’ affair, education consultant Robin Richardson reflects on the factors behind its controversial recent inspections. What gives OFSTED the right, or indeed any Brits, to preach to minority groups about how they should live their lives. This is a cosmopolitan country, the Muslim community have the right to educate their children how they choose. What has being British got to do with your religious belief? In Britain there are Hindus Sikhs pagans Jewish Buddhists atheist Zoroastrians Rasta’s and many more should they all change there religious beliefs because they are British? Studying the Qur’an will certainly help towards these children becoming fully integrated citizens of the UK. Like many Ofsted stories this is no news. There are lots of schools up and down the land without male teachers. Teaching is so female dominated you wonder why pupils are so poorly behaved. After all feminism blames men for everything and here are the results of female dominance…

If 8 out of 10 schools are getting good or outstanding why is that not a headline? That would be positive & when the next Pisa comes out & shows no improvement the government would be made to look stupid because the 8 out of 10 schools are good or outstanding is bullshit just like much of what Ofsted say. Ofsted are a political tool used to show progress to the electorate & win votes. Their comments, inspections & judgements are utterly, utterly worthless. Wilshaw was just on radio 4 and he seemed to reject the proposal that parents have any responsibility for their children’s attitude to learning and behaviour, preferring to point out that Head teachers ‘have tremendous powers to set the culture’. This wilful blindness is what has hindered the progress of too many students in mainstream state schools for too long. According to Ofsted’s chief inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, inspectors of the so-called Trojan Horse schools in Birmingham have found that pupils were “vulnerable to extremism” and that some had been targeted by hard line Muslim governors in a ‘planned and orchestrated’ plot to radicalise pupils. The truth of the matter is that 7/7 bombers were never educated in a Muslim school. They are the product of the British schooling, which makes a man stupid, selfish and corrupt. It is the saying of Lord Burtend Russell. They were mis-educated and de-educated by state schools with non-Muslim teachers.

Don`t forget these Trojan Horse schools had excellent ratings from OFSTED , so what will change? Where these schools are situated often have religious community support after school activities, also, school governors are likely to come from the religious and social leaders of these communities, how will you stop their influence?? Twenty leading educationalists and Muslim leaders have questioned Ofsted’s impartiality in the Birmingham ‘Trojan Horse’ affair, education consultant Robin Richardson reflects on the factors behind its controversial recent inspections.

The Trojan Horse story in Birmingham is one in which carelessness, incompetence, coincidence, opportunism, self-interest and sheer wickedness all play significant parts. The dominant narrative began to be public when the security correspondent at the Sunday Times provided on 2 March 2014 some quotations from a document which he claimed had been written by a Muslim in Birmingham for sending to a Muslim in Bradford. It was obvious from the quotations to any reasonable person with time and inclination to think about it that the document was a forgery, a false flag operation. It was not, alas, obvious to journalists in the mainstream media, including to its shame the Guardian.

Western media and politicians have been trying their best to propagate against Muslim schools. Muslim schools are even called Osama bin Laden Academies by a Teaching Union. Only less than 5% of Muslim children attend Muslim schools while more than 95% are in state schools to be mis-educated and de-educated by non-Muslim monolingual teachers. The demand for state funded Muslim schools is in accordance with the law of the land. Muslim community is not asking for any favour. State schools get appalling Ofsted reports as well. There will be good and bad state schools and good and bad free schools. Muslim Girls school tops state school rankings in Blackburn. Yet, the only news we get is about a failing school in Derby.
The problem is the Islamification of schools through the sheer weight of numbers of Muslims in them. Attitudes to gays and terrorism may be some kind of litmus test for such Islamification but Ofsted seem to have approached this in a clumsy and insensitive way. The elephant in the room is that if you have a school full of Muslims then it is always going to be an Islamist school. It’s too late to avoid that now. Islam outlaws homosexuality. It’s perfectly reasonable to ensure children forced into a religion and a religious school by their parents are educated and accepting, and generally set up to become good citizens. It’s also reasonable to suspect a Muslim school, wouldn’t encourage acceptance of homosexuality, or discourage playground negativity towards it.

Six Muslim schools in London’s Tower Hamlets region have recently been accused of exposing their pupils to ‘serious risk’ of ‘extremist influences and radicalisation’, Sir. Michael Wilshaw says. The head of Ofsted and Chief Inspector of Schools claims these independent institutions focus far too heavily on Islamic teaching, ignoring the core modules of the National Curriculum and under preparing their students for a life in modern Britain. Although many staff within these schools called Ofsted’s accusations ‘unprofessional’, the Education Secretary has threatened that unless they alter their academic focus, these primary and secondary schools – many of whom have since lost their ‘outstanding’ academic status previously awarded by Ofsted – will be closed.

This investigation into independent Muslim institutions comes in the wake of the Birmingham schools ‘Trojan Horse’ incident of earlier this year, where five Muslim schools were accused of encouraging a ‘hard-line Islamist takeover’ and subjected to unannounced inspection by Ofsted. In a similar case, Wilshaw claims that the schools in Tower Hamlets focus solely on Islamist teachings, ignoring subjects such as art, music and drama and as such, exposing their vulnerable pupils to ‘extremist influences and radicalisation’.

This is simply not the case, however, and to suggest that Muslim institutions specialising in Islamic teachings are radical and extremist is more over, a sweeping mis-judgment; one that is unfortunately no doubt shaped by the influx of information concerning certain terrorist organisations ISIS and Boko Haram within our media.

In many instances Muslim schools have raised the standard for pupils within the community, creating a safe and approachable environment for families who care not only about their children’s education, but their religious beliefs and continuation of cultural practices and morals. Since 2004 the national average of Muslims achieving a GCSE A*- C grade has increased drastically with the development of these schools, with pass rate figures rising from 25-30% for both boys and girls in parts of England, to 100% in particular Islamic institutions. The Brondesbury College for Boys in Brent is one such example, whose GCSE pass rates are 46% higher than England’s national average.

Muslim Schools are therefore setting the standards of all-round excellence and nurturing a new generation of high achievers throughout the country; allowing their pupils to excel in subjects beyond the schools’ Islamic focus. The number of Muslim schools, along with their successful pass rates, thus provide Britain with young educated Muslims, who will in turn, be in a better position to contribute towards Britain in primary fields of work.

Furthermore, if we look at the subjects offered by each of the six accused Muslim private schools, we notice that they do offer a variety of subjects which are not all solely based on Islamic teachings. Therefore the argument about not providing a broad and balanced curriculum is inaccurate.
IA
http://www.londonschoolofislamics.org.uk

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