Islamic extremists ‘threatening British values’ in schools – UK watchdog
Amanda Spielman, head of Ofsted, is calling on teachers not to shy away from reproaching religious fundamentalists who are trying to brainwash pupils and cut them off from society.
“Ofsted inspectors are increasingly brought into contact with those who want to actively pervert the purpose of education,” she is expected to tell a Church of England school conference on Thursday.
“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.”
Spielman will also throw her weight behind a school which has recently banned young Muslim girls from wearing the hijab.
Neena Lall, head of top state primary school St. Stephen’s in Newham, east London, recently banned younger pupils from Ramadan fasting in school hours and girls under eight from wearing the hijab in class.
As the hijab is an item worn to show modesty in the years following puberty, Lall imposed the ban, saying it is needed to avoid girls being sexualized.
Lall was compared to Adolf Hitler in a video circulated by a group of parents and community leaders. Councillors also protested, accusing the head teacher of undermining the freedom to practice faith and insisting that it was up to parents to decide how to dress and bring up their children. The school, a secular state primary in a largely Pakistani and Bangladeshi community, subsequently reversed the decision.
In an unusual move, Ofsted inspectors arrived at the school yesterday to check on the welfare of staff and pupils and to show solidarity with the head.
Spielman insisted: “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 called on teachers to fight extremism with “muscular liberalism” and said:
“Rather than adopting a passive liberalism, that says ‘anything goes’ for fear of causing offence, school leaders should be promoting a muscular liberalism.
“It means not assuming that the most conservative voices in a particular faith speak for everyone – imagine if people thought the Christian Institute were the sole voice of Anglicanism.
“And it means schools must not be afraid to call out practices, whatever their justification, that limit young people’s experiences and learning.”
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