Our schools are one of the most important and fundamental elements of our society.
After the family – which always comes first – they are often bear the greatest influence in the wellbeing of our children and thus the future of our country.
Faith schools, whether in the state or independent sector, are among the most popular and most desired schools, and places at them are widely sought after.
I think this popularity comes down to our trust that these schools will teach our children not just the basics, but the deeper even more fundamental values which are meant to guide us on our way in life and keep us on the right path. As we all know, Man does not live by bread alone.
Recent changes in Department for Education regulations, then, have proved deeply worrying to many of us who value the place of faith schools in our education system. The new “equality” regulations require faith schools (independent or maintained) to actively promote the characteristics of the Equality Act, even if this is in direct contravention to the religious ethos of the school. Jewish, Catholic, and Evangelical schools have already been targeted – one Catholic school near Bury St Edmunds was attacked by Ofsted inspectors for not doing enough to tackle ‘radicalisation’.
These plans were devised in response to the ‘Trojan Horse’ Islamicisation scandal in Birmingham schools – but all the schools in question there were secular state schools.
This change in policy distracts Ofsted from what it is meant to be doing: ensuring the high quality of teaching and education in our schools. Instead,
Ofsted inspectors are now required to police schools on their application of the current, highly politicised, interpretation of equality.
The legal cases resulting from this will cause both schools and the government a great deal of time and money before the regulations are finally abandoned as unworkable.
I, along with 11 other MPs, have written to the Education Secretary to protest these changes. We would like to meet her and explain why the regulations are completely unacceptable and must be changed. But this is not a problem just for faith schools: even non-denominational schools are at risk.
The situation was driven home to us when we heard that Ofsted was refusing to grant an ‘outstanding’ ranking to the high-performing Middle Rasen Primary School here in the Gainsborough constituency.
The only reason for this is that, in the opinion of the inspectors, Middle Rasen does not do enough to teach multiculturalism.
As I said then, this is political correctness gone mad. I stand behind Middle Rasen’s head one-hundred per cent, and it gives us further courage in fighting these changes. While we may not be as diverse as London in our part of Lincolnshire, but our ethnic minorities are welcomed and well-integrated into our communities, just as they should be. It’s excellent schools like Middle Rasen Primary that ensure our children are bright and open-minded, as well as learning the skills necessary for the world around them.
Sir Edward Leigh
MP for Gainsborough