Munich speech puts PM at odds with Government’s faith school policy

February 7, 2011

David Cameron’s speech in Munich about radicalisation has laid bare a major inconsistency in Government policy on education and faith schools.

The Accord Coalition – the national organisation which links both religious and non-religious groups camping for inclusive education – is deeply puzzled by the mixed signals that the Government is giving out:

David Cameron has just given a major speech about confronting extremism and promoting a great sense of citizenship. Yet at the same time, his Government is proposing to relieve Ofsted from inspecting schools on their duty to promote community cohesion.

The duty to promote community cohesion was a significant measure introduced by the previous Government to address widespread public concern about faith schools and if – as we fear – the duty disappears, the Government will be backtracking on an important obligation and undermining its own message.

If David Cameron is right in his analysis of extremism, then his Education Secretary, Michael Gove, is entirely wrong to describe the promotion of community cohesion as “a peripheral issue”.

It also begs the question of whether increasing the number of faith schools – which effectively ghettoise children and fragment society – is wise given the Prime Minister’s remarks.

The Government has chosen to give schools greater freedoms, but it is vital to ensure that greater freedom does not lead to a chaotic free for all in which bigots are allowed to poison young minds; instead schools should promote a common base of shared values and a sense of British citizenship.

There may be merit in devolving more powers to teachers in terms of the curriculum, but that makes it all the more important to have rigorous powers of monitoring as to what happens in classrooms, and also to ensure that children of different faiths and cultures are in the same classroom, not isolated from each other in separate schools.

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