The Accord Coalition has today sent a briefing to members of the House of Lords urging them to support an amendment at the Education Bill’s Report Stage from the crossbench Peer and Accord supporter, Baroness Flather of Windsor and Maidenhead, which seeks to retain Ofsted’s current duty to inspect on how schools promote community cohesion.
As things stand, the Education Bill proposes to remove Ofsted’s community cohesion inspection duty, which only came into effect in 2007 and is the principal means that government uses to ensure that state funded schools try to promote better cohesion. The duty was introduced in part to help address widespread public concern about how schools, and particularly faith schools, could serve to undermine social cohesion.
Baroness Flather first tabled her amendment in June for consideration at the Bill’s Committee Stage, but parliamentary procedures meant that it could not be voted on. However, the amendment received support by Peers from both Government and Opposition benches, and including the Lord Bishop of Ripon and Leeds, The Rt Revd John Packer, who like other Lords, urged that the amendment be brought back at the Bill’s Report Stage so it could be put to a vote.
Chair of the Accord Coalition, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, said ‘Ofsted’s duty to inspect how schools promote community cohesion provides an important safeguard, and if taken away, risks empowering those who would mitigate against social cohesion in our schools.
‘It would also be especially unwise to get rid of Ofsted’s duty at this current time, as state funded schools are being given far more freedom and autonomy, many are being inspected less frequently, while new and untested education providers are coming into the state sector through the Free Schools programme.
‘Schools are not just about learning facts, but also about children interacting in harmony. In view of the mix of faiths and cultures in Britain today, it is vital for the social health of society that community cohesion remains a priority. Accord therefore urges Peers to support Baroness Flather’s amendment, for the good of both current and future generations.’