Accord urges safeguards rethink as political leaders hint at new approaches

February 7, 2014

Accord has reaffirmed its call for greater safeguards to ensure that schools do not operate in narrow and exclusive ways after a week when politicians from the largest three Parties at Westminster have signalled a reconsideration of aspects of the current direction in education policy.

On Wednesday (Feb 5th) David Blunkett MP told The Guardian that a Labour Government would seek to introduce new bodies, probably at a sub-regional level, which would be tasked with scrutinising school performance and spending, as well as monitor their admission policies. The former Secretary of State for Education is currently writing a review for the Labour Party on accountability in education.

Yesterday the Minister of State for Schools and Liberal Democrat MP, David Laws, told The Independent that be believed Academy chains should be inspected by Ofsted. Meanwhile it has been revealed today that the Conservative Peer and Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Schools, Lord Nash, has written to the Trust of the Al-Madinah School in Derby to inform them that they will no longer be able to educate pupils at the secondary stage.

The all-through free school hit the headlines last October, when Lord Nash wrote to governors, calling on them to take ‘urgent steps’, including running checks on all staff with the Home Office’s Disclosure and Barring Service, ceasing any practices meaning ‘… women and girls are treated less favourably than men and boys’ and notifying ‘all staff that they are not required to cover their hair if contrary to their religion or beliefs’. Later that month Ofsted published an inspection report into the school which found it to be ‘inadequate’ under all inspection criteria, concluding that school was ‘dysfunctional’.

Chair of the Accord Coalition, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, said ‘As schools are given greater freedom and autonomy to innovate so it should follow there are more, not fewer safeguards in place, to ensure that freedoms do not serve to further undermine the growth of mutual understanding or fail to properly respect the rights and beliefs of children, parents and staff. Moves to ensure that freedoms are not misused are overdue, so any re-evaluation by policy makers in this area is welcome.

‘Urgent steps that should be taken include instructing Ofsted to again inspect upon how schools contribute to community cohesion; asking faith groups to endorse the recent RE curriculum from the RE Council of England and Wales and bringing to a halt the creation of any more state funded schools that discriminate staff or pupils by faith

One Response to Accord urges safeguards rethink as political leaders hint at new approaches

  1. Beronica on August 6, 2014 at 11:51 am

    To begin with, the author shuold make it clearer that his proposals can relate only to England, as schools policy is devolved. Secondly, why focus on importing language teachers rather than improving the skills of our existing primary-school teachers and those entering training? Why do we always feel we have to import people to remedy our skills shortages? It isn’t just about short-term economics, and if a culture of foreign language learning and use is promoted among our adult population as well as our children including but not limited to the teaching profession then it is arguable that the benefits will be more profound and sustainable.Finally, the main reason for teaching French is not that it was the language our teachers themselves learned at school. That may be the main cause, but there are plenty of other reasons for learning French. In fact, French alongside Latin and Ancient Greek, which is why the private schools do it provides an indispensable foundation for deepening one’s understanding and appreciation for English itself, as the contribution to English of those three languages has been so profound over hundreds of years. As I say, it’s not just about economics but about culture. And even if our focus were primarily economic, it seems bizarre to say the least that we would focus on languages spoken in parts of the world Latin America and China with which our trading relationships are still less important than with our close European neighbours. Alongside French, what about German, which is also by the way an excellent language to learn to deepen one’s understanding of English itself? Africa is also on the rise, where French is still widely spoken. And the emphasis on Spanish is arguably short-sighted, as it’s Brazil that is the motor of the Latin American economies, and they speak Portuguese, not Spanish. Who knows, in ten years’ time, people will be crying out for Portuguese-language skills?I think we need a broader vision of the purposes of language learning, and not a narrow and arguably ineffectual, short-term economic view.

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