Selling British values: a job for schools or mother and father?

That old rogue president Ronald Reagan took a very specific see of the romantic relationship in between officials and the individuals. “The 9 most terrifying phrases in the English language are: ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to support,’” he famously mentioned. But then he never ran a school in England. Had he completed so, he may well have concluded that even scarier are the phrases: “We are from Ofsted. It’s inspection time once more.”

There are so numerous ways that a school, even a excellent one particular, can journey up for the duration of the strain-cooker expertise of an Ofsted inspection – I know, I have noticed it as a governor. And now there is a new one particular. Schools had better make it plain that they are undertaking almost everything they can, on leading of all the academic demands, to actively “promote British values”.

As ever with our government, the initiative has an element of shutting the stable door. Two weeks in the past, we realized of Ofsted inspections that discovered pupils in an east London college couldn’t differentiate amongst English law and Sharia law. Hence the new stipulation that “pupils must recognize that although distinct people could hold distinct views about what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, all folks residing in England are subject to its law”. Colleges have to “support the rule of English civil and criminal law”, shunning something that undermines it. And if colleges teach about religious law, “pupils must be manufactured aware of the distinction in between the law of the land and religious law”.

Extraordinary that this demands saying, perhaps. But then, the systemic hotchpotch bequeathed by the last Labour government, and then turbocharged by Michael Gove, did rather depart the impression that anything goes for individuals who run their own schools.

Ofsted has currently been active in this location. Colleges – Muslim, Christian, Jewish – have all been marked down for failing to prepare pupils for existence in present day various Britain. I wouldn’t criticise that. Any school that equips its college students to be relaxed and knowledgable about difference is performing them a favour, and that applies to rural counties as effectively as the inner cities. But it is yet another pastoral duty for our colleges to perform. And they may well reasonably ask: what about the mothers and fathers – why aren’t they teaching their children this stuff? Truth is, mothers and fathers are frequently the dilemma. Colleges selecting up the slack yet again.

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