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Chris McGovern: Ofsted’s PC marking system sends our best schools to the bottom of the class


Town and Country Kiddies Nursery in Market Rasen, Lincolnshire has just been stripped of its Ofsted “outstanding” status. It has been downgraded to “good” on the basis of it not providing enough opportunities for babies and toddlers to “to learn about people who are different to themselves.” This was evidenced, in part, by the inspectors deciding that there were insufficient black and Asian faces on the walls of the nursery.

New criteria for inspection place an even heavier emphasis on adherence, real or notional, to the ever-expanding agenda of ‘political correctness’. The latest “Inspection Framework” makes this clear. In forming judgements, inspectors are instructed to pay particular attention to the outcomes of, among others, the following groups:

  • children and learners for whom English is an additional language
  • children and learners from minority ethnic groups
  • Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children and learners
  • lesbian, gay and bisexual children and learners 
  • transgender children and learners

In addition, Ofsted tells inspectors that they must evaluate the extent to which “equality of opportunity and recognition of diversity are promoted through teaching and learning.”

The “Early years inspection handbook” is even more specific. Nurseries must be judged on the extent to which they “actively promote equality and diversity…British Values…prevent radicalism and extremism.”

Nurseries and schools are now being downgraded or upgraded on the basis of perceived adherence to this new agenda. The Market Rasen nursery has lost its “outstanding” status because it has been deemed to fall short. Nurseries previously judged as “Grade 3: requires improvement” can now expect to be upgraded to “Grade 2: good” if they stick up some multi-ethnic posters and shift their teaching emphasis towards issues of ethnic diversity. In this way, the outstanding school and the failing school both become “good”. Distinctions in terms of educational quality disappear because promoting ‘ethnic diversity’ trumps all.

UK pupils have fallen well their peers in the most successful education systems around the world. Given this parlous state of affairs, it is the height of folly to upgrade or downgrade schools on the basis of their commitment to ‘political correctness’. School leavers entering today’s global market need to have mastered literacy, numeracy and core subjects – academic and vocational. Turning up for a job interview with just a gold star badge in ‘diversity awareness’ will not get you very far in the real world.

This educational betrayal needs to stop. Most of all it damages the life prospects of young people. It should go without saying that children need to be educated in an environment that promotes the ‘golden rule’ of treating others, as we would wish to be treated ourselves. The rest of the politically correct edifice is mostly window dressing and posturing. It is a dangerous distraction from providing children with the knowledge and skills they most need.

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Chris McGovern
Chris McGovern
Chris McGovern is the Chairman of the Campaign for Real Education. A retired head teacher with 35 years’ teaching experience, Chris is a former advisor to the Policy Unit at 10 Downing Street under two Prime Ministers.

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