A small primary school in the heart of the Lincolnshire countryside has become the first casualty of Education Secretary Nicky Morgan’s crusade requiring schools actively to promote understanding of minority points of view. Middle Rasen Primary School has been penalised for being too English. Ofsted judged the school “good” rather than “outstanding”, partly on the basis that pupils were deemed to lack “first hand experience of the diverse make-up of modern British society”. The 104 pupils at the school are 97 per cent white with very few from ethnic minority groups. They all speak English as their first language. This is no fault of the school. It simply reflects its rural catchment area.
Ofsted does not offer any suggestions as to how it expects the school to provide its pupils with the “first hand interaction with their counterparts from different backgrounds” that it is demanding. The only possible ‘solution’ appears to be some sort of ‘twinning’ arrangement with a school in a more ethnically diverse area. How much time, energy and resources will this take up and to what effect?
The Ofsted verdict has been described as “ridiculous”, “vindictive” and “crackers” by parents of the school. One commented: “The school does a lot to try and teach them about other cultures without there being children from other cultures there. It’s bizarre to punish them for being too English.” Another, added: “It’s outrageous that a British school can be punished for being too British. It just doesn’t make sense at all. We would welcome people from different cultures with open arms I’m sure – but there just aren’t any ethnic minorities around here.”
Minority groups are already protected by legislation that rightly outlaws discrimination in schools, and elsewhere, on the grounds of race, religion, gender or sexual orientation. However, the new requirement for schools actively to promote ‘tolerance’ presents real issues; as much, if not more, for ‘faith’ schools as for schools like Middle Rasen Primary.
We follow a dangerous pathway when we require schools to be vehicles for ‘political correctness’ under the guise of promoting ‘tolerance’ and ‘British values’. Too much of what goes on in the classroom these days is driven by a desire to please Ofsted. Increasingly, this has meant that teachers have become focused on the ‘process’ by which children learn, including the inculcation of ‘correct’ attitudes, rather than any substantial learning outcome. Inspectors have become ‘enforcers’ of a plethora of misguided policies formulated by the educational establishment, the Blob.
Amongst current ministers, only Nick Gibb seems more interested in the quality of education rather than appeasement of the ‘profession’. Our supine, pusillanimous and, largely, anonymous Secretary of State for Education gives the impression of being completely out of her depth. She has become the Blob’s ‘poodle’. This is extremely dangerous.
Ofsted’s denunciation of Middle Rasen Primary for being too English indicates the future direction of travel for our schools. Schools must swear an oath of loyalty to a misplaced dogma of ‘political correctness’. They must, also, demonstrate their compliance.
‘Tolerance’ has become ‘intolerance’. A ‘witch-hunt’ is underway; what, in a parallel context, Arthur Miller described as, “a hunt not just for subversive people, but for ideas and even a suspect language.”