There was a time when school inspectors were austere characters in dark suits, sober ties, short haircuts and squeaky, highly polished shoes. They were known as HMI (Her Majesty’s Inspectors of Schools) and many were former headmasters of a particularly formidable kind. After a lifetime of insisting on the highest standards in traditional disciplines, such as English grammar, mathematics and the correct spelling and pronunciation of French irregular verbs, they sought to bring academic rigour to every classroom in the land.
So it comes as something of a shock to find that in their latest incarnation they have been transmuted into the educational thought police, the shock troops of the Harman-inspired crusade to make progressive, right-on attitudes the guiding light of British education.
It is like waking up to find that Captain Mainwaring has been reborn as the Wolf of Wall Street.
The quest for something called British values has exposed the inspectorate’s previously hidden role as cultural commissars – a kind of Stasi officially known as the innocuous sounding Ofsted – operating in our schools.
This crusade, a modern equivalent of the medieval search for the Holy Grail, was triggered by the so-called Trojan Horse scandal in Birmingham where it was found that state schools (not faith schools) had been hijacked by Islamic extremists intent on imposing their fundamentalist agenda, such as the banning of un-Islamic subjects such as music, segregating boys and girls, promoting a medieval view of the role of women and gays, and forcing non-Muslim heads and teachers out of their jobs. Even worse, from the inspectorate’s credibility, some of these Trojan Horse schools had previously been rated “outstanding” by them.
Ministers responded with the highly un-British notion that schools should be under a duty to promote “British values”, which apparently include such uncontentious notions like tolerance, liberty and democracy.
But that is not how Ofsted see it, no doubt egged on by the witless Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, apparently appointed to cave into the NUT-dominated Blob. It has focused its attention on mainly Church schools and has embarked on a purge of traditional attitudes.
The inspectors (sorry, Stasi) appear to see it as their duty to enforce Harriet Harman’s 2010 Equality Act (described by one Labour Cabinet minister as “socialism in one clause), which outlaws discrimination on the grounds of race, gender or sexual orientation. So, in their eyes, it is not enough for a school to tolerate ( a British ‘value’) homosexuality, it now must actively promote it.
Hence the swamp into which the inspectors have blundered. Saturday’s Daily Mail, over two pages following reports in other media detailed six schools across the country that have fallen foul of Ofsted. Several have been downgraded and placed in “special measures” – one is being forced to close its doors. Even The Guardian has got in on the act reporting that nine-year-olds at Jewish schools have been quizzed by Ofsted inspectors about gay marriage.
As part of this Draconian (and surely very un-British witch-hunt), a girl of 11 at a free school in Durham was asked by an inspector if she knew what it meant to be gay and whether she had any gay friends. She was also asked if she ever felt she was in the wrong body.
The Durham inspection carried out last autumn also wanted to know what the school was doing about female genital mutilation. One pupil, asked about Muslims, had the temerity to link them to terrorists.
Another school in the North East has been downgraded for failing to teach about the diversity within modern British society. A 10-year-old girl pupil was also asked the transgender question and others were asked if they knew what lesbians “did”.
The list is endless. It is not enough for heads and teachers to teach toleration of sexual and ethnic minorities. They are now expected, on pain of disciplinary action or the closure of an offending school, to promote such causes. Imams must be invited into schools, including Christian ones, festivals from other religions must be “celebrated” not just taught about, children not yet in their teens must be instructed in all the manifold permutations of human sexuality. Talk about the loss of innocence. No doubt they will soon be a GCSE in the horrors of FGM. Childhood is being destroyed on the orders of the State and in the pursuit of a most un-British agit-prop agenda.
No wonder that the Church of England has complained that the British values test is “dangerous and divisive” and accused Ofsted of turning into a “schoolroom security service”.
Some 25 years ago Margaret Thatcher’s government made it illegal for local councils to promote homosexuality in schools. Well, the wheel has turned full circle. It is now pretty much illegal not to promote the LGBT agenda in schools.
As The Conservative Woman has often argued, our schools and universities are no longer places of disinterested learning and civilised, informed debate and discussion. They are now becoming the vanguard of a cultural revolution in which traditional Christian morality is being put to the sword. Harriet Harman and her legions of angry sisters should be delighted because although the Left has lost the battle over the market economy, it has scored a staggering victory in terms of cultural values.
Even worse, as the Left’s long march through the institutions turns into a gallop, all this is happening under a Conservative-led government. Michael Gove, who gave some impression of understanding what was at stake, has been replaced with the spineless Mrs Morgan while our Prime Minister confines himself to banging on about his long-term economic plan and amusing himself with selfies and photo-calls with prominent members of the Davos-style global elite.
For all that, the Tories are stuck at around 33 per cent in the polls – well short of the number Dave needs to form a majority government. They should reflect on how long the “Tories” will last as a credible political force if they continue to hand the Left an unfettered hand in the classroom and the lecture theatre? Without the survival of social conservatism in Britain, the Conservative Party is doomed.