THERE are many areas of failure within our school system. Teaching quality is variable and academic standards are well below those in the best educational systems around the world. In addition, pupil behaviour is often poor and parental support inadequate.
Teacher training is inclined to regard schooling as being more about therapy than about the acquisition of subject knowledge. Too often its main focus is on political correctness. As a consequence, many schools have succumbed, sometimes unconsciously, to a philosophical outlook that is narrow-minded and dogmatic. Strangulation of alternative views and open discussion has become the norm. Closing down debate and the promotion of ignorance is applauded, however inadvertently.
When, indeed, it comes to the enforcement of political correctness, the UK sits alongside the United States as world-beating. I know from parents who write to me that teachers are even telling pupils that answers to exam questions must be not only correct, they must be politically correct.
Above all else, within today’s moral quagmire, schools have embraced an ‘anti-racist’ creed. ‘Treat others as you wish to be treated’, the non-negotiable requirement that as a headteacher I used to impose on pupils, is no longer enough. Far from it! Teachers now have to play the role of thought-police in the classroom.
That racial bullying has been a problem in some schools appears clear. It should be unequivocally condemned, as should all bullying. The pendulum of prejudice, however, is now moving in the opposite direction. The new ‘racism’ is ‘anti-racism’. Aberrant opinion that fails to classify all blacks as ‘victims’ is distinctly off-message and, consequently, punishable. The enthusiasm amongst young people for moral crusading and for metaphorical self-flagellation over the sins of the past is evidence of successful brainwashing in schools and universities. The herd instinct of supposedly well-educated young people has rarely been stronger or more intolerant.
It comes as a surprise, then, to learn that the BBC feels the need to tell us that ‘schools have a statutory duty not to discriminate against pupils over race’. Schools may be saturated in anti-racism but it seems they are not saturated enough. ‘Black pupils,’ the BBC reports, ‘are disproportionately hit with fixed-term exclusions in England – by three times as many in some places, data shows.’
The data has been highlighted by Lib-Dem education spokesman Layla Moran. ‘It is a glaring injustice,’ she told the BBC, ‘that black pupils growing up across the country are so much more likely to be excluded from school than their peers.’
The Guardian puts it all down to hair. ‘The UK school system has a problem with afro-textured hair,’ its readers are informed by Emma Dabiri, academic, broadcaster and author of ‘Don’t Touch My Hair’.
It turns out, though, that the exclusion rate for black children is trumped by those from a Roma/gypsy background. Mihai Calin Bica of the Roma Support Group told the Independent that he thought more cultural awareness in schools could support these pupils. Schools need to ‘better engage with Roma communities’, he said.
And, would you believe it, the official data on which pupil exclusion rates are based, has a different category for the group topping the exclusion table. Children on free school meals, including blacks and Roma, are four times more likely to be excluded than their classmates.
So it is back to a predominance of less well-off, white working-class pupils who are mostly excluded from school.
Calls for schools to become more accommodating of different cultural backgrounds should not be ignored but in practice it could lead to severe fractures in the school community. One rule for the blacks and one rule for the Roma, one rule for the well-off whites and one rule for the poor whites. And what about the LBGT community in schools and those of different faiths and so on and so on?
I have long been critical of what goes on in schools but the current suggestion that school leaders are insufficiently anti-racist is absurd. It is the very opposite of the truth. Schools may be failing in many areas but, to a fault, the teaching profession does not fail the anti-racist test.