Emergency powers to shut schools linked to extremism

The Department for Education publishes guidelines that will prevent teachers taking a “minimum approach” to British values and give the government emergency powers to shut schools

New requirements to actively promote British values are being introduced in the wake of an investigation into alleged Islamic extremism in Birmingham schools.

New requirements to actively promote British values are being introduced in the wake of an investigation into alleged Islamic extremism in Birmingham schools. Photo: Colin Underhill/ Alamy

New emergency powers will be introduced to close any school linked to extremism or child abuse in the wake of the Trojan Horse plot, it was announced today.

Lord Nash, the Schools Minister, said the government would be able to apply to a magistrate to shut a school “where there are serious safeguarding concerns”.

Schools can appeal but will not be able to operate while a legal challenge is being made.

The tough new powers will be implemented as part of a crackdown on schools that are failing to prevent “vulnerable” pupils being groomed by extremist groups following an Ofsted investigation into 21 schools in Birmingham.

For the first time, schools will also be required to meet new requirements to “actively promote” British values.

Proposals published by the Department for Education warn that schools will be prevented from taking a “minimum approach” to the fundamental tenets of British society.

A consultation document says that “putting up posters on a notice board an organising an occasional visit to a place of worship” would fall short of the requirement.

For the first time from September, schools will be actively banned from requiring girls to sit at the back of classrooms after Ofsted found examples of the practice in a number of secular state schools in Birmingham named as part of the Trojan Horse plot.

It also emerged that schools must challenge pupils and parents found “expressing opinions contrary to fundamental British values”.

The government can intervene at schools for a number of reasons including girls being “disadvantaged on the grounds of their gender, failure to address homophobia or where prejudice against those of other faiths is encouraged or not adequately challenged by the school”.

The move forms part of the government response to a damning Ofsted report on schools at the centre of the alleged plot to install hardline Islamist practices in the classroom.

Ofsted placed six schools in special measures and said another 11 “require improvement”.

Inspectors warned of a “culture of fear and intimidation” in schools, with governors exerting “inappropriate influence” over how they are being run.

Sir Michael Wilshaw, the head of Ofsted said the “active promotion of a narrow set of values and beliefs in some of the schools is making children vulnerable to segregation and emotional dislocation from wider society”.

Plans outlined by the government would strengthen the existing Independent School Standards to place a greater emphasis on the active promotion of British values. The reforms will apply to all independent schools in England alongside state-funded academies and free schools. Ofsted will also introduce similar changes for council-funded schools.

In a letter to the Commons Education Select Committee, Lord Nash, the Schools Minister, said the regulations would be underpinned by tough new powers to impose an emergency closure any school.

Previously, the process was drawn out and involved several Ofsted inspections before closures could be made.

He said: “We will implement new emergency powers to allow us to close a school or impose restrictions where there are serious safeguarding concerns.

“The new powers will allow us to apply to a Justice of the Peace for an order to remove a school from the register of independent schools. The school can appeal but may not operate during the appeal period.”

From September, schools must show how they are “embedding fundamental British values” across the curriculum and around the school site as part of a

Schools are told to ensure that all lesson plans promote the “values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance for those with different faiths and beliefs; and encourage students to respect other people”.

Schools that teach pupils in other languages – including madrassas where Muslim children are given religious instruction – must ensure that “students achieve the fluency of students nationally in speaking, reading and writing English”.

All schools must also give pupils access to up-to-date careers guidance enabling them to make “informed choices about a broad range of career options”.

A new requirement will also be introduced for schools to publish their inspection reports on their website – instead of burying them away.

A DfE spokesman said: “Keeping our children safe and ensuring schools prepare them for life in modern Britain could not be more important. This change is an important step towards ensuring we have a strong legal basis for intervening in those schools where this is an issue.

“The vast majority of schools already promote British values – this is about making sure we have the tools we need to intervene if children are being let down.”

VIA – http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/10919981/Emergency-powers-to-shut-schools-linked-to-extremism.html

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