Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Thursday, 12 June 2014

I have now read carefully the damning reports by Ofsted inspectors into the alleged infiltration of certain schools in Birmingham by Islamic extremists. I strongly support the firm action now being taken by the government to place 6 schools into special measures. It is not acceptable for any group to seek to radicalise or indoctrinate our children with extreme religious views. Faith is a personal choice, normally arrived at during adulthood, and none of our children should be programmed to believe or act in a certain way as impressionable youngsters.
I suspect that we have had a narrow escape and that have nipped something in the bud before it had a chance to escalate and do real damage. Hopefully, this will serve as a warning to the educational establishment in the future to be much more vigilant. We live in a pluralistic society, with people of many different faiths and none, but it is vital that each generation is taught values that can help us live together in harmony and not separate and divide us.
The schools in Birmingham were not faith schools, but mainstream state schools, but this episode brings into sharp relief the role of faith schools in our country. Church schools are immensely popular with parents, who are often attracted to the underlying values that church schools espouse. Of course, they do not separate boys from girls, do not treat female teachers less well, do not have a hidden agenda to control their community or the decisions their pupils make. Indeed, one of the hallmarks of our church schools is their innate reasonableness, tolerance and inclusiveness. However, many opponents of religion would dearly love to rid our educational landscape of religious schools altogether and we must make sure that the events in Birmingham do not give them ammunition to throw the baby out with the bath water.
There is a clear way forward and it is a system that is already supposed to be in place. All schools are supposed to teach the national curriculum and be open to Ofsted inspection.  All schools are supposed to hold predominately Christian assemblies and teach about all world faiths. They are supposed to prepare pupils for life in a modern tolerant pluralistic Britain. In future where we even suspect that this is not happening we must be swift to act.
It is time to be more robust with minority groups that seek to undermine our way of life.

posted by Gary @ 09:36