Gove misleads House over Birmingham Ofsted inspections

Janet Downs's picture
 13
“Overall, Ofsted inspected 21 schools. Three were good or outstanding; 12 were found to require improvement. The remaining six are inadequate…”

Education Secretary, Michael Gove, 9 June 2014.

Gove’s statement implied that 21 schools had full inspections and that Ofsted made new judgements. But that implication is false.

Only five had full inspections. They were judged Inadequate overall but not necessarily on all counts. Achievement and Teaching at Oldknow Academy, for example, was still rated Outstanding.

The remaining 16 had monitoring inspections so their previous Ofsted judgements still stand: ten were Good or Outstanding, four Require Improvement or were judged Satisfactory and two were Inadequate.

Although Gove gave the impression he was quoting full Ofsted judgements, he was not doing so. He was referring to one thing only: leadership and management. He should, of course, have made this clear. It was misleading not to do so.

The Ofsted investigation was supposed to find signs of an organised, city-wide plot. The evidence of a co-ordinated takeover of Birmingham schools is weak. But Gove seems to imply that if any targeted schools had weaknesses in leadership and management, then they’re involved in the so-called Trojan Horse conspiracy.

Ofsted made positive comments about community cohesion at nine of the sixteen schools which were monitored. Yet it judged leadership and management at twelve schools to require improvement. But inspectors only expressed concerns about overbearing governors or mistrust in three of them. The others seemed to have had their leadership damned for reasons other than possible infiltration: mostly it referred to non-engagement with Prevent. Even the nursery school was censured for not using Prevent strategies with its three- and four-year-olds.

Oddly, there is no reference to Prevent in Ofsted reports for other Birmingham Schools published between 6 and 10 June. Inspectors made no comments about engagement with Prevent at St Clement’s CofE Academy, St Clare’s Catholic Primary, Greenholm Primary or Glenmead Primary. Given that Prevent is supposed to tackle other forms of extremism such as far-right activism, then it's illogical for inspectors not to consider engagement with Prevent in all schools (if it's really desirable, of course. There's been no debate, there's disagreement about how best to implement the policy and it's been criticised. It might be more productive to concentrate on community cohesion).

Further questions remain and Gove mentioned one of them: who knew what and when? He said he’d asked Birmingham LA and Ofsted to start inquiries to find out when the alleged plot first came to light. He’s also asked the Department for Education (DfE). He could start with Lord Hill. He was schools minister at the time and was present at the 2010 meeting when head teacher, Tim Boyes, presented evidence about plans to takeover certain Birmingham schools. It is rather stretching belief to think Lord Hill didn’t inform his chief. A cynic might say any scandal about a plot to takeover schools involving a faith group might have hampered the free school programme.

A final question surrounds Gove’s handling of the affair. He gave the appearance of assuming guilt before it was proven. It was right to order an investigation but he should have stood back until inquiries were complete. Instead, he sent in a former counter-terrorist chief and undermined the Home Secretary with remarks about draining swamps. And now he misrepresents Ofsted reports to make the situation in the 21 schools appear worse than it is.

Let’s be clear: Ofsted has not changed the judgements on sixteen of the 21 schools – there should be no reason why those which were not previously judged Inadequate should be handed to the academy sponsors Gove has waiting in the wings.

ADDENDUM

Ofsted judgements for the 15 schools which had monitoring inspections:

Adderley Primary School: Good 2012
Aston Primary School: Inadequate May 2013
Chilwell Croft Academy (Predecessor school): Satisfactory 2011
Gracelands Nursery: Good May 2012
Heathfield Primary School: Requires improvement Nov 2013
Highfield Junior and Infant School: Requires Improvement June 2013
Ladypool Primary School: Requires Improvement January 2014
Marlborough Junior School: Good June 2013
Montgomery Primary Academy (Predecessor school): Inadequate March 2012
Ninestiles School, an Academy: Outstanding October 2013
Regents Park Community Primary School: Outstanding 2011
Shaw Hill Primary School: Good June 2013
Small Heath School: Outstanding May 2013
Washwood Heath Academy: Good January 2012
Waverley School: Outstanding December 2012
Welford Primary School: Good 2013

A list of the 21 schools with links to Ofsted reports is here.
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Comments

Chris Manners's picture
Thu, 12/06/2014 - 22:29

Wow, check out that rigour.

What a nasty bit of work he is. Muslim fundy takeover and kids learning nothing. Those are the narratives.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sat, 14/06/2014 - 07:11

Thanks Janet,

It's been dispiriting to see so many people adding this issue onto their own hobby horses rather than analysing it as it is.

Many thanks

FJM's picture
Mon, 16/06/2014 - 06:47

I agree. I have noticed how many people have used the goings on at these non-faith schools, with problems caused by some Muslim extremists, to attack church schools.


Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 16/06/2014 - 08:57

FJM - you're right that the 5 schools judged Inadequate after full inspections were not faith schools. Inspectors found undue influence by governors and taking the Islamic focus too far in the case of Park View Academy Trust (PVET) academies (PVET disputes this).

Liam Byrne's solution was to allow more faith schools but this implies that the goings-on discovered by Ofsted (eg a teacher covering his ears during music lessons, a narrowing of curriculum) would be OK if the school had a faith designation.

This is unacceptable.

Yesterday, a poll revealed over half of voters believe faith schools should lose state funding or be abolished.

I wouldn't go that far but would urge faith schools to open their doors to all pupils irrespective of faith and, as Michael Wilshaw has recommended, ensure all state-funded schools know what is expected from a broad and balanced curriculum.

Andy V's picture
Mon, 16/06/2014 - 09:41

"Yesterday, a poll revealed over half of voters believe faith schools should lose state funding or be abolished", this along with the question in the house from Crispin Blunt MP is based on a very large degree of ignorance and dis/misinformation about just how much taxpayer funding is expended on the 'faith' aspect of faith schools.

Even if one were to give genuine credence to any suggestion of having faith schools that must have the same admissions criteria as non-faith state schools, who is going to find the money to pay the 10% toward capital costs that the faith group currently pay, let alone stump up an form of lease/rental charge for the state using the faith groups land on which the school is built?

Andy V's picture
Mon, 16/06/2014 - 09:44

Liam Byrne's suggestion is not tenable per se. Any increase could only be considered if the demand for additional faith schools arose and then on a case by case basis.

It is simply disingenuous to use a Trojan Horse example - the teacher covering his ears - in a way that explicitly implies that this or similar is common practice in all faith schools.

Shaun Whitfield's picture
Tue, 17/06/2014 - 10:59

Andy, I think you are the one guilty of 'ignorance and dis/misinformation' The true situation is that us taxpayers are already funding virtually all the remaining 10% of capital costs, so why are you repeating the old canard that faith schools pay this amount? An FoI request by the Accord Coalition (reported on their website on 27 December 2013) found that:

" A Freedom of Information Act request by the Accord Coalition has highlighted the tiny amount that the governing bodies of faith schools contribute to their schools. Even though a third of state funded schools in England are faith schools, in the last financial year faith groups were required to contribute no more than £23.1 million towards capital spending projects managed directly by the Department for Education, part of a massive long term reduction in the support by faith groups for the schools they sponsor.

Under current funding arrangements voluntary aided (VA) faith schools are supposed to meet 10% of their capital costs (15% towards capital projects initiated before 2002), and before the introduction of Academies two thirds of faith schools were VA schools. The running costs of all other types of faith school are met wholly by the tax payer, including if a voluntary aided faith school converts to an Academy. However, the governing body of VA schools are no longer required to contribute towards the costs of capital funding made from the Department for Education’s main school building improvement fund, the Priority School Building Programme...

"The Government does not record how VA faith school governing bodies meet their required contribution towards their capital costs. Most of it may come from fundraising from parents and only a small fraction from faith groups themselves. And not only have contributions towards capital costs reduced over the last five years, but are part of a much larger long term decline.

Faith schools were first brought into the state maintained system as a result of the 1944 Education Act. Some became voluntary controlled faith schools and were entirely state funded, while the majority become VA schools. VA status gave the schools extra freedoms, including the ability to employ and recruit all teachers on the grounds of religion, to admit all of their pupils on religious grounds if sufficiently oversubscribed and to decide upon the kind of Religious Education or Instruction provided. But in exchange for these extra powers governing body were expected to meet 50% of the school’s capital expenditure costs.

"However, since 1944, and with no public debate, the required contribution towards capital spending has come down and down. While the Regulatory Reform Order (Voluntary Aided Schools Liabilities and Funding) 2002 reduced the level from 15% to 10%, the real figure is now far below 10% as the Department for Education no longer requires VA schools to make any contribution towards most of the capital funding it makes.

"Chair of the Accord Coalition, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain MBE said, ‘No school that receives state funds should be allowed to discriminate on religious grounds, or to deny pupils a broad education about the range of beliefs held in society. However, it is extraordinary that in 1944 the Government thought it a fair settlement to require faith schools that wished to be able to act in narrow and exclusive ways to make a 50% contribution towards their capital costs, while today the percentage met by faith groups is not far from zero.

‘As a consequence the argument that faith schools should be able to enjoy privileges and exemptions from equality law because they help to meet some of their own costs has been almost completely eroded away. Similarly, the argument that the wider community should have a say how state funded faith schools are allowed to operate only grows even stronger.’"

As noted above, the religious institutions themselves may require parents to make some contribution to the 10% capital costs. We are now in a situation where the church contribution may well be of a similar order to those amounts raised by parents whose children attend non-denominational schools (eg funds raised at the school fete etc).

With regard to the costs of leasing etc, the taxpayer has paid for faith schools many times over since 1944. Anyway, all that is required is to remove the religious test for admissions. We did so for universities in the 19C - why not do it for the primary and secondary sector as well, now we are in the 21C?

Andy V's picture
Tue, 17/06/2014 - 16:18

Shaun, If you consider each aspect of a faith school's operation/activities very little of it is exclusively about the particular faith involved. That is to say, with the partial exception of RE every other aspect of the curriculum and day to day running of the school is the same as that for a non-faith school. I say 'partial exception' because faith schools still teach about faiths other than their own (e.g. world religions through the acknowledge 6 major faiths). Viewed from that perspective I believe it can readily be seen that the taxpayers 90% funding is not going toward the teaching or promotion of a particular faith. It is inaccurate to imply that the teaching of every subject is permeated with a faith based programme of study.

I do accept that there will be the odd faith group who may try and skew the curriculum e.g. the Jewish school that opened the GCSE Science papers in advance of the exam and redacted all the questions that were contrary to their beliefs and the odd right wing literalist Christian school who attempted to dislodge the traditional Science programme of study in favour of creationism/intelligent design. The former were quite rightly upbraided and sanctioned for a clear breach of both the curriculum and examination procedures and the latter triggered Mr Gove revisiting the relevant statute and making it illegal not to deliver the nationally agreed/approved Science syllabus. This however must be viewed through the lens of the exception to the rule and the government and DfE rapidly stamp on it as and when it arises.

This resonates with the Trojan Horse context in that the schools were not faith based but it appears that a faith group attempted to exert excessive influence over the schools and the way they operated and what they taught, which took them outside what is considered to be acceptable and as such the relevant authorities took what they considered to be the necessary investigative and follow-up action.

However, returning to the main point I can only reiterate my initial comment, "how much taxpayer funding is expended on the ‘faith’ aspect of faith schools", very little. Why, because the vast majority is expended on the non-religious/non-faith operation/activity of the schools.

I will not be drawn into a hardline secularist debate about whether over subscribed faith schools that give legal priority to children of that faith group is 'discrimination'. It is though interesting that a large majority of faith schools are under subscribed with children of the faith involved and readily accept children from families of other faiths and non-faith.

Shaun Whitfield's picture
Wed, 18/06/2014 - 10:38

Andy, the main point of my post was to refute your claim that religious institutions pay 10% of the capital costs of faith schools. I produced evidence to show that this was no longer the case and as you have made no comment on this matter I assume you accept that you were wrong. Am I right?

"Shaun, If you consider each aspect of a faith school’s operation/activities very little of it is exclusively about the particular faith involved. That is to say, with the partial exception of RE every other aspect of the curriculum and day to day running of the school is the same as that for a non-faith school. I say ‘partial exception’ because faith schools still teach about faiths other than their own (e.g. world religions through the acknowledge 6 major faiths). Viewed from that perspective I believe it can readily be seen that the taxpayers 90% funding is not going toward the teaching or promotion of a particular faith. It is inaccurate to imply that the teaching of every subject is permeated with a faith based programme of study.....

"....the schools were not faith based but it appears that a faith group attempted to exert excessive influence over the schools and the way they operated and what they taught, which took them outside what is considered to be acceptable and as such the relevant authorities took what they considered to be the necessary investigative and follow-up action."

Well, if there is so little difference between a faith school and a community school, what is the point of having the former in the first place? What you have inadvertently touched on here is the fact that there are no state-funded secular schools in England in that all are required by law to have a daily, mainly christian, act of collective worship. I may stand corrected, but my understanding is that Park View Academy obtained a local determination under the 1998 Act to enable the school to conduct islamic instead of christian services. Not hard to understand, given that nearly 100% of the children attending come from a muslim background, and it is a process allowed by law. If it had been a truly secular school, it is possible it would have been more difficult for the governing body to act in the way that Ofsted found unacceptable.

"I will not be drawn into a hardline secularist debate about whether over subscribed faith schools that give legal priority to children of that faith group is ‘discrimination’. It is though interesting that a large majority of faith schools are under subscribed with children of the faith involved and readily accept children from families of other faiths and non-faith."

So I am a 'hardline secularist' for wanting an end to religious privileges in state-funded education and the resulting discrimination in admissions, teacher employment and funding of school transport? I have quoted extensively from work done by the Accord Coalition. Given that it includes religious as well as non-religious secularists do you think the Accord Coalition is 'hardline' in wanting faith schools to adopt inclusive admissions policies? I can never understand why those who fully support equal opportunities in virtually all other areas of life are happy to make exclusions for religion. Take employment. Teachers have been sacked from faith schools because of actions in their private life that would not have put their job at risk if it happened while working in a community school. Religious exemptions in employment legislation allow such vile discrimination to occur in schools. I would like to see you justify that. Or what about religious tests when applying for teaching jobs? A religious person has access to virtually all teaching jobs they are qualified for in the maintained sector. A non-religious teacher with equivalent qualifications and experience has a much more limited choice where a religious test is applied to a proportion of jobs, unless they lie or convert . Again, how can you justify such blatant (and sadly legal) discrimination against the non-religious?

"It is though interesting that a large majority of faith schools are under subscribed with children of the faith involved and readily accept children from families of other faiths and non-faith."

Yes, that is interesting, but not surprising. So far, this century there has been the biggest expansion of faith schools since 1944. At the same time, and in line with longer term trends, identity with a religion among the general population, particularly the young, is steadily declining. Was it Durkheim who said that schools reflect society but don't change it? Not in our education system, it seems. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that some faith schools are not over-subscribed and therefore admit children whose parents are of the 'wrong' or no religion. However, where faith schools are over-subscribed, they usually resort to religious admissions tests. This is particularly true of Catholic faith schools.

Andy V's picture
Wed, 18/06/2014 - 11:40

Shaun, The main point of my post was to counterpoint the prevailing perception that taxpayers would save money by losing state funding or by being abolished.

It is my understanding that the vast majority of cases the faith schools own their own land, and in some CoE and RC cases also own the original buildings. The taxpayer has not purchased these assets. Rather the funding has been used for the provision of state education. In view of this it may be more accurate to say that the state has leased the land, and where appropriate original buildings, from the faith group that owns them. The latter have not levied any charge for this leasing arrangement. If follows then that the state funding the operating costs does not equate to purchasing/paying for the land and any other original capital assets.

I am sticking to the funding issue and the absence of of engagement on anything else does not imply agreement with other views.

Shaun Whitfield's picture
Wed, 18/06/2014 - 12:21

"The main point of my post was to counterpoint the prevailing perception that taxpayers would save money by losing state funding or by being abolished."

Of course, I agree that whatever the status of a school, the money currently allocated to faith schools would still have to be paid as part of the education budget, otherwise it would have to be cut by about a third. But that doesn't mean you can't have faith schools with an inclusive admissions policy as advocated by the Accord Coalition and the Fair Admissions Campaign.

"...who is going to find the money to pay the 10% toward capital costs that the faith group currently pay..."

Above is the bit of your original post that prompted my reply. In your last post you say:

"I am sticking to the funding issue..."

Does this mean you still think that religious institutions pay 10% of the capital costs of faith schools, when clearly the evidence I have produced indicates otherwise? Or have I misunderstood your last comment?

I take your point about your lack of response on an issue does not mean agreement with my argument. .There are other more fruitful things to do with one's life apart from engaging in internet discussions with strangers.

Andy V's picture
Wed, 18/06/2014 - 19:19

Shaun, You may well be right that faith schools no longer contribute 10% to capital projects/repairs. How this is raised is not entirely relevant i.e. proportion from the faith group itself or the parents or donations from other appropriate sources. There remains a requirement for faith schools to find the 10%. However, if there are occasions when the DfE/Government of the day for whatever reason do not apply the requirement that is hardly the fault or cause of the faith school or faith group involved.

I get the sneaking suspicion that we are heading toward that time honoured position of accepting each others differences of viewpoint and agreeing to disagree :-)

Shaun Whitfield's picture
Thu, 19/06/2014 - 09:06

Andy: "You may well be right that faith schools no longer contribute 10% to capital projects/repairs."

I am right. Lets look at the declared funding of faith schools, ie those legally registered with a religious character:

Voluntary Aided: 10% of capital costs to be paid by the religious institution, the rest is publicly funded.

Voluntary Controlled: 100% publicly funded.

Foundation Faith Schools: 100% publicly funded

Faith Academies and Free Schools: Originally under Labour, academy sponsors were required to contribute 10% or £2m of start-up capital costs, but prior to 2010 the sponsors fees often went unpaid, often eventually being waived altogether. Now, no sponsor (including religious sponsors) are required to invest any money and all such schools are now 100% publicly funded.

So currently, only VA among faith schools should pay 10% of capital costs. All the others pay nothing. Moreover, I have shown that even VA schools fall far short of the 10% contribution. Even if VA schools did pay this amount, your apparent assumption that faith schools pay 10% of capital costs is still wrong, as the % paid per faith school would be much lower when faith schools that clearly pay nothing are included. This reality is a world of difference from your comment that there may be "...occasions when the DfE/Government of the day for whatever reason do not apply the requirement..."

Finally, completely off topic, but there is one thing I have never understood about the legal requirement for a daily act of collective worship in all state-funded schools. Why are schools (which are not places of worship or consecrated ground or whatever) legally required to have more acts of worship than the churches themselves? The CoE church near to me has a couple of services a week, but the children at the associated faith junior school have to put up with 5. Why not just have one service a week, on Monday, say?

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