There will be times when faith schools feel trapped between “the rock of their faith and the hard place of the law” following the Trojan Horse affair, an Ofsted director has said.
The requirement to teach a broad and balanced curriculum, and to prepare their pupils for life in modern Britain, meant that some “tough conversations” would be needed, Mike Cladingbowl, Ofsted director for schools, said.
Mr Cladingbowl made clear, however, that this would only be the case in “a very, very small minority of schools”.
He was speaking at the National Governors’ Association (NGA) annual conference in Birmingham, on the topic of “Inspecting after Trojan Horse: ensuring a broad and balanced offer for pupils.”
Making reference to a case in which a Catholic school was found not to be promoting British values or safeguarding its pupils from extremism and radicalisation — claims withdrawn by the inspectorate after media attention — Mr Cladingbowl said that Ofsted did not have all of the answers when it came to handling these issues.
“I won’t pretend that this is going to be easy, and I won’t pretend that we’ve got all of the answers around it,” he said.
He continued: “There will be times, I think, over the next weeks, and months, and probably even the next couple of years or so … that schools and governors feel maybe trapped a bit, by the rock of faith, or the rock of their faith, and the hard place of the law”.
Mr Cladingbowl said that, since September, Ofsted had been paying greater attention to the curriculum which schools were teaching, including the breadth of this — though he said it was not for the inspectorate to prescribe what was taught.
When they come into schools, an inspector should not be bringing a ticklist in with them
Mr Cladingbowl said: “We want schools to offer a reasonable range of subjects, and we want particularly for schools to be able to explain … that any choices are based on what they believe will prepare young children well for life in broadest Britain today. Rather, for example, than life in only a particular, or a narrow community.
“When they come into schools, an inspector should not be bringing a ticklist in with them. We don’t want to do that; we don’t want to say this is a list of subjects that you need to study, this is the amount of time that you should study them for, and these are the extra-curricula things that you ought to be doing too”.
Mr Cladingbowl said, though, that inspectors would be “alive to” the possibility of extremism or radicalism in schools they inspected.
“When inspectors do come into your schools they must be alive to, and aware of, any possible issues relating to extremism, to radicalisation, and to report on this where identified, regardless of the faith or type of the school,” he said.
He added: “There will need to be some tough conversations about all of that kind of stuff.
“But this is only ever going to be likely to be the case in a very, very small minority of schools. So let’s not get this out of proportion, please. Children and young people in schools in England generally learn really well, and safely.”
The Trojan Horse affair saw allegations of extremist infiltration made about a number of Birmingham schools, and led to the Department for Education requiring that all schools teach ‘British values’.
Look out for more coverage of the NGA annual conference in the next print edition of Schools Week, out on Friday, November 21.