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Schools could do without political doings

Some things don’t change:

- Problematic definition of certain groups of people by institutions
- Right-wing media projecting negative image of some groups of people

Therefore, no surprise that the damaging socio-political history often repeats itself which ought to be a matter of serious concern for the fair-minded social scientists and politicians.

Following is an example of the history of two different eras with remarkable similarities.

Brent in 1980s
Concerned with the underachievement by the ethnic minority children, Brent initiated the Development Programme for Racial Equality (DPRE) in 1986 which was also the time when the alleged racist remarks made by a local primary headteacher (P7) brought the right-wing media together in defending the headteacher and targeting Brent.
The Brent scenario was kept in the national headlines for months, giving a sort of feel that Brent was treated like a ‘last English colony’!
This was the time when right-wing press, led by the Daily Mail, was recycling that Labour councils in London (p 85-86) are spending a fortune to eradicate racism and sexism and that it often appear more absurd than dangerous.
The government preferred to act on the basis of media versions of events (p 131) rather than on the actual facts of the matter, and the Home Office not only suspended its commitment to funding the DPRE programme, but also sent David Lane to investigate the alleged misuse of the Section 11 funding as the Home Officer declared that this money should not be used for any anti-racist initiatives (under Section 11 of the 1966 Local Government Act, many local authorities could claim funding to help ethnic minorities with English-language teaching, housing and work).
Although David Lane was generally positive about the DPRE programme, he heavily criticised some activists involved in the process of developing the programme, especially a co-author of the ‘Two Kingdoms: Standards and Concerns: Parents and Schools*- report of an independent investigation into secondary schools in Brent (p124).

*The Two Kingdoms report forcefully located pupils' under-achievement in the education system, and posed serious questions about the relevance of the curriculum offered by schools and the context within which it is taught. Unfortunately, the educational value of the report was lost in the mist of the local and national politics of the era.

Eventually, the DPRE was scraped, causing a lot of bitterness and it took Brent long time to repair the damage to the confidence in the education system with varied level of success. Eventually, the politics of town hall helped to bring back previous status quo!

Brent in 2015
Thirty years on and Brent education is still struggling to deal with the effects without adequately addressing the cause, and thus writing its own contradictions in the process. For example:
Reinventing the wheel: the Brent Education Commission 2014, under the chairmanship of its Interim Chief Executive Christine Gilbert, reports the Brent characterises as 64% Black and Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) where 37.1% children spoke English and 62.1% spoke English as an additional language (EAL) – if the EAL is an educational statement needing an emphasis, then it seems to have no significant impact on pupils learning as the report points out that 21% school are graded as outstanding and 58% good. We have touched upon the EAL politics before and how it projects a sense of unfavourable input indicator to justify underachievement and qualify for more resources.
Also strange that the Commission acknowledges Brent diversity but its composition does not reflect this diversity at all – Ms Gilbert should recall from her experience in Harrow that such reports don’t win educational credibility (wonder about the total cost of this Commission, and the cost effectiveness).

Birmingham in 2015
Several school governors or former school governors in Birmingham have recently received a letter from the Department for Education (DfE) informing them that the Secretary of State considers they have engaged in ‘conduct aimed at undermining fundamental British values’ and that in consequence they are to be disqualified from being a school governor in England.
In March 2014 an anonymous and unverified letter sent to Birmingham City Council claimed that there was a "Trojan Horse" conspiracy to take over governing bodies and create a school culture more sympathetic to their hard-line Muslim religious ethos.
On the basis of such a thin evidence, the whole government machinery came into somewhat panicky action, including 21 schools in Birmingham being inspected by education watchdog Ofsted and the government's Extremism Task Force being involved. No educationally valid evidence to substantiate the Trojan Horse theory is known.
However, as expected, the media trial was unavoidable (1) & (2).
“In the threatened action, and in the way the allegations against the governors are framed, the letter (DfE) violates basic principles of the rule of law. The lack of precision as to what each individual governor is alleged to have done and the extent of their individual responsibility, and the reliance on anonymous hearsay evidential material, are causes for grave concern” argued well respected Robin Richardson, a former director of the Runnymede Trust.
Similarities of action and scaremongering between the two above eras are obvious!

In a separate move, a Muslim teaching assistant is abruptly sacked at a Birmingham academy for raising ‘safeguarding’ concerns – no national uproar! 25/9/15.

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