Saturday, 19 June 2010

Schooling for beginners

"The government has begun accepting applications from parents and teachers' groups who want to run their own schools, independent of state control. But how does the process work?"Flawed I suspect. There seems to be just the one hurdle "The group must submit a set of forms detailing key elements of the proposed school to the Department for Education. The application form asks the group to explain why they want to set up the school, what its aims and objectives would be and what evidence they have of local demand.

The Department for Education carries out background checks, including criminal record searches, to ensure the group is "suitable" to run a school. Extremist and fundamentalist groups will not be approved, the DfE said. If the group passes the checks, the Secretary of State can conditionally agree to the proposal.

Not a lot there then. Dream up a suitable name and the rest answers its own questions. Choose a front man and staff who will pass the checks and you are away free. Obviously, one would not appoint Old Hooky as Headmaster or have Islam4UK run the catering. No mention that failure to complete homework on time would be dealt with under Sharia Law. Caretakers could be composed of Taliban junior ranks who had accepted the bribes to cease fighting. Given the low state of official knowledge of just who is in the country, detection of extremists and fundamentalists is not guaranteed.

The proposals for Free Schools include a statement that "Free schools will not have to follow the national curriculum but will need to provide an education that is "broad and balanced", in the same way as new academies will. The scheme is similar to the Charter Schools programme in the USA and the system in Sweden, where non-profit and profit-making groups can set up schools - funded by the government but free from its control.

Here again. if there are those who can set up and run madrassa schools in some fly-infested overseas state, they will find little hindrance from our vetting schemes. Also, bear in mind that the new mob are very into the free schools idea and would not want any suggestion that they were not 100% inclusive, racially or religiously prejudiced to rear its head.

Subversion of the controls would be very easy. I worked for a Saudi company in London during the mid-'80s. They saw me as a Blue Eyed Arab and I was tasked with finding a premises and then organising whatever was needed to set up an Arab School. Funds were described as 'unlimited' and there were many many nudge nudges and winks when the question of consents were concerned. It was surprisingly easy - from the start to up and running in less than a year.

Departure from the National curriculum is another open door to abuse. Whatever inspections were made would require that the visitor have a knowledge or deep Islamic values with ample opportunity for the school to play the race card or adopt Be Nice to Muslims appeals.

Not likely you say? Far fetched? This is what the Regent's Park mosque teaches and no inspector intervened. I get a crumb of comfort. Establishment of such schools is open to all who can get the coach and horses through the regulations. We might read of a raid on the alSwabi school in Manchester carried out by students of the Jewish Star Academy dressed as Eton schoolboys.

Remember - with proper training, everything is possible.

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