Apparently, many faith schools do not adhere to British values, states Ofsted in their annual report and little girls wearing hijab are rejecting British values and on the top rung of the ladder down to violent extremism with nebulous references to sexualisation. Acres of space both in print and on line will be given over to debating Ofsted’s crusade to protect British values.
The Ofsted report is vague about what British values are until this paragraph; ‘Tensions between belief systems and British values create a motivation for some communities to try avoiding the educational and safeguarding standards that are expected of schools. While this manifest itself in different ways, the root cause is the same. This matters, because the British values of democracy, tolerance, individual liberty, mutual respect and the rule of law are the principles that keep society free from the radical and extreme views that can often lead to violence. (16 Annual Report 2016/17: Education, children’s services and skills).
As a parent carer of a disabled child I am more than aware of educational and safeguarding standards that are expected of schools especially in relation to children with disabilities. There are lots of them, The Children Act, Equality Act just two not to mention all the codes of conduct for schools and LEA’s. One thing that has become clear to me over the years and no doubt to hundreds if not thousands of parent/carers is that the education system, many schools, LEA’s and teaching staff have little or no idea about any of this legislation or of their legal responsibilities to disabled children and there is no motivation for them to do so. SENCO’s are supposed to have some training but I have met quite a few who have no idea at all. Even if they have and they are sympathetic this doesn’t mean that head teachers, teachers or governors are. Ofsted’s remit for SEN inspection lacks any real substance or backbone. Schools know they can easily evade their responsibilities.
“They are illegal, but there is little or no redress for parents or children”
The impact on the wellbeing and education of disabled children is of course immense. The abuse of disabled children is a common occurrence in state schools from the denial of an assessment that would enable access to support right through to children with documented disabilities with EHCP’s/statements being denied their needs; children being actively prevented from accessing medication and apparatus for breathing difficulties for chronic lung conditions, children with physical disabilities being made to take part in activities that will cause them pain, humiliation and make them physically unsafe. The teacher who decides that they know better than the EHCP/Statement and prevents the child with the bladder problems, well documented and advised to have access to a toilet, from accessing the toilet as what they really need is to learn is discipline and being made to wet themselves in class will teach them. The teacher who refuses to implement specialist interventions and strategies simply because they don’t do that. These scenarios, and worse, are played out up and down the UK day in day out. They are illegal, but there is little or no redress for parents or children.
The educational establishment is actively geared up to not respecting the rule of law and indeed to evading it at every available opportunity. LEA’s employ solicitors at some considerable cost deliberately to enable them to do so and schools and LEA’s refuse to assess children on a regular basis or even to implement the EHC plan a legal document that LEA’s are obliged by law to do. Parents do not get Legal Aid, they are forced to defend their children themselves against these state institutions with the inevitable impact on family life and the child. Which brings me onto the Equalities Act (Education). Designed to protect disabled children (and others) from discrimination and promote inclusion; as yet I haven’t found one teacher who had any knowledge of the Equality Act or that it applied in schools. Oddly teacher training does not seem to include knowledge of the Equality Act which is baffling given as teachers and schools have a legal obligation to enact it. Values enshrined in the act such as tolerance, mutual respect and inclusion which are part of the law and British values apparently, are curiously absent from many state schools .
Toby Youngs comments on disabled children from a Spectator article in 2012 went unnoticed until the recent furore over his appointment to a HE watchdog and the exposing of numerous tweets and articles, in this instance his opinions on inclusion and describing SEN children as troglodytes. It is difficult not to highlight the fact that if comments like these had been made about children based on their skin colour or gender Toby’s comments would have been picked up on far earlier. The sad fact is many teachers, parents and wider society will tacitly agree with his sentiments; you might even call this a belief system.
It is hardly surprising that the United Nations has roundly criticised the UK for its failure to uphold it’s own laws. As for tolerance and respect children with disabilities are far more likely to be the victims of persistent bullying in school and hate crime. But why should children respect or tolerate disabled children when the adults and the state institutions that they represent don’t? Children of course learn from adult role models around them. The belief systems around disabled children that dominate education provision and indeed government and wider society are as equally insidious as those referred to by Ofsted, as beliefs about disabled children have in the past lead to horrific violence toward disabled people and it is relevant to note that this abuse was perpetrated by the state even in the UK .
Ofsted’s head scarf and British values remit is selective and divisive and says as much about the government ‘s agenda toward disabled children as it does about its agenda regarding Muslims, about who it exemplifies as a community incompatible with British values or who at least need educating in them and a community who is simply excluded from consideration. It has been widely reported that the Tories want to scrap the Human Rights Act and introduce a British Bill of Rights based on British values – we are seeing evidence already of what this would look like. This dynamic should be ringing alarm bells, it is one that we have seen before in Europe.
Many parents of disabled children now live with constant anxiety and fear for their children’s safety and future at the hands of the state, I like many other parents will wonder when taking their child to school – how will they be treated today, will they be safe? Should I even have them in school any longer? And if not, then what?
By Mrs Rumiyya