I would like to thank Lord Turnbull for highlighting this for me.
He makes the analytical point:
"What is unusual about 2000-01 to 2007-08 is that public spending as a proportion of GDP rose in a period of upswing. In earlier recoveries eg after 1983-84 and after 1991-92 public expenditure as a percentage of GDP fell as growth outstripped spending, reversing the opposite of the downturn."
It is important to remember where this started. There was the trojan horse document and then Khalid Mahmood MP said: ‘There has been a serious bid to take over most of the schools in the east and south of the city.’
There are, of course, a lot more schools than the 21 that were inspected. The real challenge in this is the use of the word "extremist". That is normally taken to be someone who is supportive of terrorism rather than someone who does not like tombolas because they are gambling.
The idea that there was effectively a terrorist style plot to take over schools was always a nonsense. It has now been solidly disproven. I don't personally think it was a good idea to put a terrorism expert into running the investigation as it semi confirmed the allegation. An allegation that was always untrue and for which there was no evidence.
The national association of head teachers have been much more temperate than the government and it is worth reading what they say on their website. They published another statement yesterday here.
It is worth reading their statement (not someone else's reporting of their statement) in full. However, I will extract part of their recommendations:
“We also need to learn longer term lessons: we need a confidential route for staff to raise concerns; a clearer statement of the basic entitlement of pupils; a more coherent mechanism to investigate allegations than we have seen in recent weeks; and resources to raise awareness and train staff and governors in the Prevent strategy.
There are general problems with Academies which appear in the relationship between Head Teachers and the Governors. There is nothing new with this, but the self selecting nature of governing bodies exacerbates this. There needs to be a way of dealing with this that falls short of the nuclear option of taking a school off an educational trust. That will enable issues to be dealt with before they get too bad.
In terms of the schools in Yardley I believe that Golden Hillock has been treated unfairly. However, there are problems at Oldknow (see my statement) and I would hope that the Principal returns to her post. It was always nonsense to say that there were any problems at Ninestiles.
Of the 4 schools of the 21 that have letters from the DfE (Lord Nash) about funding. Two (Parkview and Nansen) have been told that the intention is to remove funding and two (Golden Hillock and Oldknow) have been told to take "prompt" actions to improve the situation.
It is not unusual for there to be a falling out between the Head of a school and the Chair of Governors. This has happened in Oldknow Academy. Also there have been things that have gone on that I do not think are right. In particular the celebration of religions other than Islam were downgraded by the school (referred to publicly as the cancellation of Christmas).
As I said with Golden Hillock: "To me it is very important that there are no secrets in any UK schools. Schools also need to provide a broad British education."
What did happen with Oldknow Academy is that a number of parents, all of whom are Muslim, were complaining about the curriculum being narrowed and the school offering a less than broad education. I do think they have a point that needs to be looked at. It is, however, important to note that at least one of those parents has now been appointed to the Governing Body. Hence it is obvious to any independent observer that you should not consider the Governing Body in any homogenous manner.
Although I do know about the details of the dispute between the Head and the Chair of Governors I am not going to comment about this. That is because the dispute still needs to be resolved and me commenting would not assist with resolving this.
To me one of the ways forward for the school would involve the return of the head to being in day to day control of the school. I have tried to mediate to acheive this, but have sadly not made any progress with this.
I do have a criticism of the Governing Body in that I did ask a question about a particular presentation at the school Assembly, but they have not as yet answered the question. The criticisms of the parents also need to be responded to in a formal manner.
Russell Hobby of the National Association of Head Teachers said recently:
“This confusion makes it quite clear to us that we lack an appropriate mechanism for dealing with such allegations."
I agree with him that the mechanism has not been good for dealing with the allegations. It remains to be seen what the other enquiries come up with. In the end it is the children that need to be our priority.
The Head happens to be a Sikh. Tristram Hunt may not understand this, but Sikhs are not Muslims. The Chair of Governors (Mohammed Shafique) is someone I have known for over 15 years. He is not an extremist. He has at times been and may still be the Chairman of the Sparkbrook Ward Labour Party. [Sparkbrook is the ward on the other side of Golden Hillock Road outside my constituency.]
It is difficult commenting on leaked reports particularly as I don't have a copy of the report. I did ask the school to tell the staff body that they had legal protection in talking to the local MP as I was told some staff members were frightened to talk to me. The school did do that and also placed a copy of a briefing from the House of Commons Library in the Staff Room. I have communicated with some of the staff.
There have been questions raised about management styles, but this is not unusual in any employment situation and that does not justify the finger pointing about extremism.
The allegations made (about a number of schools not just Golden Hillock) have been tarring a large number of people with the same brush of extremism. We need to look at any allegations calmly and consider the details. There are things that have happened (such as the downgrading of Christmas and other festivals - not at Golden Hillock as far as I know) that I am unhappy about. However, national politicians such as Tristram Hunt should try engaging brain before opening mouth. It does help.
I would be surprised if any number of schools have an "anti extremism policy". It goes without being said really. If Golden Hillock are to be failed for this reason then the same rule should be applied to all other schools.
If you want me to respond to any comment please either comment only on the past few entries or put something in your comment to make it clear what you are commenting on (the URL would help). Otherwise I will not be able to find the comment quickly and will not respond.