THE BLOG

Casey Review - More Expectations From The School

05/12/2016 17:03 GMT | Updated 06/12/2017 10:12 GMT
Anthony Devlin/PA Archive

Government-backed Casey review recommends that schools should teach integration as part of the curriculum to halt the spread of racism and extremism.

In a prescriptive move, Whitehall went as far as saying that lessons in character and resilience could be included in existing areas of the curriculum like personal, social and health and economic education (no apparent knowledge or appreciation that the PSHE, normally one period in a week, is already overloaded with social, welfare, citizenship and vocational education).

The move reminds the public argument between Theresa May, then home secretary, and the then education secretary Michael Gove about who is not doing enough to tackle the perceived 'radicalism' in schools. The argument resulted in the discredited 'Prevent' strategy, imposed on schools by the home secretary!

The Prevent duty which has obliged teachers to refer to police pupils they suspect of engaging in some sort of terrorist activity or radical behaviour, has been rejected by major teacher unions, arguing that the duty has been largely a failure due to the fact that around 90 per cent of referrals end in no action being taken, with a catalogue of high-profile examples.

"We worried that people are increasingly unwilling to talk about their view of the world - Muslim children in particular - because they are frightened or their parents are worried that their names will be put on some list" said NUT leadership.

Additionally, many schools have started collecting data on pupils' country of birth, nationality and level of English proficiency through the school census in line with the national population census, to fulfil the Department for Education requirement - schools could do without checking passports.

Schools belong in society and play their crucial part in shaping social models who can take their place in society properly equipped to exercise rights and perform duties the same as those of other citizens.

However, schools have to strike a balance between teaching the academic and pastoral curriculum, taking account of available resources, including the school time. Therefore, there are limits to what the schools can do. Moreover, the prime task of the school is to teach rather than to undo socio-political inadequacies and social injustice which adversely impact on public behaviour and attitudes.

Not only this but the personality shaping of pupils in schools, like promoting 'fundamental British values', is seriously hindered by socio-political contradictions in the society at large.

For example, the Prevent duty requires schools and childcare providers to have clear procedures in place for protecting children at risk of radicalisation but the society is full of fear, hate, scaremongering and racism as witnessed during the last London mayor election, EU campaign and US presidential election, enough to radicalise far right attitudes.

Similarly, the recent national anti-hate crime campaign backed by the government in response to the rise in incidents after the EU referendum and supported by some community organisations enjoying undisclosed grants from the Home Office hate crime funding, has failed to address why 'hate crimes'.

This political anti-hate crime campaign reminds me of a Home Office funded racial harassment committee that I chaired about 25 years ago (that was the time when racial harassment was not watered down as a 'hate crime').

In monitoring the racial harassment incidents, it became quite clear that while more incidents were reported, only a few were taken up by the Crown Prosecution Service because of the lack of clear and substantial evidence. These crimes were difficult to prosecute because of the high burden prosecutors face when proving that the defendant's bias indeed motivated the crime.

Twenty five years on, the hate crime situation is no different where a hate crime reported, like that related to Islamophobia, becomes a 'number' to enrich the data base of the thriving 'hate crime' industry, leaving behind a very frustrated victim because of no arrests or prosecutions!

Also, as there are no obvious measures to tackle the upsurge of far right, far right media and politicians, significant sources for radicalising far right extremism, inevitable rise in random race/ religion hate crimes.

In the face of such failures, the Casey review expects schools to deliver 'integration' & prevent extremism!

Furthermore, the review talks about racism without addressing why racism & argues for 'integration' without identifying real barriers to achieve 'integration'.

How very illusive for the review to call for schools to celebrate Christmas, Eid and other traditions to break down barriers within communities, ignoring the force of hardcore far right language and actions that erect barriers and deepen the sense of isolation and segregation within certain communities.

Our Prime Minister said "What we want to see in our society is tolerance and understanding".

"We want minority communities to be able to recognise and stand up for their traditions but we also want to be able to stand up for our traditions generally as well and that includes Christmas."

Such a 'us & them' sense is not reassuring for meaningful integration or conducive to dismantle communal barriers based on dominant norms and values as well as on 'host & guest relationship'.

Why "our traditions" can't be inclusive, representing a diverse Britain, based on the notion of 'different but equal'?