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Ofsted’s slur on the Muslim community of Park View School

Ofsted chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw.

By Lee Donaghy (The Guardian)

My first day at Park View School left me feeling like I’d found a second home. After teaching in two challenging London schools, Birmingham’s Park View was different: in 2010 the school throbbed to the rhythm of its then school motto: Respect, Opportunity, Achievement. The pupils were exceptionally well behaved and respectful – an attitude fostered by their Muslim faith – and keen to take advantage of the opportunities the school provided through trips and extracurricular activities. Exam results were well above the national average, despite a cohort who entered with attainment well below. These ingredients gave me the confidence that this was a place that shared my values and my belief that education was the key for disadvantaged, marginalised young people.

Four years later, the implication of the “Trojan horse” saga for the pupils is clear to them, and to our school community: accommodating their faith in our non-denominational school – allowing pupils to pray at lunchtime if they wish to and wear the hijab if they choose to, or shortening the school day during the Ramadan fast – is not an attempt to meet their spiritual needs as one tool to raise their achievement. Rather, it is extremism.

Our inspections took place in the context of the publication of the hoax letter purporting to be a blueprint for an Islamic takeover of Birmingham’s schools. The lead inspector admitted as much – “You should have been expecting us with all the press” – leaving no possibility that they could be conducted in a fair and impartial manner.

Nevertheless, after Ofsted inspectors first visited Park View in early March, they left us with a list of mild recommendations for improvement. We had an action plan ready to be implemented the very next day. However, when the same inspectors returned 10 days later, they told us within hours that the school would be rated inadequate. Our strongly held belief is that the inspectors were ordered back into the school by somebody who felt that Park View had to be placed in special measures to enable the removal of Park View Educational Trust.

The inspectors’ conduct during that second visit left pupils and staff feeling like suspects in a criminal investigation. From female pupils asked whether they were forced to wear the hijab (despite girls in the same class clearly not doing so) to one staff member being asked “Are you homophobic?”, we were subjected to inappropriate and bizarre lines of questioning, designed to elicit the evidence required to damn us. This culminated on the second day in an inspector making a quip about there being “so many members of staff with beards” – a clearly Islamophobic comment.

Over the past three months the pupils and parents of Alum Rock, the tight-knit, overwhelmingly Muslim community we serve, have become unwitting players in a vast game of academies, anti-extremism policy, Whitehall leaks and faith schools. Not a thought for our year-11s sitting crucial exams, or their parents. But then, these people are Muslims, and Islamophobia the last acceptable prejudice.

Throughout this crisis staff have maintained our focus on what has always been our priority: raising achievement so that pupils can take full advantage of the opportunities Britain and the wider world offer. That we respect and honour our pupils’ Muslim faith is a source of pride to me. That this should be used by some politicians and some in the media as a slur that we are inviting extremism should be a source of deep shame to them.

Lee Donaghy is assistant principal of Park View School – The Academy of Mathematics & Science, in Birmingham

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  • Tanveer ¯_(ã?„)_/¯ Khan

    Again. A friend and I were talking about how we were lagging behind. Chesterfield shall soon be under the banner of the Muslamic Empire!

  • The greenmantle

    Again?

    Sir David

  • Tanveer ¯_(ã?„)_/¯ Khan

    Now Bradford’s being taken over.

  • Tanveer ¯_(ã?„)_/¯ Khan

    I was using the dictionary definition. Fortunately, it doesn’t affect how I interact with people all that much.

  • Mehdi

    I fully agree, it’s not always easy and sometimes we all lose it, but I learned not to get dragged into anger, and think of how to hit back the haters best, and usually, the best anyone can do is to sit back, be calm and answer or sometimes ignore them.
    Calming down doesn’t mean being silent, or being silent. I agree with you we should not be blind to what haters are or do in the end.

  • Friend of Bosnia

    Tanveer, you’re just human. However, of the better kind.

  • Friend of Bosnia

    That’s very true, they want people like me to give them a rude reply, they say that wearelaughingstock / Jacob R., anyone? He always told me my comments gave him a good laugh, that is, when he wasn’t busy smearing me as jihadist. Oh well, such people, with their anti-Muslim (in this case anti-Bosnia and pro-Greater Serbia and pro-Putin’s Russia) rant are just war propagandists, just doing psychological warfare and it is best to ignore them. But be wary for such genocidal hate speech can lead to genocide.

  • Friend of Bosnia

    Oh yes, indeed it is.

  • Friend of Bosnia

    Me too, they’re no better than other fundamentalists.

  • The greenmantle

    All of this comes from the top . Micheal Grove , the lack of education minester .

    Sir David

  • Just_Stopping_By

    Hmm. I’m not sure what you mean. At a minimum, your lack of advertising is quite good as I would never have characterized you as prejudiced.

    Are you actually using the dictionary definition of having judged people beforehand or without knowledge? Or are you saying that you object to people with certain behaviors based on those behaviors (or “behaviours” for those from countries that still insist on following the Queen’s English)? I really couldn’t imagine you as prejudiced against racial, ethnic, or religious groups.

    Whatever the answer, Mehdi offers good advice and letting off steam internally works as well. When I look back, I am much more satisfied with the times that I dealt with annoying or bigoted people with a light or witty touch instead of an angry reply. Fortunately, I don’t curse in anger, and the times I have seen people drop into vulgarity out of anger or frustration, it has almost always made them look the worse for it, while those who can reply with with look better.

  • Mehdi

    Understandable but you’ll learn how to handle frustration and anger, prejudice is understandable, but the biggest victory you can get is not letting yourself be hurt…

  • Tanveer ¯_(ã?„)_/¯ Khan

    To be honest, I’ve realised that a lot of the time I’m just as prejudiced if not more so against some people. I’m just not stupid enough to advertise them.

  • Mehdi

    OR just remember you are much better. If you get angry, you give them what they want, and you don’t want that 🙂

  • Tanveer ¯_(ã?„)_/¯ Khan

    True. Reading so many comments from them over these past few days has resulted in my hateometer being filled to the brim. I’ll probably do what I usually do when stuff like this happens – wage a war of swear words on them in my mind until I calm down. It’s very effective.

  • Mehdi

    All fundamentalists are just despicable.

  • mindy1

    So pathetic >:(

  • Tanveer ¯_(ã?„)_/¯ Khan

    I hate militant secularists.

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