Socialist Worker

Ofsted's 'extremism' clampdown on Tower Hamlets schools is an Islamophobic attack

Ofsted inspectors ‘unfairly humiliated’ Tower Hamlets schools, reports Sadie Robinson

Issue No. 2431

John Cass school has been put into special measures

John Cass school has been put into special measures (Pic: SilkTork on Wikimedia Commons)


Schools watchdog Ofsted has launched an Islamophobic attack in Tower Hamlets, east London. 

The hated schools inspectorate published reports into seven schools in the east London borough last week. It put Sir John Cass Foundation and Red Coat Church of England Secondary School in special measures. 

Almost all students at the school are from “minority ethnic backgrounds”.

Inspectors claimed the school, previously judged as outstanding, was not doing enough to keep children safe from “extremism”.

And it claimed that students at six private Muslim schools are at risk of “extremism” and “radicalisation”.

Yet it isn’t clear how inspectors identify extremism, because as Ofsted confirmed to Socialist Worker, it does not have a definition of extremism.

The report into John Cass school said it should improve “safeguarding” of students by “making use of strategies, such as ‘Prevent’.”

Prevent is a Home Office initiative that targets Muslim “extremism”. 

Ofsted could not explain what schools are required to do regarding Prevent.

Alex Kenny is secretary of the East London Teachers Association and a member of the NUT union’s national executive committee. He told Socialist Worker, “People in the school are pissed off. They feel that they have been unfairly humiliated.

Driven

“I think this is politically driven. Why is one particular community being looked at with regards to extremism?”

Ofsted complained that John Cass school provided “segregated” areas for  girls and boys. Alex said, “Segregation is the wrong word. It’s not uncommon for schools to have a girls-only area in the playground.

“Separate areas were provided for girls after some said they wanted a safe space. It has nothing to do with religion.

“Ofsted didn’t comment on this in any previous inspection. It leads me more to the opinion that inspectors went looking for what fitted their agenda.”

Even Ofsted admitted that the school provided a mixed common room—but said girls chose not to use it.

Ofsted’s other complaint focused on what some sixth formers do on the internet. It said a social media site using the name of a sixth form society at the school contained “links to individuals associated with extremist activity”.

But Alex said it would be “completely unrealistic to expect teachers to monitor every internet posting of every student”.

This is the second time in a month that Tower Hamlets has come under the spotlight, following a racist attack on mayor Lutfur Rahman.

As Alex put it, “Tower Hamlets has a local authority that’s been successful and the Tories want to have a go at it.”


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