Life in Ms Spielman’s totalitarian democracy
Amanda Spielman, Chief Inspector of Education, Children’s Services and Skills, caused something of an upset recently when she spoke at the Church of England Foundation for Education Leadership conference. She advocated the use of muscular liberalism to counter religious belief. Ms Spielman thinks that religion should be removed to the private sphere.
Now, whatever you position on religion, this should worry you and here’s why. it has nothing to do with religion itself, and everything to do with whether you, or the state, decide what is best for your child.
The case of St Stephen’s primary school in Newham, London, recently hit the press because it banned the wearing of the hijab after the chair of governors took advice from Muslim clerics. There was the predictable backlash and the head was forced to reverse the decision. In response, Spielman sent a team of inspectors to the school to demonstrate solidarity. That may seem fair enough, on the surface level.
But what Spielman had to say consequently was far from fair or reasonable. She went on record as saying that Ofsted will always back heads (if she thinks they’re right, obviously) even in the face of parental opposition. It’s another weapon in the armoury designed to enforce state control of children.
There’s another concern here, too. Every school is obliged to promote something called Fundamental British Values – an ill-defined concept which shape-shifts to suit the prevalent zeitgeist. Common to all definitions, however, is that children should be taught about democracy. My understanding of democracy is almost certainly the same as yours – we all have a right to say what we think and we agree to differ. It’s called free speech.
Spielman and her henchmen at Ofsted clearly don’t get this particular aspect of democracy. You can now only speak if you agree with her. So if you are a Muslim parent who wants their child to wear a hijab, (and it should necessarily follow if you are a Jewish parent who wants their son to wear a kippa, or a Sikh parent who wants their son to wear a turban), you’re probably out of luck. These items of clothing are part of your identity and culture. But if Ofsted thinks they’re harmful to your child’s rights, they’re going to back your child’s school if it decides to ban them. Your parental rights won’t be defended. She has overstepped the mark so significantly that the Safe at School Campaign is calling for her resignation.
There is evidence that Ofsted sometimes backs down. Last November Spielman came up with a new way to bypass parents. She said Ofsted were going to interview Muslim girls to find out why they were wearing a hijab. If it was because their parents made them, she would take action under the Equality Act 2010. She backed down when faced with concerted opposition.
So, because public pressure has an effect, please sign the Parent Power petition, calling on Ofsted to stop abusing their powers. This isn’t about the defence of religion. It’s about defending the right to believe what you wish and to raise your child accordingly. Your signature will make a difference.