Education round-up 19 Feb 2012

Education round-up 19 Feb 2012

Equality in schools apparently not important to Gove. More on forced academy conversions. Next teacher strike date.

Equality in schools not important.
According to Michael Gove, schools are fair-game for bigots to peddle their nonsense. The latest row* centres around a US preacher touring Catholic schools and distributing homophobic material in Lancashire in 2010.

According to The Guardian, a booklet called Pure Manhood: How to become the man God wants you to be, 'discusses a boy dealing with "homosexual attractions" which it suggested may "stem from an unhealthy relationship with his father, an inability to relate to other guys, or even sexual abuse".'

When quizzed by the TUC, Gove insisted that the Equality Act 2010 doesn't extend to the school curriculum.

"The education provisions of the Equality Act 2010 which prohibit discrimination against individuals based on their protected characteristics (including their sexual orientation) do not extend to the content of the curriculum. Any materials used in sex and relationship education lessons, therefore, will not be subject to the discrimination provisions of the act."

If bigotry is ever to be confronted, whether it's homophobia, sexism, racism, whatever, it would seem a good place to start would be in schools, wher attitudes and prejudices can be challanged and discussed in a way they may not be in faith communities or homes. But it seems Gove's interpretation is that it's the only place where it's fair game to circulate material saying "scientifically speaking, safe sex is a joke [...] the homosexual act is disordered, much like contraceptive sex between heterosexuals. Both acts are directed against God's natural purpose for sex – babies and bonding."

Contrast this with the DfE saying "Any school engaging in the promotion of homophobic material would be acting unlawfully." I don't know how to interpret "the homosexual act is disordered [...] directed against God's natural purpose for sex – babies and bonding." as anything but homophobic when presented in an educational context by a supposed 'eductor' given a platform and a ready-made audience of teenagers who may be confused about their own sexualities or struggling with bigotry themselves.

Worth bearing in mind that Gove's ego extends to him publishing a foreword to The Bible. Now, even the most mental of right-wing christians tend not to think they can preface God's word! He's wanted to put a King James Bible in every school library for a while but last month he was "forced to deny that his plan to send every school in Britain a copy of the King James Bible - at a cost of £377,000 - has run into trouble over funding" after David Cameron told him that, "while he supported the idea, he should avoid using taxpayers' money". Now, I've no problem with it being in a library, whether I agree with it's contents is neither here nor there. But that he saw it as anything close to a priority shows where he's coming from.

Let's not be naive, things like the Equality Act often mean little and in practical terms don't translate to real-world 'equality', and faith schools in particular have always been breeding grounds for bigotry. However, when the people in charge of schools don't even see fit to pay lip-service to equality, even for PR reasons, it sends a clear message that it doesn't matter. They don't even need to pretend to give a shit about tackling homophobia in schools.

Primary academy conversions on Radio 4
Downhills Primary in Tottenham was featured in Radio 4's The Report. The school is still fighting plans to force it to become an academy, and two weeks ago the situation became worse when the school was re-inspected and judged 'inadequate' by Ofsted inspectors. The school was placed in 'special measures' and the head teacher quit.

200 'weak' primaries nationally are on the government's forced academy hitlist. Picking off the most vulnerable schools makes strategic sense for Gove and his team of bullies. Rather than actually support staff and students in schools they are taking away with one hand (less funding for TAs, and refurbishments) and promising to give with the other, so long as you convert. And if you don't convert, they'll make you, by judging you inadequate.

Downhills school has parents, staff, and students, and even governors and their head against the forced academy conversion. So the laughable rhetoric in the BBC programme saying 'it's about giving people control over their own schools' is shown for what it is. This has nothing to do with parent voice, community voice or anything like that, it has everything to do with destroying public education and selling off chunks of the sector to their friends in business buddies.

Gove has already said he has no objection to schools being used to make a profit, and the first signs of profit-making schools appear to be in the pipeline with swedish firm IES opening a school in Suffolk. Technically schools cannot yet be run for profit, but sponsors like IES are allowed to purchase services from private providers. This is all the logical extension of selling off education to the highest bidder.

Provisional NUT strike date March 28th
NUT have just written to members this week saying they will survey membership to get an indication of feelings for another one-day strike on March 28th. I believe some other unions have also discussed a similar date. The strike vote from last June still applies so NUT doesn't need to re-ballot. ATL and NAHT have already capitulated to the governments 'deal' over pensions but NASUWT's vote is still applicable to my knowledge.

* libcom thread about Gove and the Equality Act here

Posted By

Choccy
Feb 19 2012 15:36

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