Ofsted’s latest annual report, published on 22 November 2011, reveals widespread under performance in primary schools' effectiveness in promoting community cohesion.
It highlights how the worst fears of those who recently rebelled against the Government over the inspection of cohesion in schools have come true far quicker than anyone expected, say critics.
Ofsted, which inspects schools on a variety of measures and grades their performance according to a four point scale of “outstanding”, “good”, “satisfactory” or “inadequate“, found that only 55 per cent of primary schools obtained outstanding or good ratings in their promotion of community cohesion, making this one of the primary sector’s weakest inspection areas.
Secondary schools faired better, with 64 per cent obtaining an outstanding or good rating for their promotion of community cohesion. For special schools this figure rose to 71 per cent.
Ofsted’s legal duty to inspect community cohesion was introduced in 2006 to address widespread public concern about the way in which many schools, and particularly some faith-based schools, serve to undermine social cohesion.
Despite a large rebellion in the House of Lords last month however, the Education Act 2011 took away Ofsted’s requirement to inspect in this area when it became law on 15 November 2011.
The chair of the Accord Coalition for inclusive schooling, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, commented: "The primary stage is a very important opportunity for schools to instil positive inter-group attitudes. However, with so many primary schools underperforming in how they promote community cohesion, while at the same time many schools are being giving far more freedom over what they teach, combined with Ofsted’s cohesion inspection duty being removed, serious questions have to be asked and then answered by the Government about how to address these shortcomings."
He added: "Schools can serve to hinder community cohesion and create environments where mistrust between groups can more readily grow, or instead play a vital and inspiring role in improving mutual understanding. The Government needs to do more to help schools realise their potential and reveal how they are going to help achieve this."
The Accord Coalition (http://accordcoalition.org.uk/), which seeks to reform faith schools and promote inclusive education irrespective of religion or belief, is backed by a a range of religious and secular groups and individuals, including the Christian think-tank Ekklesia, which was one of the founder members.
* Ofsted’s “The Annual Report of Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Education, Children’s Services and Skills: 2010/11” can be found at: http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/about-us/annual-report