Friday, 21 November 2014

British Values


How would Ofsted react to PBCC Focus schools?

'Extremist risk' at Muslim schools

By Hannah Richardson

BBC News education reporter

Jamiatul Ummah
Pupils at Jamiatul Ummah school were not provided with a broad and balanced curriculum, say inspectors

Pupils at six small Muslim private schools in east London are at risk of extremist views and radicalisation, says Ofsted's chief inspector.

Sir Michael Wilshaw said the pupils' "physical and educational welfare is at serious risk" following a series of emergency inspections.

He said all the schools focused too heavily on Islamic teachings.

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan says the schools will be closed down if changes are not made quickly.

She said: "We asked Ofsted to carry out these independent school inspections and the findings are very concerning. While there is no suggestion of a co-ordinated plot, it is clear that these schools are failing children and this is unacceptable.

"All schools must prepare children for life in modern Britain."

'Large number of failings'

At one school, inspectors found pupils did not know the difference between sharia and British law.

And they said the curriculum at Mazahirul Uloom School in Tower Hamlets "focused solely" on Islamic themes.

In a letter to Nicky Morgan, Sir Michael says: "I am extremely concerned about the large number of failings in each of the six independent schools inspected.

"I am not convinced that the leaders of these schools have sufficient capacity to bring about the necessary improvements to safeguarding, the curriculum and the quality of teaching and learning.

"I believe that, in all six schools, pupils' physical and educational welfare is at serious risk.

"Given the evidence gathered from these inspections, particularly in relation to the narrowness of the curriculum, I am concerned that pupils in these schools may be vulnerable to extremist influences and radicalisation."

Mazahirul Uloom, a small secondary boys' school that professes to teach the National Curriculum and Islamic Sciences, faces the most criticism.



Sir Michael Wilshaw
Sir Michael Wilshaw said he was extremely concerned

By Caroline Wyatt, BBC religious affairs correspondent

The recent downgrading of several Muslim schools suggests a growing nervousness about Islam in the UK, and what they are teaching or allowing on their premises.

Other faith schools have been inspected, with some found not to be teaching enough about other faiths and cultures.

The inspections also suggest wider social concerns about the make-up and cohesiveness of British society after years of immigration, and over whether faith schools, in particular, prepare pupils to play their part as full UK citizens.

The debate over "British values" came to the fore in the wake of the "Trojan horse" affairs, and the realization that hundreds of British Muslim men - and fewer women - had become radicalised enough to join extremists in Iraq and Syria.

The government has stressed "fundamental British values" must be taught and encouraged in schools.

Secular and humanist campaigners have welcomed an increase in inspections, saying that for too long the UK has allowed religious communities to "enforce their own values and traditions" on children.


Inspectors said too much of the curriculum "focuses solely on Islamic themes" and judged it inadequate.

Pupils here believed it was wrong to learn about other religions, were not taught art, music or drama and pupils had a "narrow view" of women in society.

Some students told inspectors: "Women stay at home and clean and look after the children. They cook and pray and wait for us to come back from school with homework."

The report also said there were no systems in place to check suitability of external speakers and that children were not safe because staff recruitment checks were not rigorous enough. The school has not yet commented.

Ebrahim Academy did not prepare pupils for modern British life, according to Ofsted

An emergency inspection of the 185-pupil boys' secondary Jamiatul Ummah found good opportunities to study and practise the Islamic faith but pupils were not provided with a broad and balanced curriculum.

It was previously judged outstanding but has been downgraded to inadequate.

'Mutual respect'

The report said: "The narrowness of the curriculum means that students' spiritual, moral, social and cultural education, in particular their understanding of the fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance, is underdeveloped."

Students also lacked opportunities to learn about music and art, or to be creative in PE.

A statement from Jamiatul Ummah said it was disappointed with the findings but that it would work hard to address concerns.

"Ofsted has given disproportionate emphasis to certain issues which do not reflect the real characteristics of the school and has not portrayed accurately the school or given appropriate weight to the varied educational experiences, including National Curriculum."

It stressed that it had 100% of pupils getting five good GCSEs in English and maths last year.

The findings of the other four Ofsted inspections included:

• Ebrahim Academy - (secondary) pupils not prepared for modern British life and curriculum said to be too narrow;

• London East Academy - (secondary) rated inadequate. Curriculum is not broad and balanced, and students have insufficient understanding of how other people live in Britain and abroad. Also school's work to keep children safe is inadequate. Most of the school library books are in Arabic;

• Al Mizan - (primary) rated inadequate. Work in religious studies books shows many pupils have learned only about Islam. Systems for keeping children safe are weak - public have open access to school;

• East London Islamic School - (primary) rated inadequate. The majority of lessons focus on Islamic or Arabic studies. All pupils learn to recite religious texts by memory and repetition. Teachers adopt a similar teaching style in other lessons.

The publication comes a day after details leaked of a report on another school, Sir John Cass Foundation and Redcoat, in Stepney, east London.

This is the only state and non-Muslim faith school in the group to be inspected as part of the same set of seven snap inspections and failed for not safeguarding and monitoring pupils adequately.

'No jurisdiction'

The report highlighted the segregation of boys and girls in indoor and outdoor play areas and the risk of extremism.

The six private schools are all in Tower Hamlets, where the council said it had no jurisdiction over teaching and standards at independent faith schools and that its powers were limited to offering safeguarding training and advice to schools.

"We have repeatedly offered this assistance to independent schools locally but we cannot compel them to accept this help.

"We can - and we do - intervene when individual safeguarding issues are raised.

"We robustly act to the limit of our powers. We are of course happy to discuss with Ofsted and the Department for Education what role we can play within existing legislation to improve the safeguarding practices at these schools."

Independent schools, academies and free schools already have to adhere to the Independent School Standards (ISS), which demand that schools encourage pupils to "respect" British values.


Are you a parent of a pupil at one of the six schools? Are you a former pupil or teacher at one of the schools? You can share your experiences by emailinghaveyoursay@bbc.co.uk.


  1. For some while the Department for Education in London, UK, has been concerned that all schools should actively promote "fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance."

    I don't know whether Ofsted, the schools' examining body, has inspected the private PBCC Focus schools, but I do know that the group of Exclusive Brethren which runs these schools practises separation from non-members, so presumably this basic aspect of their doctrine is followed by the pupils in their schools. It's doubtful whether Inspectors would approve of children calling non-members "worldlies" or stating they they don't eat or drink with non-Brethren people.

    Particularly in Britain perhaps, sharing a cup of tea with a neighbour, colleague or even a stranger would be viewed as a quintessential national value, but these Brethren are characterised by separation and that precludes any form of table fellowship with non-members. It is certainly not a Christian, or biblical, value to refuse to eat and drink with other people, and on the whole I think that most citizens would view such a practice as inimical to fundamental British values too.

  2. From pages 13 - 14 of the Charity Commission’s document 3 January 2014, quoting the independent expert Dr Eileen Barker:

    “exclusivity can be seen as one of the defining characteristics of their fellowship. It is the extent to which separation is seen as an integral part of the belief system that contributes to the distinction between the Exclusive Brethren and not only other Christians but also some of the other Brethren”.

    Dr Barker explains the scriptural basis of the doctrine and how that doctrine plays out in practice, which evidences this is not simply a moral separation from non-Brethren but also a physical separation: 

    “Over the years, the Brethren have gone well beyond the initial injunction not to break bread with those holding to doctrines that differ from their own, to build up a community of believers who separate themselves off in many other ways from non-members or 'worldlies'. It is not only the bread that is broken at the Lord's Supper that they will not share, they will not eat at the same table as those who are not in fellowship; they will not live in houses that share a common wall with outsiders; they will not vote; they will not allow their children to attend university and their members cannot belong to any secular, vocational (or ecumenical) organisation, and are, thus, unable to be doctors, lawyers or trade unionists; and they have cut themselves off from socialising with non-members, including their own families.”

  3. In an interview published in the press a few weeks ago, the UK Prime Minister pledged that those who denounce free speech, equality and democracy will be opposed in a ‘muscular’ new defence of British values.

    I know of Exclusive Brethren leaders who have denounced free speech, equality and democracy in their printed ministry and I have seen ordinary members expressing similar views, sometimes in an extreme form.

    More recently it has been reported in the Daily Telegraph that an unnamed Christian school has been downgraded and could even be closed for failure to promote one of the most important British values.

    [Start of quotation]
    In the latest case inspectors are understood to have warned the head that the school, which was previously rated as “good” that it would be downgraded to "adequate" for failing to meet standards requiring it to “actively promote” harmony between different faiths because it had failed to bring in representatives from other religions.

    They warned that unless the school could demonstrate how it was going to meet the new requirements there would be a further full inspection which could ultimately lead to it being closed.

    A Government consultation paper published in June, explaining the new rules, makes clear that even taking children on trips to different places of worship would not be enough to be judged compliant.
    [End of quotation]

    So can you imagine a Focus School bringing in Imams or Rabbis to conduct religious education classes or school assembly? Or even a Roman Catholic or an Anglican representative? Gaining a financial advantage is an incentive for a lot of things Brethren do, but would it be enough of an incentive for them to teach their children to have a positive attitude to other faiths? Unless they do so, I see no prospect of their schools ever being granted Free School status.

  4. Legislation like this will surely undermine the PBCC's requirement for their own schools in the first place? Why spend inordinate amounts of money keeping children from the world of IT, which according to previous spokesman Gordon Pollard will lead to the 'Man of Sin' and keeping them in separation from other faiths and close relatives they refuse to eat with, when they could close it all down and put their children back into mainstream education, with all it's genuine encouragements to achieve their full educational potential?

    Brethren years ago just did not need the huge financial commitments members of the PBCC are having to make to live in separate detached houses, worship in large modern, windowless, air-conditioned fortresses and keep their children away from children of other faiths.

    I'm sorry but clearing snow, cutting down trees, feeding fire fighters and singing to old people doesn't cut it for me. It's charity on the cheap.

  5. Ian , you and your buddy make decent loyal people and ex brethren of the UK puke.
    These comments also make many of us ex members puke too. Have your complaint if you want, but don't be two faced Ian and co.
    How Very noticeable, you haven't mentioned any positive aspects of the PBCC.

    The above comments seem to be in direct opposition to Christianity and exposes the real intentions to undermine real Christianity, freedoms and civil liberty in the UK.

    People have died at the stake for Christianity and the freedoms you and l enjoy, so if you don't like it - Go to and live in Syria or shut your evil mouth. Don't ever speak evil about the brethren or interfere with these splendid people. You should do the decent thing and apologise.

    Most of the Treachery is coming from persons who have left the PBCC and such persons are part of the Apostasy that is creeping into our nation.
    Our laws and most of our institutions, Welfare and NHS were founded on Christian principles. Perhaps you are not so well educated. Education starts in the home and Christian parents have the right to protect their children from wrong teaching and apostasy. There is one faith, one True God and one line which is standing and will stand until the end.
    So who's side are you on?

    Why don't you go and join your likeminded IS chums in the Middle east and then perhaps you will be happy?

    Joan, British values include Christianity (at least it used to) l suggest you get back in your proper place and stop wearing the trousers.
    Not a pretty sight for the traditional British family. If you don't agree with God's order (in your bible) then it comes as no surprise.

    God will have the most, but will we be included if we stoop to treachery and betray those who died at the stake and still suffer today for his name's sake?
    Ah Worth thinking about.

    Be ashamed and then seek grace from God whilst it be found.
    By the way 09:35, have you really done anything charitable yourself? Just asking.

    Leonardo J Octavianus
    Ex member and supporter
    of Genuine Christians.

    1. Octavianus, you will need to be more specific in your criticism if I am to understand your concerns. What exactly did I say that anyone could disagree with? I thought I was only drawing attention to objective facts, not anything controversial.

      By the way, I think your comment about trousers is based on a misunderstanding or a mistranslation of Deuteronomy 22:5. Maybe Joan would spell it out, unless she feels it is too trivial to comment on.

    2. You sound very bad tempered today Leo. Got a hangover? I know you brethren types like a drop of sauce, but take it easy old man. Have some good old British respect.

    3. LJO asks 'By the way 09:35, have you really done anything charitable yourself? Just asking.'

      Well, if you count being a full time carer of someone suffering with epilepsy, whose PBCC family would not accommodate in case it was misconstrued by other uncaring PBCC members as a 'holiday', then I guess I do my fair share, along with having contributed to good causes financially for the last 25 years.

      In my experience, PBCC are not very charitable to people with epilepsy. In my old local meeting a brother was kept in a 'colony' out in the countryside, because his own PBCC family didn't want him. That is not very Christian is it?

      When I help someone, I tend not to tell the whole world via the internet about what a good boy I have been.

      Just answering your question.

      Ex member and supporter
      of Genuine Christians

    4. I find, developing a knowledge of other faiths absolutely crucial.

      How is a Christian supposed to ‘spread the good news’ ‘do the work of an evangelist’ ‘refute false teaching’ ‘enter into discussion with those of other faiths’ etc, if we don’t have at least a basic concept of other religions

      For example, we have lots of Jehovah’s Witness and Mormons in our area. So in order to ‘do the work of an evangelist’ I researched those religions. Now I can enter into discussion with members of those religions and when they make certain claims or interpretations, I can show clearly from the Bible where their error is and point to the true Christ not a false one.

      In the Bible we see the Apostle Paul says –

      Acts 17 - 22 Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars' hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious 23 For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, To The Unknown God. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you. 24 God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; 25 Neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things;

      The Apostle Paul clearly knew about, observed and had a knowledge of other faiths, that then allowed him the opportunity to ‘evangelise’.

      As for Leonardo J Octavianus,
      Your comments are an example of the deep sectarian extremist prejudices that exist in the Exclusive Brethren, which are harmful and detrimental to society. You are not an ex member, that has been proved before in other discussions. You do not represent any ex member group or community and you are certainly not a ‘supporter of genuine Christians’ because if you were you couldn’t support the Exclusive Brethren because they don’t follow the Bible.

    5. LJO
      I think the OFSTED report has hit a raw nerve hence the vitriolic reaction to those who dare to pass comment even in a factual and non-offensive manner. You have over many months declined to answer any questions put to you. However perhaps you might (with your insight into the EB) tell us about their experience of suffering such as that currently being experienced by Christians in Syria.
      However your posting is bordering on being abusive and is reminiscent of EB tactics -if you can't win an argument change the subject hence your personal attack on Joan which is irrelevant and totally unnecessary.
      By the way I would be

    6. > How Very noticeable, you haven't mentioned any positive aspects of the PBCC.

      Well I'm glad you noticed! The reason is there aren't any!!

      > Don't ever speak evil about the brethren or interfere with these splendid people.

      Obviously not the PBCC you are referring to then!!

      > There is one faith, one True God and one line which is standing and will stand until the end.

      That's why we're where we are and not in an evil cult.

      > So who's side are you on?

      God's side, not Bruce Hales' side.

      > Joan ... l suggest you get back in your proper place and stop wearing the trousers.

      Yeah - surely know know how evil it is for a woman to wear trousers, Joan!

      > If you don't agree with God's order (in your bible) then it comes as no surprise.

      Oh but we do. It's cult leader Bruce Hales' order we don't agree with.

      > Be ashamed and then seek grace from God whilst it be found.

      I hope you will Leo.

      > Leonardo J Octavianus
      > Ex member and supporter
      > of Genuine Christians.

      Puzzled why you are speaking in support of the PBCC then!

      Ex member and supporter
      of Actual, not Pretend, Genuine Christians

  6. If the Brethren children received a mainstream education, including religious education, they would soon discover that their denomination is only one among tens of thousands, and among these it does not excel by any objective measures of truth, morality or loving kindness. They might also discover that if their denomination is assessed for any of about 20 cultish characteristics, it is noticeably worse than most.

    That is why I doubt that Brethren schools will ever meet the Ofsted standards requiring them to actively promote harmony between different faiths. The leaders probably feel, rightly or wrongly, that the survival of their sect depends instead on fostering what I would call extreme sectarianism, by which I mean
    1. pretentious claims to be the Church, the saints, the Assembly, the Bride of Christ, the only right position, walking in separation from evil, the place of salvation, specially privileged, walking in the light of the assembly, the Christian Testimony, the Recovery, a clean place for the Lord, holy, in the light,
    2. denunciation of the rest of the Christian church and the rest of the human race as worldlies, worldlings, the World (to be hated), under the lordship of Satan, unclean, in ecclesiastical wickedness, unholy, Christendom, and
    3. erection of social barriers to keep the clean and unclean separate.

    These sectarian attitudes have been found in the entire corpus of Exclusive Brethren ministry for at least the last 150 years, and they gradually became more extreme as time went on. There are now many thousands of pages of ministry in which these attitudes are evident. It would therefore be difficult for the Brethren to teach their children the complete opposite, as Ofsted standards require.

  7. Can someone tell me about the 'School Inspection Service'

    Is it covered by Ofsted?
    or is it a loophole to bypass regulations and the government?
    Are SIS member owned and controlled?


  8. LJO - A bit too sharp l think, but l see what he is getting at here.
    20:26 l think you are way off the mark and just being politically correct. No value or morality in that. Politically correct people are spineless / lack courage and have no moral compass. The gutter media also belong to the same group and are all playing a part in the emerging apostasy and The Man of Sin.

    Thus, we only need to focus on True Faith and True Faith is found only in the One True and Living God. What do we have faith in?
    So not at all crucial to study or understand other "faiths" What are we supposed to understand about falsehood?
    Leave it well alone.

    Furthermore, By accepting unshakeable principles and understanding our own Faith, we cannot accept anything less in our lives or the lives of our families.
    We should live peacefully along side all peoples as this is God's command, but those different beliefs have nothing in common. One is real and the other is not. Very simple.
    We cannot claim Christ, if we claim to understand other gods. To do so is to mock God. Very logical!
    LJO - He actually makes a valid claim about the apostasy of this present time and it's emergence from various churches.
    It's not only in churches, but is trying to erode governments.
    To accept the world's so called "faiths" is to deny Christ and his uniqueness.
    JND foresaw the departure from the truth and moved accordingly in obedience.
    In my humble opinion, we should be looking at the positive aspects of the PBCC and not making it personal. Suffering is part of the Christian pathway and if we suffer with Christ, we will reign with him.
    I feel if we are right before God, he will make things plain, give us peace within and keep us in his hand. Seeking vengence causes one to be ruled by it. No peace there.
    I urge people to not follow those who make it their life's work to discredit the EBs, but instead find grace and show a kindly spirit.
    Quite frankly, the comment from 20:26 is an utter falsehood and deceit because we know that scripture points to the uniqueness of Christ and The True and Living God.
    There is only one truth, so may we be occupied with The Truth and not diverted by false teachings of this world.
    Apostasy is rearing it's ugly head on some of these posts. Well, God is going to cast it into hell where it belongs.


    1. Jack, when you say it is not at all crucial to study or understand other faiths and when you ask what we are supposed to understand about falsehood, you seem to be assuming that these other faiths consist only of falsehood, and Hales Brethrenism consists only of truth.

      Most denominations and forms of religion are a mixture of things that are good and bad, true and false, beautiful and ugly, and Hales Brethrenism is no exception. I do my best to understand Hales Brethrenism with its truths and falsehoods, and its members could benefit a lot if they reciprocate and try to understand other religions too.

      A lot of good can come out of mutual understanding. Every time I sit down in a mosque for a conversation with an Imam, I do not share all his beliefs, values and practices, but I do learn from the experience that we have much more in common than religious extremists would have us believe. The Islamic faith and Hales Brethrenism have in common the fact that they both began as branches of Christianity and each evolved in its own way, developing new beliefs and practices, shaped by influences that can largely be understood.

      When ministering among the Jews, Jesus tended to promote respect for the rival religious tradition of the Samaritans, despite the fact that most Jews despised them. Unlike most of his fellow Jews, he would engage Samaritans in conversation, and in one of his stories he used a Samaritan as a role model.

    2. In the words of Jack above, ' Seeking vengence causes one to be ruled by it. No peace there'

      So why do PBCC instruct lawyers to pursue ex-members who are simply telling the truth? Don't tell me it doesn't happen, I've had three already.

      Practice what you preach PBCC.

    3. Jack,

      Your post is full of prejudice & sectarianism laden with doom. You sound very depressed & full of scaremongering conspiracy theories. That is not a healthy place for the mind Jack. If that’s what they teach you in the PBCC EB then your being filled with brainwashing nonsense.

      Your post (as usual with all things pbcc eb) misinterprets, twists & lies about what I stated in 22 Nov 20:26.

      I did not say ‘accept’ other faiths, as you claim

      I simply pointed out using the biblical apostle paul as an example, that it helps when evangelising to those of other faiths to have some understanding, that is, some knowledge and awareness of what that other faith teaches, to be able to point out the errors of it. Having such a knowledge of other faiths also helps when Christians are approached by damaging sects such as Jehovah’s Witness, Mormons, Exclusive Brethren etc, so that Christians can show where such groups twist and misrepresent the Christian Bible, and therefore not be sucked into false teachings


      The Biblical Apostle Paul, had a knowledge & awareness of what other faiths teach which gave him the confidence to be able to evangelise about the true God as shown by Acts 17-22

      Do you agree with the biblical apostle Paul & his actions in Acts 17 – 22 as shown in my post of 20:26 ?

    4. Jack says’

      “…spineless / lack courage and have no moral compass. The gutter media also belong to the same group and are all playing a part in the emerging apostasy and The Man of Sin.”

      Did you know you’ve described the Plymouth brethren christian church (also known as exclusive brethren since 1848) ?

      The pbcc eb are taught that former leader james taylor junior was a ‘pure man’ and ‘our beloved’ and ‘our paul’ and a ‘man of god’ and his doctrines should be followed because they are authoritative on the same level as scripture.

      Yet, the pbcc eb must be – (to use your own words Jack)- “spineless, lack courage, have no moral compass, the gutter, emerging apostasy, the man of sin”, because james taylor junior was in fact an –

      - alcoholic womaniser who fondled women sat on his knee, drank whisky while taking the lead in bible studies, was seen drunk on stage at supposed christian gatherings, was found in bed with another mans wife, was sent to a drying out clinic in 1964 and who introduced teachings not supported by the bible

      These facts are fully supported by historical records such as - court reports & documents, eye witness statements, recordings, newspaper articles, books etc

      Any supposed christian church who teaches that such a man is ‘pure’ and a ‘man of god’ whose rules must be followed, has clearly lost its ‘moral compass’ has ‘fallen into the gutter’ and is part of the ‘emerging apostasy’ is it not ?

  9. A note of clarification for Leonardo J Octavianus in response to his contribution above.

    The reason why I contribute to this blog is because it provides a way for me to communicate with Bruce D Hales in Australia and Garth Christie in England. (See my posting of 16 November 2014 at 12:44 on the previous 'broken, smashed' thread.)

    In February 2008, Bruce D Hales sent me a personal and positive message in reply to a posting I'd made on the peebs.net site. There I had asked whether Brethren children would ever learn about William Tyndale and Mr Hales let me know that he'd given instructions that the "English martyrs" were to be taught in Exclusive Brethren schools. I was delighted to hear this. William Tyndale was a very special person.

    Earlier than 2008 I had written a letter to Bruce D Hales and I'd sent a book about the Brethren to his wife, Jenny, but I hadn't received a reply from either of them, so I felt glad when I discovered that I could communicate with them through a web site. Garth Christie is an occasional correspondent of mine, but he's a busy person and finds it difficult to stay in touch with me. I know that he reads what I write online because when I visited Fiona and him in their home in Leeds Garth had a pile of paper copies of postings I'd made. We had a cordial discussion and Garth didn't refer to any of these printouts while I was there.

    You might like to ask Fiona and Garth or Joy and Roger Devenish or Duncan Hulbert about my trousers. I've had the chance to explain to them the relevance of the use of the Hebrew words 'ish' and 'geber' (pronounced 'gever') as far as Deuteronomy 22 is concerned. They will tell you that they're quite at ease about how I dress. Roger told me, in Duncan's company, that the rule about women not wearing trousers was simply a Brethren custom and not based on the Holy Scriptures. Garth told me that I could wear my own clothes if I ever visited a PBCC meeting.

    Finally, as a retired teacher who was taught by two Taylorite Exclusive Brethren teachers in the 1950s and who has quite a number of contacts in the world of education, I take an interest in primary and secondary education in the UK. I hoped my contribution in this thread would flag up for Bruce D Hales and Garth Christie the whole matter of the DFE's concerns about British values.

  10. LJO
    You rightly say that people have died at the stake for their Christian beliefs although I am not aware of any members of the Exclusive brethren that have done so.
    If the EB are willing to die for their beliefs why do they surround their meeting rooms with excessive security. This does not demonstrate dependency upon God such as the Christian martyrs showed but rather some deluded idea that they (the EBs) are under attack.
    As for their leader BDH it would seem from reports that he is afraid of meeting his own flock on a one to one basis after a meeting! What sort of leader is that?

  11. Leonardo J Octavianus

    I am an ex-brethren of the UK and Ian does not make me puke.
    He is one of the most measured, rational and fair commentators on this forum.
    For what it's worth; whenever I read your contributions here, I realise anew how glad I am that I left the brethren coming up for 40 years ago. It is the best thing I ever did. People with views such as yours have no power over me anymore. I am more than willing to risk your likely contention that God agrees with you and I'll get my comeuppance at the judgement seat.


  12. I thought Jack was a very apt moniker for that arrogant and ignorant peeb to adopt.

    He clearly knows 'Jack Sh*t' as the saying goes!

  13. In May and June 2014, Michael Gove, who was then the UK Education Secretary, said he wanted Ofsted to have direct responsibility for all schools in England – including private schools. Currently, Ofsted inspects only about half of the private schools in England. Most of the others are inspected by the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI), while the Exclusive Brethren (Focus) schools are inspected by the School Inspection Service (SIS). The proposed change would probably mean that Brethren Schools would be judged by the same criteria and required to meet the same standards as all other schools, perhaps including the requirement that they actively promote harmony between different faiths. It remains to be seen whether the Dept. for Education will adopt this policy.

    Around the same time, UK Ministers announced that they would consult on plans to tighten the wording on current educational standards in order to require all schools to “actively promote” fundamental British values, including democracy, tolerance, mutual respect, individual liberty and the rule of law. The phrase “all schools” implies that Brethren schools will be included.

    In its response to the consultation, the Church of England said that the list of values proposed by the Department of Education is too narrow and “does not include several important aspects of British life”.

    This includes: “Loving your neighbour”; “being prepared to receive from the outsider as demonstrated by the Good Samaritan”; the importance of dissent, as shown by anti-slavery campaigners, the suffragettes and the Chartists, who campaigned for political reform in the 19th century; and a “commitment to the common good”.

    I would like to see equality explicitly included in the values to be promoted, even though it is indirectly implied by “the rule of law.”

    The Dept. for Education is expected to publish new guidelines on these matters this week. I await their decision with interest.

  14. Here are some more specific details of the proposed New Independent School Standards as published in June, though minor changes to them may be announced this week. The previous standards were set out in the Education (Independent School Standards) (England) Regulations 2010, and the main changes include the following.

    There is now a requirement that no student is discriminated against contrary to the Equality Act 2010. For example, if there were non-Brethren children at a Brethren school, it would be illegal to treat them differently from the Brethren children, for example when serving food or engaging in social activities, and it would be illegal to discriminate between boys and girls in the opportunities provided or in the seating arrangements. Of course, discrimination has been illegal for a long time, but until now the only remedy has been through the courts, whereas now the remedy can be through regulatory action by the DfE.

    There is also a requirement to encourage students to respect other people, with particular regard to the protected characteristics set out in the Equality Act 2010, and to challenge pupils, staff or parents expressing opinions contrary to the values enshrined in the Equality Act. So for example, if Brethren children start making animal noises when a black person appears on a video, the teacher in charge would need to reprimand them, or when they express the opinion that there should be the death penalty for gay people, that would also need to be challenged. Likewise, expressions of prejudice against other faiths would need to be challenged. These are not hypothetical examples. These have actually been observed in the classroom.

    One of the most disputed requirements, which may or may not survive the recent consultation process, is that schools must actively promote tolerance and harmony between different cultural traditions. The proposed standards say that a minimal approach, for example putting up posters on a notice board and organising an occasional visit to places of worship would fall short of ‘actively promoting’.

    This is the requirement that would create the greatest difficulty for the Brethren, because it is diametrically opposed to the culture of extreme sectarianism that has been fostered by several decades of Brethren ministry.

  15. Interesting piece, Ian.

    Teachers in Focus schools will find it helpful that requirements about social behaviour and attitudes are to be clearly set out. I know from talking to PBCC members that there is a concern about some of the ways pupils have behaved in the schools - and the incidents you mention are extremely worrying.

    A personal concern for me is the way some PBCC people treat women and girls and hopefully clearer guidance will help there. I've read a lengthy account by a teacher in one of the PBCC schools who found that very good girl pupils weren't given any sense of future opportunities in life beyond helping their fathers in a brethren business and marriage and motherhood. I'm all for marriage and motherhood if that's a woman's choice, but it's such a shame that university education and a wider range of careers are not at the moment encouraged in these brethren schools. I hope that will change.

  16. It was announced this week by Ofsted that most schools will not face surprise inspections without notice, because there were too many “logistical drawbacks” in doing so. The change of policy was spelled out in a letter from the Head of Ofsted to the UK Education Secretary. There is an article about it in The Times. http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/education/article4277861.ece

    However, surprise inspections will still be made of schools suspected of teaching a narrow curriculum that fails to prepare pupils for modern Britain, because it has been found that in one such school, inspectors who arrived after giving advanced warning witnessed a school assembly that had been put on to deceive them.

    That kind of charade is a bit reminiscent of the reports we have heard of Brethren plans to change their proceedings at preachings or reading meetings if any outsider turns up. We hear about pre-arranged topics and youngsters being primed with pre-arranged questions to ask, to give the impression that the young people are more active and engaged than they really are. If these reports are true, it implies that the Brethren have been consciously conspiring to deceive.

    After surprise inspections carried out a few weeks ago, inspectors concluded that 11 schools were not preparing pupils for life in Britain today, either by not teaching respect and understanding of other faiths or not developing tolerance of different communities. It is now clear from several DfE and Ofsted regulations that this requirement applies to all schools in England, including Brethren schools. Failure to comply would not only rule out any hope of free school status: is could even lead to closure of the schools.

    But how will the Brethren teach their children respect and understanding of other faiths without flatly contradicting the extremely sectarian ministry of the last 50 years?

  17. The UK Department for Education (DfE) has just published an updated version of its advice for independent schools in England to help them understand their obligations to promote the Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural (SMSC) development of their students.

    The advice is contained in two documents that you can download from https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/improving-the-smsc-development-of-pupils-in-independent-schools

    Although it is called advice, it is largely about legal obligations specified in the Education (Independent School Standards) (England) Regulations 2010. Complying with most of it is not optional.

    The guidance significantly hardens the language used in setting out how schools teach SMSC development, replacing the previous language of “respect” for British values with the requirement to actively promote them.

  18. Has the Pope been reading our discussion about actively promoting respect for and understanding of other faiths? Maybe he is already ahead of us on that score.

    According to Associated Press, this morning (29th November) he visited the 17th-century Sultan Ahmet mosque in Istanbul, where with head bowed and hands clasped in front of him, he prayed alongside the Grand Mufti of Istanbul, Rahmi Yaram, who had his palms turned toward the sky in a Muslim prayer. “May God accept it,” Yaram told the Pope at the end of the prayer aimed at showing respect for Islam and encouraging interfaith relations.

    Yesterday in the Turkish Capital, Ankara, the Pope had called for greater dialogue among Christians, Muslims and people of all faiths to end fundamentalism.

    I suppose this blog is a very modest part of that dialogue.