Code of conduct drawn up for UK madrasas

Under code to be announced next month by Michael Gove, Islamic schools would ensure teachers were vetted by police

A voluntary code of conduct to regulate teaching in madrasas in Britain is due to be announced next month by the education secretary, Michael Gove.

Over the past decade, ministers from all parties have expressed unease at the inability to regulate teaching in the schools, which offer supplementary education outside of mainstream schooling. But they have held back partly due to the amount of regulation that would be required.

The plans have emerged as an Ofsted inquiry continues into claims of an attempt by Islamist extremists to take over as many as 21 schools in Birmingham, a charge that is strongly rejected by many in Birmingham. Gove has appointed Peter Clarke, the former head of Scotland Yard's counter-terrorism command, to lead a Department for Education inquiry, one of four investigations being carried out.

 

The Labour MP for Perry Barr in Birmingham, Khalid Mahmood, has argued for at least six years that stricter regulations are needed to protect children in privately run madrasas.

The Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board already promotes good governance in mosques and imam training institutions through a process of voluntary self-regulation, and the charity claims to have over 600 members.

There are as many as 2,000 madrasas known to local authorities in the UK and whose staff have undergone all the checks required to teach children in a safe and secure environment.

The proposed code would require madrasas to ensure that teachers are vetted by police, and that students are not subjected to corporal punishment. The schools would agree to adopt a syllabus that prevents fundamentalist teaching.

Madrasa has become a catch-all term for the teaching of Islam in schools linked to mosques or in private houses. A Whitehall official said madrasas would be offered official recognition if they agreed to sign up to the new code.

"The code will make sure that all teachers are CRB [Criminal Records Bureau] checked, and that no corporal punishment is dealt out," the official said. "The schools may also be required to teach a standard syllabus, because right now they can teach whatever they want. The syllabus will be supportive of the government's preventing-extremism strategy, so there will be no fundamentalist teaching.

"The incentive for the supplementary schools is that the DfE [Department for Education] will consider publishing their names on its website to give them a bit of prestige and differentiate them from the unregistered schools."

The former children's minister Tim Loughton had opposed further regulation, saying that to focus only on madrasas would appear discriminatory and could reinforce unhelpful stereotypes.

Ofsted is expected to publish its Birmingham inspection reports next month. It is understood that at least six of the 21 schools will be put into special measures that could lead to the removal of headteachers and governors.

Last week, Park View, the school at the centre of the controversy, issued a lengthy statement condemning the "entirely fictional" allegations made against it. It said the flurry of accusations had created a backdrop for the settling of political scores by disgruntled former staff.

There have been claims that some former teachers will not air their concerns due to gagging clauses imposed on them.

Gove is understood to be examining plans when Ofsted reports in June to remove several schools found to be failing from the control of the Labour-controlled council.

Tristram Hunt, the shadow education secretary, blamed the crisis in Birmingham on the coalition's support for academies and free schools. "Michael Gove is trying to pass the buck," he said. "His record of allowing underperformance to go unchecked means … 1.5 million children are not receiving the standard of schooling we expect."

 Source: The Guardian