British values: school inspections are fruitless when they happen too late

The citizenship curriculum has helped students understand British democratic values for years, but Michael Gove turned a blind eye to it. Last week’s ‘extremism’ witch-hunt showed it must be part of a school’s routine inspection, not a tool to temper those who have gone astray.

Mr Gove emasculated the subject in his curriculum review and excused Ofsted from regularly investigating citizenship delivery. It was, therefore, noticeable that inspectors condemned one recently-demoted Birmingham Academy (Park View) for ‘not having taught citizenship well enough’.

Those of us who know the subject recognise that it is the natural home for ‘inculcating British values in the curriculum’, as David Cameron puts it. We also recognise his fine list of universal democratic values, wondering what was uniquely British in the mix? It was citizenship.

Academies and Free Schools (roughly half our secondary schools) can choose not to teach the subject at all, and routine Ofsted school inspections do not review it. As a consequence, its omission goes overlooked in state schools.

The snap judgement in Park View’s case will surprise teachers who have become accustomed to Michael Gove’s blind eye. The spotlight was thrown onto citizenship because alarm bells rang in Whitehall; the failure to deliver the subject was then picked up when the school was re-inspected under the ‘Trojan Horse’ investigation.

This illustrates the problem: inspection of a school’s delivery will only occur when it is already too late. It’s like only spotting the lack of PE provision once the kids are morbidly obese: too late.

This should be reviewed immediately. We believe schools need clarity that citizenship on the National Curriculum must be delivered effectively and will be inspected routinely, as part of a broad and balanced curriculum.

This article originally appeared in our newsletter. Subscribe to our newsletter.

Views expressed on this blog are not necessarily those of the Citizenship Foundation.

Leave a Reply