BULLYING: THE REALITY BEHIND THE RHETORIC

A few statistics to get you thinking: 54% of all children and young people in our country have been bullied at some point during their school lives. 20% have been bullied in the last year. 10% are bullied on an almost daily basis. That’s nearly 150,000 children and young people who dread going to school every single day of their lives, for fear of what awaits them. Of those bullied daily, 37% have developed social anxiety,  24% had suicidal thoughts and 36% have developed depression.

You might be forgiven for thinking that this is solely due to homophobic bullying. It’s a huge agenda, with money and training being poured into stamping it out. It’s pretty much the only kind of bullying that is talked about and schools have to produce anti-bullying policies which specifically detail how homophobic and transphobic bullying will be dealt with. That’s the perspective from the adult liberal elite who dictate policy.

If you talk to young people themselves, they tell quite a different story. Ditch the Label produces a comprehensive annual survey conducted only amongst students. According to these figures, 50% of those bullied say it involves attitudes to their appearance; 19% say it relates to them getting high grades, and 14% say it’s because of household income. Only 4% report being bullied because of their sexuality. So you are far more likely to be bullied because of your body shape, for wearing glasses or for having red hair than whether you are gay or transgender. The agenda has, quite simply, been hijacked by LGBT rhetoric.

A quick view of the Stonewall website is telling. Repeatedly, it focuses on the inappropriate use of the word ‘gay’ which is common youth parlance, often used without sexual connotation. Does the misuse of the word constitute bullying? Not really. There’s a difference between teasing and using inappropriate language, and bullying: it’s important to know the difference. Bullying is prolonged, persistent and planned – it’s what 10% of young people experience daily and it isn’t confined to school. Recent research shows that cyber-bullying isn’t deployed as an alternative to more traditional forms; it’s actually used in addition. Nearly all students bullied in school are also subjected to cyber-bullying, leaving them scared and isolated 24/7, wherever they are.

There has been considerable press coverage recently of the increased risk of poor mental health and suicide in those bullied because of their sexual or gender orientation. Here too, the figures show that the same is true of all bullied children, regardless of the reason for the bullying. But yet again, the LGBT lobby dominates the agenda.

None of this helps – in fact, it causes real harm. About 86% of disabled children report being bullied on a regular basis, yet that doesn’t grab any headlines or provoke a flurry of policy documents at the DfE. To highlight just one reason for bullying is to create a hierarchy, clearly signalling to the disabled, to ethnic minorities, to those of religious faith or to those who don’t wear the ‘right’ clothes that their pain and suffering are less important than LGBT suffering.

According to official statistics, the incidence of homophobic and transphobic bullying has fallen over the last few years. No surprise there – the Hawthorne effect (of which DfE officials must surely be aware?) says that if you shine a huge spotlight on an issue over a period of time, you will effect a change simply by your intervention. But shining a spotlight creates deep shadow and that makes others more vulnerable, because bullying is a behaviour choice. If bullies can’t pick on one group of people in their school, they’ll simply pick on another. Logic dictates that if you’re going to get caught easily for choosing those in the spotlight, then you choose people in the shadows where you’re less likely to be seen. It isn’t about the reason they bully. It’s about being a bully.

If you are gay, or transgender, or coloured, or disabled, or have red hair, wear glasses, are clever or from a poor home, the reason why you are being bullied matters to you deeply, because it strikes at the heart of your identity. But to those dealing with bullying, the reason shouldn’t matter – what should matter is that so many people are suffering.

Solving the problem should begin in a wider society where bullying is endemic. Schools have a part to play, but it’s not down to schools alone to solve the problem. The liberal ideology which says that if we stamp it out in the young we will have a happy society with the next generation is rubbish. When children are faced with a conflict between words and actions, they always follow the actions. So using any amount of words in the classroom won’t stop some children becoming bullies because that is a model which they see in wider society, in their communities and, sadly, often in their own homes.

In his letter to the church in Galatia, the apostle Paul wrote, ‘There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female’ (Galatians 3:28). Genuine inclusivity doesn’t prioritise one group over another – it’s colour, race, gender, ability and social status blind. So if he was writing to a Christian teacher pondering on how to nurture an inclusive classroom, he might well have written, ‘There is neither gay nor straight, there is neither male nor female, there is neither black nor white, there is neither disabled nor able bodied, there is neither rich nor disadvantaged’. The key is ‘for you are all one’ which means that instead of creating hierarchies, we should be focusing on each individual as a person uniquely created in the image of God and deserving of equal respect regardless of heritage, culture, belief or ability. Only then can we create just, fair communities where a commitment to the common good renders bullying obsolete.

 

SENDING OFSTED TO THE NAUGHTY STEP

After years of protest about Ofsted’s increasingly capricious judgment of schools, it has finally happened. Ofsted has been sent to the naughty step. By a judge. Here’s how it happened.

Durand Academy used to be the darling of the Department for Education. Feted by Michael Gove in 2011 as he celebrated the school’s successful academy conversion, the DfE press release trumpeted: ‘An already outstanding school doing a wonderful job for children in one of London’s most challenging neighbourhoods has, in the last twelve months, made even more amazing strides forward. New support for children in the early years. More superb academic results at the end of Key Stage Two. A new cohort of brilliant young teachers trained here – in the classroom – and transforming children’s lives’.

Earlier this year, Ofsted, following an integrated inspection, attempted to put the Trust’s schools into special measures. So what happened to cause such a significant reversal of the Trust’s inspection fortune?

One clue is found in the 2011 press release, which went on to say that the Trust had ‘exciting plans drawn up to establish a brand new secondary school – with boarding accommodation – ensuring that young people in Lambeth can enjoy an outstanding state education which will equip them for the future every bit as effectively as any private school’. The Trust acquired a site in rural West Sussex and a local campaign group immediately swung into action. A lengthy battle for planning permission to develop the site was lost, so it was not surprising that serious concerns about the suitability of the building for residential education were raised when it was inspected.

Switch your attention back to London, where Durand was rapidly and heavily falling from favour. The Head, Sir Greg Martin, had created a new entrepreneurial business model, not seen before in education. It involved running various businesses, including a gym, leisure facilities and, if press accounts are to be believed, a dating agency. The schools benefitted to the tune of £8 million; students benefitted from smaller classes and subsidised meals; the local community benefitted from access to the facilities, and Sir Greg is alleged to have benefitted by £161,000, in addition to his salary as head of the school. The Public Accounts Committee didn’t like it. The National Audit Office didn’t like it. There were calls for the removal of the Head because the Trust’s ‘complex’ structure left if open to ‘perception of wrongdoing’. The Trust was ordered to re-tender contracts.

Quite suddenly, all the strands of conflict and opposition came together. The boarding school was expecting a follow-up inspection, but Ofsted seized the opportunity to initiate an integrated inspection, which meant that all the Trust’s schools could be inspected at the same time and one common judgment made. The judgment, unsurprisingly, was that the schools all needed to be put into special measures. The Education Funding Agency announced termination of funding, which meant that the Trust would be taken over.

The Trust vowed to fight the decision, saying that it was a victim of ‘half truths and inaccuracies’, because if it is anything, Durand Academy Trust is both determined and wealthy enough to finance what followed. The Trust took legal action, first to prevent publication of the ‘glaringly perverse’ report, and then to quash the judgment. Anyone knowing how Ofsted operates would probably, at this point, have thought, ‘Good luck with that’.

In fact, the Trust achieved a seminal judgment when the case came to court. The judge ruled that Ofsted’s complaints procedure was neither ‘rational’ nor ‘fair’. He added: ‘To my mind, a complaints process which effectively says there is no need to permit an aggrieved party to pursue a substantive challenge to the conclusions of a report it considers to be defective because the decision maker’s processes are so effective that the decision will always in effect be unimpeachable is not a rational or fair process … The absence of any ability effectively to challenge the report renders the complaints procedures unfair and in my judgment vitiates the report.’

Ofsted has indicated its intention to seek leave to appeal and in the meantime has announced the setting up of an independent adjudication service. But it’s too late for the Durand Academy boarding school pupils. To the glee of local campaigners, it closed this week. It’s too late for the many schools that have been forcibly academised following adverse judgments. It’s too late for the schools that have closed because they couldn’t comply with Ofsted’s capricious requirements or didn’t have the necessary finance to take action – Durand has spent around £300,000 on legal fees.

And what of the future? Vishnitz Girls School recently failed an Ofsted inspection on just one factor – failure to teach Key Stage 1 children about same sex relationships and gender reassignment. As the new social engineering experiment know as Relationships and Sex Education comes into force in 2018, how many more schools will be failed? Will this judgment make any difference to their appeals?

Watch this space.

 

DOING THE MATHS ON ‘ROGUE’ FAITH SCHOOLS

You might be forgiven for being confused. Everyone is. Well, everyone apart from Ofsted, that renowned shape shifter designed by John Major’s government to regulate inspection standards across the country. The picture began to fog over somewhere during 2014 as Ofsted morphed from an academic standards inspection force to a totalitarian social engineering enforcer, accountable only to itself, mandating amorphous British values with LGBT rights at the pinnacle of the equalities hierarchy.

The emergence of British values onto centre stage as a result of Trojan Horse is well documented. The concept was nothing new – simply the Blair administration’s community cohesion plan, dressed up in nationalistic clothes. Under its guise, Ofsted turned its hand to no notice inspections, issuing dire warnings about thousands of children missing from school and in danger of radicalisation. A disproportionate number of schools subjected to this new form of trial were faith schools, including Christian and Jewish schools that suddenly found themselves branded extremist, even though no radicalised students who choose to become terrorists have ever emerged from their communities.

Sir Michael Wilshaw’s vigorous pursuit of no notice inspections soon hit a snag. Heads and senior leaders weren’t always in school. In one case, the whole school was out on a trip. But that wasn’t a problem – in November 2014, with zeal unabated, SMW wrote to Nicky Morgan, the then Secretary of State for Education, saying that, ‘This exercise has confirmed that we have the regional intelligence and the appropriate powers to conduct inspections’. Regional intelligence? It started to sound like the language of a police state. Virtue signalling became the order of the day in order to be acceptable in Ofsted’s new social enforcement plan.

And so it has continued. The line of attack shifts occasionally (not least if there’s any media kickback) but like a clockwork mouse hitting an obstacle, Ofsted simply redefines British values and heads off in another direction. It was necessary, we were told, because hundreds of children were at risk. With ever increasing hyperbole, that quickly became thousands. And then someone hit on the idea of including home education figures in the data of Children Missing from Education (CME), so that tens of thousands of parents simply exercising their right to educate their child as they thought best suddenly became potential radicalisers or child abusers.

And then, three weeks ago, Ofsted declared that is it going to ‘throw the book at rogue faith schools – whether Jewish, Christian or Islamic’. Even though they already have all the powers they need, Amanda Spielman called for new laws and new powers for Ofsted to protect children in ‘fundamentalist centres … who mostly study religious writings such as the Koran, the Talmud and Torah, as well as the Bible’. But do the maths – something doesn’t add up. Ofsted has found 286 unregistered schools and of the 116 so far inspected, only 36 were issued with notices. That means 80 of these schools which stand accused of radicalising children are absolutely fine. And were they day schools, or weekend or evening centres?

Do some more maths. Only 1 in 5 are faith schools. So why is the article all about ‘’rogue’ faith schools when only 20 per cent of the schools under suspicion are faith based and of those, most are clearly complying with the law?

The answer to that is hidden away at the end of the article. They aren’t actually talking about schools at all. They’re softening up public opinion ready to respond to the 2015 consultation on inspecting out of school settings such as Sunday schools. That is going to fall within the remit of the government’s anti-extremism strategy.

So, coming soon, to a church near you, an Ofsted inspector searching out extremist , fundamentalist Christian teaching, that is, parents who read the Bible with their children. It’s young people sharing time with their youth leaders, seeking to understand, with the help of the Holy Spirit, how God wants them to live. Ofsted will be ‘protecting the children who attend these places’ (for which read ‘your church’) from harm by preventing their parents from reading the Bible with them.

And that is exactly where Ofsted will fall. Failure to prepare children for life in modern Britain is now a safeguarding offence. That preparation involves teaching children from the age of 3 about same sex relationships and gender reassignment – as the recent inspection of Vishnitz Girls’ School demonstrated, this is Ofsted’s single-minded agenda. If they intend to enforce it within the very heart of our Christian communities, they will, by their own definition, be putting not Christians, but the Bible on trial.

So, challenge the Bible if you wish, Ofsted, but you will not thwart God, because this is what He says through the prophet Isaiah: ‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways … as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it’ (Isaiah 55:8-11).