Time to Investigate Ofsted?

After ‘Trojan Horse’, the compromised nature of Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) became incredibly clear.

The racialised attack by the government on marginalised Muslim communities and other Communities of Colour could not be more clear. Recent news of asking four-year old Muslim girls what they’re wearing and why is just a new front in the agenda of Islamophobia, particularly gendered Islamophobia.

To understand what is happening it is important to not only remember what has happened but know where things have come. The ‘Trojan Horse’ scandal that saw an outburst of fearmongering about an “Extremist Plot” has produced no proof of any such thing. A long article, but one definitely worth reading, is the breakdown of what has happened with this case so far in the Guardian.

The article reveals that evidence for any such plot is at best weak. The most there is are Whatsapp groups that don’t speak of anything of a plot while they do demonstrate disgusting and problematic views held by the teachers. To pretend that what happened is a proportionate response is a lie. It is not new for teachers and school environments to perpetuate oppressive views. A grammar school in Kent has recently decided to “tackle Political Correctness” by creating an ‘Unsafe Space’ and half of Trans Pupils have attempted suicide. The culture of queerphobia that permeates Britain isn’t confined to any community, but is a direct consequence of the Social Conditioning of entire generations of people by the Government agenda behind Section 28. There should be a fight for the protections of pupils, instead there is this marginalisation of communities and the flawed assigning of blame.

The reports by Clarke and Kershaw, combined with the ‘need’ for Boyes to collect incidents on how ‘Islamisation’ was taking place, demonstrate one thing. This was not about evidence nor the welfare of Students, this was about these white individuals being uncomfortable with the introductions of practices they were unfamiliar with. For them, the lives of these students, their realities should have been left at the door. For them, much like in Colonial India (and others across the world), school is a civilising process for these ‘savages’, and anything contrary to what they see as ‘civilising’ should be seen as an intolerable resistance to the system — a form of radicalisation. Thus their conclusions.

This scandal formed the backbone of pushing forward an agenda the government had had for some time. The Prevent agenda has turned civil servants into spies through the ‘Counter-Terror and Security Act’ (2015), giving little or no guidance on identifying ‘signs of radicalisation’ and allowing the continued racialised association between Muslims and ‘Terror’. A recent report by Just Yorkshire called ‘Rethinking Prevent’ says the legislation positions ‘Muslims as a Suspect Community’ and the UN, when called in by former National Union of Students’ President Malia Bouattia, said the strategy will be making matters worse. Most recently, the NUS Black Students’ Officer, Ilyas Nagdee, wrote about how the stats suggest that this is about silencing dissent as the campaign ‘Students Not Suspects’ relaunched.

Photo and Banner by NUS Black Students’ Campaign

Recently, the whole debate of Muslims in Schools (which it might as well be called) has been revived by the suggestion that girls as young as four should be asked why they’re wearing the hijab because it ‘could be interpreted as sexualisation’. Of course this is going off the media hype, politicians publicity and false education of entire peoples by carefully selecting certain Muslim individuals that try to discuss the hijab as a form of protection from the ‘predatory nature of men’. Indeed these arguments would be pushed by this sphere of people after the recent revelations of Sexual Abuse through the necessary #MeToo campaign ‘to make a point’ however, that is not the reason Muslim women wear the hijab. Rather than go into several reasons, there is one point, and one point alone that should be sufficient — they wear the hijab because they choose to.

This is important to the context of what is happening. There seems to be an absence of understanding, that the power imposed upon women in a patriarchal society; sexual, domestic and non-physical is rooted in the idea that women and women’s bodies can and should be controlled. This makes what women can do, including what they wear, public discourse and opinion. Women are brought up to believe their bodies should always be accountable to the powers — and in this case the state. This results in widescale social conditioning of control and victim blaming. It is this conditioning that creates widespread sexual and domestic violence in the UK as well as victim blaming.

Manifesting this by creating an enemy population — the Muslims — allows the state to pursue control of Muslim Women’s bodies. From niqab-bans across europe, the gunpoint bakini situation in France to this. By both suppressing their voice and claiming their liberation Britains cooption of women’s rights struggles targets the Muslim woman. This is evident in the report on ‘integration’ by Dame Louise Casey which highlighted manifestations of misogyny but overlooked the statistics on abuse in Britain. The Casey Review largely called for ‘integration’ of Muslim women to experience the ‘freedoms of British Women.’ This is language I heard on #SkyPapers the other day — and we need to understand what this means. It’s not about the welfare of Muslim Women, it is not about the liberation of any women, it is about demonstrating that British control of Womens bodies is better than other forms of control. That British Patriarchy is acceptable.

In the case of the Muslim School Girl what does this mean? I can tell you, no Muslim parent, whether they believe the narrow idea of protection or not with the hijab are telling their four year old this. They are putting the hijab on their child just like any parent puts any piece of clothing on their child. When you tell them they cannot do this, you are saying that they do not have the right to help construct their childs identity, just as the school system does when it bans Black children from having braids. But when you ask a four year old why they’re wearing the hijab, it is like asking any other four year old why they’re wearing any piece of clothing. You are telling them that their bodies are accountable to authorities, that they must do and choose what others tell them. It is the State, not their parents that is teaching young girls that they, for being girls, should be controlled.

Ofsted are not by-standers in this saga. This propaganda of the Muslim Menace and the saving the Muslim Woman has been propped up by Ofsted. It was Ofsted that so quickly turned down Park Views rating. It is Ofsted that presented no criteria for these changes, alongside no evidence of extremism. It is Ofsted that has said that school is progressing despite it not achieving anywhere near the 5 A*-C rate it did before the scandal. And it is Ofsted making this suggestion about questioning the bodies of four year olds. It is time to put Ofsted under investigation.