Gender-bias schools to face action
3:25pm Monday 23rd June 2014 in © Press Association 2014
Schools will face action if they discriminate against pupils based on their gender or fail to challenge religious prejudice u nder new government plans to promote British values in the classroom.
They will also be expected to confront pupils, parents or school staff that express intolerant or extremist views, the Department for Education (DfE) said.
The proposals are outlined in a new consultation document published by the DfE which has been drawn up in the wake of the alleged "Trojan Horse" plot by hardline Muslims to take over a number of schools in Birmingham.
Under the change, from this September, schools will have to "actively promote" British values such as democracy, tolerance, mutual respect, the rule of law and individual liberty.
The new regulations state that schools will have to show how they are embedding British values.
This includes challenging anyone that expresses opinions that are contrary to fundamental British values, and bans schools from discriminating against girls on the basis of their gender or encouraging prejudice against those of other faiths or beliefs.
It also states that extremism should "not form part of the curriculum or teaching and that students are encouraged to respect other people and no student is discriminated against".
The document warns: " A minimum 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'.
"Schools will be expected to focus on, and be able to show how their work with pupils is effective in embedding fundamental British values."
The new rules allow the Education Secretary to take action if it is found that a school is not upholding British values.
It is thought that this could include closing down or taking over schools if necessary.
The changes apply to all independent schools, including academies and free schools, the DfE said, adding that Ofsted is due to bring in a similar requirement for local authority-run state schools later this year.
A DfE spokesman said: "Keeping our children safe and ensuring schools prepare them for life in modern Britain could not be more important. This change is an important step towards ensuring we have a strong legal basis for intervening in those schools where this is an issue.
"The vast majority of schools already promote British values - this is about making sure we have the tools we need to intervene if children are being let down."
Proposals for schools to "actively promote" British values were announced by Education Secretary Michael Gove earlier this month after it was confirmed that five Birmingham schools have been placed into special measures following inspections as part of investigations into the ''Trojan Horse'' allegations.
In a letter to the Commons education select committee outlining the reforms, Schools Minister Lord Nash said that the Government also intends to implement "new stronger powers to bar unsuitable people from managing independent schools".
He added that the Government is also planning to bring in new emergency powers that will allow them to close a school or impose restrictions if there are serious safeguarding concerns.
" The new powers will allow us to apply to a Justice of the Peace for an order to remove a school from the register of independent schools," the minister wrote.
"The school can appeal but may not operate during the appeal period."