FORCING schools to hit academic targets may be leaving them vulnerable against pupils becoming radicalised, a leading teaching union has warned. Failing schools are ditching personal, social and health education (PSHE) classes – used by schools to gauge what is going on in their pupil’s lives – in favour of numeracy and literacy lessons in attempts to pass Ofsted inspections.
The National Association of Headteachers (NAHT) fears this could lead to schools – especially those whose pupils are at risk of being radicalised – failing to spot the warning signs. The warning comes less than a week after Prime Minister David Cameron announced proposals to make it a legal duty for schools to report signs of pupils being radicalised, in the wake of the Tunisian terrorist attack that killed 30 British tourists.
In an interview with Tom Latchem on FUBAR Radio, NAHT President Tony Draper said: “I know that…schools are having to focus entirely on numeracy and literacy, to get them into a position where they are not under threat from Ofsted.
“That’s a shame because it is about enabling children to make safe decisions in life and you feel for the children and feel for the teachers because teachers’ professionalism and knowing their children well and looking out for their children is just so important. “Most teachers do it brilliantly, it’s such a shame that the curriculum gets narrowed because of government policy and to the extent where things that they do to enable children’s safety gets wiped off.”
Mr Draper was responding to an interview with a teacher who had worked at a school that had seen its pupils go to join Islamic State fighters in Syria. The concerned tutor – who spoke on condition of anonymity – said: ‘Schools need to have the time to know their students. The constant pressure at times to deliver results, and deliver increases in GSCE attainment, can detract from actually just caring for these young people. “I’ve had instances at schools where the times in the morning, students would sit for the first 20 minutes of each day, with the same group of people, the same teacher, and discuss a variety of issues in life, what in education is called PHSE. “You might spend a week discussing abortion, the next week religious tolerance, and that time has been taken away and instead given to curriculum to develop students English and maths skills, because of the pressure of GSCE results.
“So now we have students coming into school, they just sit through lesson after lesson and then go home at the end of each day, they don’t feel anchored to anything, they don’t feel as if there is anyone teacher that knows them well. “I think that is a real risk, because that erosion of this idea of community and feeling part of something.”
Announcing “full spectrum” plans to tackle the radicalisation of young people, Mr Cameron told parliament on June 29: “We must take on the radical narrative that is poisoning young minds. “The people who do these things do it in the name of a twisted and perverted ideology which hijacks the Islamic faith and holds that mass murder and terror are not only acceptable but necessary.”