Education Policy and Dealing with Bias

Wed, 29 Sep 2010 18:00 in Discussion Forums

Where: Hilton Hotel, Neville Street, Leeds, LS1 4BX
With: Dr Jill Adam and Robin Richardson

Since the general election, 6th May 2010, the Conservative Liberal Democrat coalition has placed educational policy at the forefront of policy change and initiative. The government believes that the school system should be reformed to tackle educational inequality; to give greater powers to parents and pupils in choosing a good school; to ensure high standards of discipline and the highest quality teaching; and to enable parents, community groups and others to come together with state support to improve the education system by starting new schools. In considering the opportunities and challenges faced by the government and those involved in the school and educational systems, it is important to understand the roles and responsibilities of those driving these agendas as well as the broader political, financial and social contexts in which these ambitions and commitments sit. The purpose of the Education Bill is to give full effect to the range of programmes envisaged in the coalition agreement, including giving schools greater freedom over the curriculum, improving school accountability, tackling bureaucracy and improving behaviour in schools. In debating such matters, the free schools initiative (all-ability state-funded schools set up in response to parental demand) will be used to contextualise considerations of equality of opportunity, quality teaching and learning and the quest to improve standards for all.

Biography of Robin Richardson

Robin is a director of the Insted educational consultancy, based in London. Previously he was director of the Runnymede Trust and for several years before that was chief inspector for education in a London borough. His publications over the years include several on Islamophobia and two on the achievement of pupils of Pakistani heritage. He has recently drafted a handbook on citizenship education for young British Muslims and is currently leading a project on countering intolerance and discrimination against Muslims through education under the auspices of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), based in Warsaw.

Since 2007 he has worked frequently with the Department for Children, Schools and Families, now the Department for Education, in relation to equalities legislation. He is the co-author with Berenice Miles of Racist Incidents and Bullying in Schools: how to prevent them and how to respond when they happen, 2008, and his most recent book, published in 2009, is Holding Together: equalities, difference and cohesion.

Abstract: Challenging anti-Muslim bias through education

Children and young people need to appreciate that in the world generally, and also in each individual society, neighbourhood and organisation, people with different values, experiences, standpoints and interests have to live together and to develop laws, procedures and customs which facilitate cooperation. In this connection international human rights standards and principles provide the legal, intellectual and moral basis for understanding and challenging, and seeking to prevent, all forms of intolerance through education. Challenging anti-Muslim bias involves: ‘changing the story’ – from us-and-them to a new us; critical thinking, reflection and open-mindedness, particularly in relation to the media, including not only the press, radio and television but also advertising, computer games, websites and blogs; promoting ‘religious literacy’ – religious and non-religious traditions, beliefs, symbols and practices need to be assessed and evaluated with regard to the practical consequences they have for human well-being; developing a sense of history, and being aware of competing narratives about ‘the West’ and ‘Islam’. Also, it involves providing safe spaces – how teachers teach is an integral part of what they teach, for the message is in the methodology as well as in the content. Activities and teaching relating to challenging intolerance through education should be coordinated at senior management level in each school, and should involve not only all subjects of the taught curriculum but also a school’s general organisation and ethos.

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Roundtable Discussion on Education Policy and Dealing with Bias Roundtable Discussion on Education Policy and Dealing with Bias Roundtable Discussion on Education Policy and Dealing with Bias Roundtable Discussion on Education Policy and Dealing with Bias Roundtable Discussion on Education Policy and Dealing with Bias Roundtable Discussion on Education Policy and Dealing with Bias

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