New in 2016

The blog of the Insted consultancy, previously named Insted Consultancy News, has a new name – The Prose and the Passion. The phrase is derived from a famous plea by E. M Forster (1879—1970) in his novel Howards End (1910). ‘Only connect the prose and the passion,’ he said, ‘and both will be exalted.’

Five papers were added to the Insted website in early 2016, and can be accessed at, or else by clicking on the links below.

Learning to live together in 2016: British values and preventing extremism, introductory remarks at a conference for headteachers, January 2016,

Challenging extremism through education: reflections, responses and resources, details of about 70 recent items in newspapers and the blogosphere, including several which propose constructive ways ahead in the education system,

British identity and British values: muddles, mixtures and ways ahead, an article first published in the London Review of Education, September 2015,

The promotion of British values: a model school policy statement, reflecting ways of integrating fundamental British values into a school’s overall policy framework,

School governors and British values: a statement of concern,  notes on the apparent failure of the Department for Education to have due regard for natural justice and the rule of law in its dealings with Trojan Horse schools in Birmingham, summer and autumn 2015,

The Prose and the Passion blog is managed by Robin Richardson. An interview with him about his career and work over the years, conducted in 2012 on behalf of the International Association for Intercultural Education, can be read at

The Great British Values Disaster

The time is late January 2015. The place is a university campus somewhere in England. ‘Kill Islam,’ says a piece of graffiti scrawled in big red letters on one of the university’s buildings, ‘before it kills you’. A student at the university writes: ‘Every time you come back onto campus, you’re reminded of it. When you’re trying to focus, it’s that nagging thought in the back of your head that keeps coming back.’

He continues: ‘And there’s the constant question that you ask yourself: do I belong here? … On campus, where I’m supposed to feel safe, there are people who actively call for the killing of people like me. I came to university to get an education, not to be the object of vitriolic hate.’

There is increasing anxiety and insecurity amongst many British Muslims at present, an increasing feeling of not belonging here, not belonging even in the places where they should feel most safe, the country’s universities, colleges, schools and nurseries. Such feelings have been exacerbated by the actions of government, and by government inspection regimes such as Ofsted. In this connection the recent requirement for all schools to actively promote what the government calls fundamental British values (FBV) is playing a particularly insidious and damaging role. The requirement leads to widespread miseducation about the nature of British history, society and culture, and to zealously insensitive and counter-productive inspections by Ofsted.

The difficulties and dangers inherent in FBV are outlined in an article by Bill Bolloten and Robin Richardson, published yesterday on the website of the Institute of Race Relations (IRR). It can be read at

Also at the IRR website there’s a timely article by Arun Kundnani about the profound dangers for the education system which are inherent in the new counter-terrorism and security legislation. The article can be read at Kundnani shows that things are likely to get worse for the student cited above, and for everyone, before they get better.

Charlie Hebdo, free speech, us-and-them thinking

First reflections on what is happening

Headline writers and politicians throughout the western world have been in agreement – the attack on Charlie Hebdo on 7 January was part of a war on freedom, a war on the foundations of western democracy. Anyone who does not express total solidarity with the victims by, for example, holding up a Je suis Charlie slogan, and does not declare their unwavering commitment to freedom of speech, is on the side of the terrorists. This has been the dominant narrative in virtually all the coverage so far in the mainstream media, and in the vast majority of speeches and statements by political leaders.

Only a handful of voices have so far queried this dominant narrative – only a handful have stressed that you can NOT ONLY have profound sympathy for the victims and for their families, friends, colleagues and close followers; and can NOT ONLY deplore the cruelty and callousness of the murderers; and can NOT ONLY care about freedom of expression; but can ALSO deplore the simplistic, hypocritical, racist, Islamophobic and deeply damaging us-and-them thinking that has been at the heart of the mainstream media coverage, and of most political speeches.

Here are links to 28 fine articles that query and deplore the dominant narrative, and that indicate alternative approaches to understanding what is going on. They are listed in no particular order.


1. Je ne suis pas Charlie Hebdo
by Jon Wilson

2. The moral hysteria of Je suis Charlie
by Brian Klug

3. Charlie Hebdo and the hypocrisy of pencils
by Corey Oakley

4. I am Charlie, and I guard the Master’s house
by Nadine El-Enany and Sarah Keenan

5. Where monoculturalism leads
by Liz Fekete

6. Why I am not Charlie
by Scott Long

7. No, we’re not all Charlie Hebdo, nor should we be
by Ben Hayes’re-not-all-charlie-hebdo-nor-should-we-be

8. Equal in Paris
by Thomas Chatterton Williams

9. Mourning the Parisian journalists, yet noticing the hypocrisy
by Michael Lerner

10. The danger of polarised debate
by Gary Younge

11. Smiling Muslims: leave the gun, take the cannoli
by Hamid Dabashi

12. We must not forget the responsibility that goes with free speech
by Tariq Modood

13. When blasphemy is bigotry
by Chloe Patton

14. From the radical left towards Islamophobia
by Alain Gresh

15. Free speech does not mean freedom from criticism
by Jacob Canfield

16. Fed up with the hypocrisy of the free speech fundamentalists
by Mehdi Hasan

17. Piety or rage?
by Seyla Benhabib

18. Moral clarity
by Adam Shatz

19. The Charlie Hebdo tragedy
by Christopher Page

20. Heroic but also racist
by Jordan Weissmann

21. West’s sickening moral hijack of Paris massacre
by Finean Cunningham

22. Is the Charlie Hebdo attack really a struggle over European values?
by Myriam Francois-Cerrah

23. Free speech is not an absolute value
by Simon Dawes

24. Is solidarity without identity possible?
by Cinzia Arruzza

25. Unmournable bodies
by Teju Cole

26. Four reasons why I’m tired of Islamophobia
by Khalishah Stevens

27. Rival sanctities
by Glen Newey

28. Us and them
by Matt Carr

This list was compiled in partnership with Bill Bolloten, 14 January 2015. It was later expanded to contain 80 items, and the longer version was published at





Equalities and British values

There has been much talk in recent months about ‘fundamental British values’ – FBV for short. A substantial symposium on this topic traces the origins of FBV in highly dubious and controversial counter-terrorism policies and measures, and reviews the criticisms of it that have been made by practitioners and observers. Also, the symposium quotes some of the criticisms that have been made of the simplistic and damaging way Ofsted has been approaching FBV, and the muddled, confused and confusing ‘guidance’ that has been issued by the Department for Education.

The symposium has been compiled by Robin Richardson and Bill Bolloten and will be published in late January 2015 in the journal Race Equality Teaching (RET). A copy of the whole journal can be purchased at a much reduced price if ordered before 15 January. Details of this offer are at

The editorial introduction to this issue of RET urges that the Department for Education should make itself compliant with its duty under the Equality Act 2010 to publish specific and measurable objectives. The DfE rightly declares the rule of law is a fundamental value underlying British society. But in relation to the Equality Act the DfE itself flagrantly ignores what the rule of law requires.

Ofsted, at least, until recently observed the rule of law in relation to the Equality Act. But, as pointed out in a further editorial article in the new issue of RET, it no longer publishes guidance to inspectors about what the law requires and it is therefore no longer transparent. This is both unfair and unhelpful, and may be open to legal challenge.

There are then several articles about the training needs of teachers. Gus John writes about the need for teachers to be thoroughly familiar with the work and influence of Black authors and activists; Sarah Soyei about the importance of knowing one’s own standpoints and biases; Sue Sanders about the dangers of either/or thinking; Kate Hollinshead about clarity of language; and Bethany O’Reilly about the need for teachers not only to learn but also to unlearn.

Of course, it’s not only teachers who have much to unlearn in relation to equalities. Political leaders need to unlearn too. And so, argues this special issue of Race Equality Teaching, do Ofsted and the Department for Education.

Race Equality Teaching is published by the Institute of Educatiion, London. Normally it is available only on a subscription basis, and individual subscriptions are £39 for three issues each year. But in this instance the Institute is offering copies for just £5 each, plus postage, if ordered before printing starts on 15 January 2015. There’s a link to an order form at

Equalities in education – urgent message

An urgent message to political leaders

‘Politicians in all four of the UK’s education systems are faced, as you know all too well, by both short-term and long-term challenges. It was always thus, of course … The long-term challenges are about the capacity of schools to grapple with the impact of technology on education; increasing inequality combined with decreasing social mobility; preparation for work at a time of phenomenal change in labour markets; and literacy and numeracy amongst the lowest attaining 20 per cent of young people.

‘… Against the backdrop of short-term and long-term challenges such as these, we urge you to take seriously your legal and moral responsibilities under the Equality Act 2010. This is not, we emphasise, an add-on matter – it’s not additional to the other challenges. On the contrary, you simply cannot deal effectively with the other challenges unless you start with the Equality Act, and put and keep it at the very heart of all you do.’

Thus begins the editorial introduction to the next issue of Race Equality Teaching (RET). The issue is about the whole equalities agenda in education, not about race equality alone. Normally RET is only available through an annual subscription of £39. But this issue is available for only £5 if orders are placed before printing begins on 8 September. If you’d like to take advantage of this offer, please click on this link:

There are nine articles in this special issue and all are writen by experts in the topic they are concerned with. The authors and topics are as follows:
Sameena Choudry: Watching and checking on progress
Artemi Sakellariadis: Issuing a ticket but keeping the door locked
Catherine McNamara and Jay Stewart: One person’s journey at one school
Karamat Iqbal: Working out what to do with us immigrants
Gilroy Brown and Maurice Irfan Coles: Our children should know themselves
Mark Jennett: Pink is for girls and jobs are for boys
Sue Sanders and Arthur Sullivan: The long shadow of Section 28
Lizz Bennett and Laura Pidcock: Critical thinking and safe spaces
Sarah Soyei, Kate Hollinshead and Yvette Thomas: Identity-based bullying

Personalised copies of the issue will be sent to political leaders, and to bodies such as Ofsted and the EHRC.
There will be a follow-up special issue of RET later in the year, similarly about the whole equalities agenda and similarly available at a vastly rediced price. It will include articles on the pupil premium grant; spiritual, moral, social and cultural development; and religion and belief equality in the light of the Trojan Horse affair in Birmingham in summer 2014. Also there will be a round-up of recent resources, reports and materials and, based on both issues, a set of recommendations to the government and Ofsted. More information at

Peter delivers on a Trojan horse

On Tuesday 22 July the new secretary of state for education in England, Nicky Morgan, made a statement in the House of Commons about the Trojan Horse affair and about a report by Peter Clarke that had been laid before the House earlier on the same day. ‘Mr Speaker,’ she said, ‘we are all in the debt of Peter Clarke for the rigour that he brought to his investigation and for the forensic clarity of his findings. And we are in the debt of my predecessor [Michael Gove], now the chief whip on this side of the House, for his determination in the face of criticism to invite Peter to take on this task.’

The reference to ‘Peter’ implied a close – even cosy – personal friendship between the ministers and the person appointed to report to them, and inevitably raised doubts about Clarke’s professionalism, independence, seriousness and objectivity.

Morgan then immediately proceeded to emphasise the government’s view that ‘we need to deal with the dangers posed by extremism well before it becomes violent’, adding that Clarke’s report ‘offers us important recommendations to address this challenge in schools’. She did not acknowledge that the government’s operational definition of extremism is extraordinarily vague nor that Clarke’s evidence for the existence of such extremism in Birmingham schools is extraordinarily thin.

The cumulative effect of Clarke’s report is to present the neoconservative and profoundly offensive view that Islam is ‘a swamp’ in which noisome creatures such as crocodiles and mosquitos thrive and are given nourishment and support. ‘Peter’ has delivered what his political and media friends hoped and asked for. His report is a grave disservice, however, to very many millions of others.

There is further brief comment on Clarke’s report in this week’s newsletter from the Institute of Race Relations –

Smear, anecdote and hoax – the Trojan Horse reports

A letter in today’s Guardian runs as follows:

The new secretary of state for education, Nicky Morgan, makes various pledges following the “Trojan horse” reports on Birmingham schools. Several of her pledges are valuable. The basis for them, however, is unsound. Peter Clarke’s report is not “forensic”, as Nicky Morgan claims (Report, 22 July), but a biased mix of uncorroborated smear, anecdote, hoax and chatroom gossip.

It reflects neoconservative assumptions about the nature of extremism; ignores significant testimony and viewpoints; implies the essential problem in Birmingham is simply the influence of certain individuals; discusses governance but not curriculum; ignores the concerns and perceptions of parents and young people; and is unlikely to bear judicial scrutiny. The Trojan horse affair has done much damage in Birmingham, both to individuals and to community cohesion.

Political leaders have key roles in the urgent process of restoration and support for curriculum renewal. Alas, they will not be much helped by the official reports of Clarke, Ian Kershaw and Ofsted.

They will, though, be helped by the unique strength and goodwill of people in Birmingham itself.

The letter is at It is signed by Tim Brighouse, Gus John, Arun Kundnani, Sameena Choudry, Akram Khan-Cheema, Arzu Merali, Robin Richardson, Maurice Irfan Coles, Gill Cressey, Steph Green, Ashfaque Chowdhury, Ibrahim Hewitt, Baljeet Singh Gill, Arshad Ali, S Sayyid, Massoud Shadjareh, Abdool Karim Vakil and Tom Wylie. There is information about Nicky Morgan’s pledges at