Later today I am going off to the Church of England Foundation for Educational Leadership (CEFEL) annual conference at St Paul’s (a conference centre, not the actual). It is slightly alarming – but time-saving – therefore to read on the Guardian pages the “highlights” of what Amanda Spielman, head beagle at OFSTED, is going to say to me later today. I suspect this has been heavily filtered through a Guardian journalist’s world-view, but still, to know that she is backing us as headteachers should we ever want to impose a hijab ban on pre-pubescent girls in our school, may well come in useful. Tracking the Guardian article back to its source (the Times, as it happens, on today’s front page) makes you realise how gentle and straightforward the Guardian article actually was. They did manage to get a response from the Muslim Council of Britain (a predictable one, but nonetheless worth listening to), which the Times article did not.
School uniform policy is clearly a matter of some importance to those who struggle with more conservative elements of any faith in their schools, and Spielman’s defence of what she will call “muscular liberalism” needs firstly to be admired, I think, and then, secondly, acknowledged as part of the historic Christian cultural contribution to British society and values. And for this we have principally the Anglican church to thank, for its patient, often highly frustrating ability to relate the best of what is good for human flourishing and a godly view of humanity to the structure and polity of the state. Just imagine the chaos if we left human flourishing and humanity up to the humanists.
I shall report on the day when it has fully transpired….