Author: Maurice Irfan Coles
Genre: Education
Publisher: Trentham Books
Release Date: 29 May 2008
Pages: 186


The UK Children Act 2004 abolished Local Education Authorities (LEAs) and replaced them with a ‘combined service model’ incorporating LEAs and Social Care and Health. Since 2006, Local Authorities have had to produce a ‘Children & Young People’s Plan’ (CYPP) indicating how a number of key outcomes were to be achieved: ‘Be Healthy’, ‘Stay Safe’, ‘Enjoy & Achieve’, ‘Make a Positive Contribution,’ ‘Achieve Economic Well-being’ . The aim is joined-up working between statutory bodies – e.g. integrating educational, health, policing and social care services around the needs of children – captured by the new acronym ECM (Every Child Matters). There is also emphasis on giving children and young people a say, through school councils or other mechanisms. While the aims of CYPP/ECM are laudable, what is notably lacking in this new thinking is an appreciation of the need for an underlying ‘spine’ of moral conduct – preserving and respecting family ties, respect for teachers, sexual responsiblity, the brotherhood of man. Hence the particular importance of this contribution from Maurice Irfan Coles, which “maps the Islamic perspective against the five outcomes of Every Child Matters and offers a commentary to support schools, children’s services and their many partners”.

The author brings to the subject the perspective of a professional Muslim educationalist. He has served as senior educational advisor with the Birmingham Local Education Authority (LEA) and chief executive of the Leicester-based School Development Support Agency. He has thus direct experience of the changes in education administration in recent years, accelerated by the 2004 Act. The book begins with a helpful overview of demographic and related facts, with subsequent chapters on ‘Muslims and Cultural Inclusivity: the quiet curriculum revolution’; ‘Islamic Arts in the Curriculum’; ‘ Every Muslim Child Matters: Change for children – the five outcomes explained’ and an appendix for school governors. The author notes that “the incorporation of a Muslim frame of reference into relevant policies and practices will support schools and LAs [local authorities] in fulfilling their statutory requirements under the Race Relations Act (2000), and the Education Act (2006), and help them to demonstrate active implementation of their ‘positive statutory duty’ to promote race relations and community cohesion”.

The ‘inculcation of a Muslim frame of reference’ would of course be a tremendous boost to Muslim pupils’ sense of self-esteem, self-confidence and self-worth. Recourse to the RRA’s ‘positive duty’ provisions for filling a lacuna in the ECM is an interesting notion, and not one made lightly by the author: “the history of racism appears to repeat itself indifferent guises. The argument that were fought and won (at least by many schools and authorities) in the 1980s and 1990s to persuade schols and LEAs to tackle direct,indirect and institutional racism have now to be restated within an Islamic context. Failure to tackle Islamophobia is another form of miseducation because of the alienation it causes. It wastes talent, causes hurt and grief to the victims and leaves the perpetrators with a false sense of their own superiority. A worldview that sees over 1.6 million of the UK’s population as alien, different, ‘the enemy within’ is not sustainable in a multicultural, multi-faith inclusive society. Unless systematically tackled, it is likely to breed levels of resentment that lead to violent resistance, which in turn can lead to increased racism as the consequences of such violence. The cycle can and does all too easily repeat itself.”

Maurice Coles’ book should be made widely available to professionals dealing with children and young persons, particularly in those 20 local authorities in England and Wales where Muslims form more than 10 per cent of the population.