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More needed to repair damage from Trojan Horse fall-out

31st Oct 2014

Whatever rights there may have been about the so-called Trojan Horse affair – and it is questionable if there were any – there were many wrongs to be learned. The worst is the incalculable damage caused to the education of Muslim pupils in Birmingham and to community cohesion by the Government’s sledgehammer and knee-jerk reaction to what has proved to be little more than a myth of uncorroborated smears against successful deprived inner city schools.

As any teacher will tell you, the schools system in Britain is not just disjointed but unfortunately has always been little more than a political football exploited by ministers for other purposes. There is no uniformity within education in a maze of different schooling and a broken governance that needs a complete overhaul. A whole tier of local accountability has been eradicated with moves towards academies and free schools and greater centralisation in the hands of the Secretary of Education. The biggest losers are often parents and their children.

After the removal of Michael Gove, it has been left to his replacement Nicky Morgan to pick up the pieces. Any complete reform is beyond her remit, especially with an election looming in a little over six months. But in trying at least to repair some of the fall-out, it is pleasing from her interview with The Muslim News that she appears to have adopted a new tone.

A central issue remains with the Government’s misplaced obsession to root out extremism with no section of society unscathed and at whatever the cost. The first premises in teaching children must be some honesty about what lay behind the Government’s assault on Birmingham schools. Otherwise what hope can there be if we want them to become upstanding citizens.

2 Responses to “More needed to repair damage from Trojan Horse fall-out”

Iftikhar AhmadNovember 1, 2014

Children are not the property of the State. The registering of the birth does set them up as a corp to be borrowed against but that is a different story. Parents have the right to bring their child up in the way they see fit. When the State can decide what you can and can’t teach your children we are into the Thought Police scenario, if we aren’t already. Conspiracy theorists are extremists!

There are more than 7000 state funded faith based schools in the UK, only 18 are Muslim – yet a FALSE letter manages to get the politicians’ knickers in a twist! Pathetic sense of priorities. Eton is intolerant of girls and poor people. Hasidic and other religious groups appear to be able to run their own schools without any interference, even if these schools are not registered with the DFE. Dealing with these schools appears to be beyond the wit and courage of our politicians. I have it on good authority that the term ‘Trojan Horse’ does not appear in the Qu’ran, so I was dubious about this whole affair from the outset. After all, the term was first used in a book by one M.Gove quite a few years ago. Odd, that. There were a lot of axes being ground by a lot of different people over this matter, and promoting religious extremism was probably the least of them.

In March an anonymous and unverified letter sent to Birmingham City Council claimed that there was a “Trojan Horse” conspiracy to take over governing bodies and create a school culture more sympathetic to their hard-line Muslim religious ethos. Education watchdog Ofsted inspected 21 schools in Birmingham as a result of the allegations – placing five in special measures in June and confirming that a sixth (which was already in special measures) was “inadequate”. Ofsted head Sir Michael Wilshaw said there was evidence of an “organised campaign to target certain schools” and that some governors had attempted to “impose and promote a narrow faith-based ideology” in secular schools. Although the schools involved denied any wrongdoing. Two subsequent reports – one by Birmingham City Council and one from the DFE written by former counter terrorism chief Peter Clark – found no evidence of extremism but did highlight problems with the running of the schools. Did it ever occur to you that the “Trojan Horse” was a fictitious ploy?

Does anyone see the irony in that the government is trying to stop extremism, but the very meddling it does abroad in distant foreign countries’ internal affairs creates the very extremism it supposedly decries, and attacks our civil liberties to prosecute? “Do as I say, not as I do.” – The Government. “The largest private educator of all, the church, operates on similar dangerous and violent creeds as the state. After all, the Bible is the Church’s syllabus, so to speak, is it not? The biggest extremists in this country are the same ones running most schools in this country, that they force children into no less: the lying thieving warmongering invading government. Did you know, in some rural areas, parents have put pressure on schools to have broadly Christian assemblies? One school’s head got forced out for sending out a form asking parents if they wanted to opt into Christian assemblies. I know of many religious schools that have been a problem for many years. Some of these schools concentrate virtually wholly on one medieval religious belief, do not recruit you if you are are not a believer, have forced daily prayer and have weekly brainwashing from the local cleric. Yes, you got it. I am talking about your local Roman Catholic school. Respect can be bounded to certain domains. You may respect your Muslim colleague’s skills at his job, even if you don’t respect his religious choice. It’s possible to respect and admire a sportsperson’s expertise but not their choice of lifestyle. In all jobs we can respect and work with someone on the job, even if we dislike them personally. It’s call professionalism.

I’m not saying religious extremism isn’t a problem, obviously it is and especially in particular parts of the world, but I always feel like it is used as a distraction so we don’t spend all our time being angry at the elite in charge. “Don’t look at those silly thieving bankers etc, look at those evil Muslims, terrible asylum seekers, benefit ‘scroungers’ etc. Awww another Royal baby!” A Muslim colleague commented that a lot of the problems we are having in the West stem from people not giving Islam the respect it is due. I told him I personally have no respect for any religion lest of all Islam, however that doesn’t mean I disrespect him personally as I rather take people as I find them his answer if I don’t respect Islam I could not respect him who’s the Bigot.
IA
http://www.londonschoolofislamics.org.uk

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Iftikhar AhmadDecember 25, 2014

What gives OFSTED the right, or indeed any Brits, to preach to minority groups about how they should live their lives. This is a cosmopolitan country, the Muslim community have the right to educate their children how they choose. What has being British got to do with your religious belief? In Britain there are Hindus Sikhs pagans Jewish Buddhists atheist Zoroastrians Rasta’s and many more should they all change there religious beliefs because they are British? Studying the Qur’an will certainly help towards these children becoming fully integrated citizens of the UK.

Muslim schools should be inspected by Muslim members of the Ofsted. They understand the needs and demands of the Muslim children as well as their parents. Twenty leading educationalists and Muslim leaders have questioned Ofsted’s impartiality in the Birmingham ‘Trojan Horse’ affair, education consultant Robin Richardson reflects on the factors behind its controversial recent inspections. What gives OFSTED the right, or indeed any Brits, to preach to minority groups about how they should live their lives. This is a cosmopolitan country, the Muslim community have the right to educate their children how they choose. What has being British got to do with your religious belief? In Britain there are Hindus Sikhs pagans Jewish Buddhists atheist Zoroastrians Rasta’s and many more should they all change there religious beliefs because they are British? Studying the Qur’an will certainly help towards these children becoming fully integrated citizens of the UK. Like many Ofsted stories this is no news. There are lots of schools up and down the land without male teachers. Teaching is so female dominated you wonder why pupils are so poorly behaved. After all feminism blames men for everything and here are the results of female dominance…

Twenty leading educationalists and Muslim leaders have questioned Ofsted’s impartiality in the Birmingham ‘Trojan Horse’ affair, education consultant Robin Richardson reflects on the factors behind its controversial recent inspections.

The Trojan Horse story in Birmingham is one in which carelessness, incompetence, coincidence, opportunism, self-interest and sheer wickedness all play significant parts. The dominant narrative began to be public when the security correspondent at the Sunday Times provided on 2 March 2014 some quotations from a document which he claimed had been written by a Muslim in Birmingham for sending to a Muslim in Bradford. It was obvious from the quotations to any reasonable person with time and inclination to think about it that the document was a forgery, a false flag operation. It was not, alas, obvious to journalists in the mainstream media, including to its shame the Guardian.

Anti-Muslim hostility advances the electoral prospects of certain political parties and individual politicians, and in consequence narratives about the Trojan Horse affair were affected by campaigning for local and European elections on 22 May 2014, and for the general election in UK in 2015. For example, there are politicians who stress as part of their party’s appeal to voters that Britain is a Christian country and that Muslims should accept this and they link this claim to the Trojan Horse affair.

Also, competing narratives about the Trojan Horse affair are affected by tensions and disagreements between different factions and interests within each political party, and in party-political disputes about the value of academies and free schools, and the respective responsibilities of central and local government.

And then there are the ambitions of individual politicians. The current secretary of state for education, for example, stands to gain a great deal or to lose a great deal, depending on how the Trojan Horse affair plays out. He could become leader of his party, or alternatively could end up in the political wilderness.

But in addition to electoral politics, the Trojan Horse is affected by relationships and power struggles between central and local government, and within local government between councillors and officers on the one hand and head teachers and teacher unions on the other. Also, head teachers are pitted against each other, as are NASUWT and NUT.

Further, there are tensions and disagreements about the role, independence and future of Ofsted, and in relation to the expectations which different interest groups have of Ofsted. These tensions exist within the coalition government, and between the Department for Education and Ofsted, and within Ofsted itself. In common with secretary of state for education, Ofsted stands to gain a great deal or to lose a great deal, depending on how the Trojan Horse affair plays out.

There are rivalries amongst Muslim organisations, both nationally and locally, for state patronage, recognition, grants and funding. These can be affected and reinforced by theological and denominational differences within Islam, for example between Barelvis and Deobandis, and can make it difficult for Muslims to speak out with one voice about matters such as the Trojan Horse affair, and the issues that it raises.

There are also individuals in Birmingham whose personal career prospects are advanced or assisted by the Trojan Horse affair, and/or whose personal grievances are apparently vindicated by it. Also, of course, there are people whose careers are being severely damaged.

Muslim parents and communities rightly want the education received by Muslim children and young people to be improved. In recent years there have been major improvements nationally in the achievement of Pakistani heritage and Bangladeshi heritage pupils, and nationally there is no longer a gap between the achievement of these pupils and the average for all pupils. But these improvements and greater equality of outcome are not evenly distributed through the country, and there continues to be a need, in Birmingham as elsewhere outside London, for attainment gaps to be narrowed and closed.

Amongst other things this means there needs to be more recognition in schools for British Muslim identities, more attention to issues of bilingualism, more commitment to the human right to freedom of religion, more attention to Islamophobia, and closer relationships with parents and communities. Further, it means there is a need for more Muslims to be involved actively in school governance and leadership.

The Trojan Horse affair must not be allowed to hinder improvements that are urgently needed in educational provision, and in the representation of Muslims in educational policy-making and decision-making. More generally, the affair must not be permitted to hinder debate and deliberation about the role of religion and belief in modern society, and about the needs and tasks of an increasingly multi-ethnic and multi-religious society.
IA
http://www.londonschoolofislamics.org.uk

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