The period leading up to the publication in July of the Clarke and Kershaw reports and the Council’s immediate response to them has now ended. The Council has accepted the findings and recommendations of the Kershaw report and they seem to have gained widespread general acceptance. Many of the key figures, mainly governors, responsible for the malpractices have resigned, been dismissed or suspended, and it is significant that there is no sign of any call or campaign to reinstate them. A new period now opens up in which the consequences and the causes of the Trojan Horse affair have to be addressed. Birmingham CASE has put together six documents of evidence, analysis and proposals which together represent our contribution.
In Birmingham we summarise the key problem issues and provide supporting evidence, we note the failure of the Council to tackle the problems when they first arose, we highlight the response of the ‘Putting Birmingham school kids first’ campaign, we comment on the recommendations of the Clarke and Kershaw reports and the Council’s own proposals, and offer some of our own for how the community, the schools and the Council can move forward together in a new partnership with a new vision for education. We recognise that the governance and leadership issues which have been identified in East Birmingham are not peculiar to conservative Islam: they can and do occur in many other schools in Birmingham and across the country. We believe that tackling them productively in East Birmingham can provide a catalyst and a model for other areas to do the same.
We also warn of a new danger: the government’s imposition of yet another commissioner, Sir Bob Kerslake, to investigate the Council’s governance could be an opportunity for the government to break up the Council, perhaps into four councils run by an elected mayor.
Nationally the Trojan Horse affair has been used by the government, and in particular by Gove, aided by most of the media, to stigmatise and demonise the Muslim community by promoting a narrative equating Islam in Britain with extremism and links to terrorism. We identify the government policies which have made possible and directly caused the governance malpractices and the government’s subsequent responses which have blown them up into a crisis of Islamophobia.
Their context is two-fold: the racial discrimination which permeates government policies, and the neo-liberal agenda which drives its education policies. The latter include the dictatorial centralised powers of the secretary of state, the disempowerment of local authorities as a result of cuts and academisation, the resulting lack of accountability of school governing bodies, the local autonomy of academies, the abuse of Ofsted as a tool of government policy, the use of the Prevent strategy as a new inspection criterion to fail schools, the use of government-imposed commissioners to control local government, the marginalisation of citizenship education, and the anachronistic obligation of Christian worship in today’s schools.
While the main focus of our response here to Trojan Horse is at the Birmingham level, we stress that its causes and consequences have their roots in national government policy and that is where they have to be relentlessly opposed. There is a heavy responsibility on the Labour leadership to do so, and to give an unequivocal commitment to rescind those policies if elected in 2015.
You can find our full response in the following papers:
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