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Birmingham MPs display rare unity as potential of Trojan Horse allegations to harm community relations becomes clear

Birmingham MPs display rare unity as potential of Trojan Horse allegations to harm community relations becomes clear

🕔09.Apr 2014

It is a rare event when all Birmingham MPs combine to cast party differences aside and speak up for the city with one voice.

Such co-operation between the eight Labour, one Tory and one Liberal Democrat members of parliament generally occurs only over ‘soft’ issues. When campaigning to bring the national soccer stadium to Birmingham or welcoming athletes to their Olympic Games training camp, for example.

So when the MPs agree to sign a joint letter demanding an inquiry into the Trojan Horse allegations, then it must be time to sit up and take notice.

The letter, to Education Secretary Michael Gove, asks for Department for Education officials to work with the council to get to the bottom of damaging allegations that Muslim “extremists” are infiltrating Birmingham classrooms.

According to leaked letters describing a Trojan Horse plot, governors and teachers are being ousted by hardline Islamisists intent on introducing strict Muslim principles into the schools, which then convert to academies to escape from council control.

Claims of anti-Christian chanting and anti-American rhetoric at assemblies, segregation of the sexes, banning Christmas and the general brainwashing of children are rife.

Ofsted is in the process of inspecting about 12 schools where these allegations have been made. Some of the schools are secular, and parents have come forward to state that they deliberately did not send their children to a faith school because they wanted a broader liberal education.

The MPs are calling for Ofsted’s findings to be published as quickly as possible.

But they also want a deeper investigation.

The letter states: “We believe therefore that it is essential that a joint review of any lessons to be learned is now undertaken, led by an advisor, who is someone appointed by both Birmingham City Council and the Department for Education.”

“This is, in our view, the best way of creating a confident environment which will encourage all who want to contribute – parents, teachers and governors – to offer their perspectives, if necessary on a confidential basis.”

The MPs are knocking at an open door to a certain extent since Mr Gove has already intimated that he will order an inquiry. This will probably be announced once the Education Secretary has had a chance to look at Ofsted’s findings following the snap inspection of 12 Birmingham schools.

The purpose of the MPs’ letter would appear to be to make sure the council retains an element of control over the investigation. They want the person conducting the inquiry to be appointed jointly by the DfE and the city council.

Council leader Sir Albert Bore revealed yesterday that Mr Gove is considering appointing a “senior review officer” to examine Trojan Horse material. Such a measure would inevitably be led by the Department for Education and might take the council in to deeper waters than it would wish to tread.

All of this is a far cry from an attempt to play down Trojan Horse by Birmingham city council’s new chief executive Mark Rogers. In an interview with Chamberlain Files Mr Rogers insisted there is no conspiracy to radicalise children at Birmingham schools, although he was unable to explain how he could be so certain about that.

He went on to present the affair as little more than the understandable concerns of “new communities” who did not care for or understand our liberal education system. There were certain “customs and practices” these communities wanted to see that did not always fit in with the national curriculum that exists in Britain.

It is, I think, highly significant that Mr Rogers is the only person saying this. Sir Albert Bore, for example, has described the Trojan Horse letters as libelous but stopped short of following Mr Rogers along the path of ‘move along, there’s nothing to see here’.

Sir Albert has not given any assurances about there being no plot to radicalise children. Birmingham’s MPs, led by Khalid Mahmood, appear to be saying that there may be far more serious matters to unearth, and that is why an inquiry is needed.

Speaking at this week’s full council meeting, Sir Albert raised a matter that lies at the heart of this issue when he warned that the consequences of Trojan Horse might be “community discord”. Birmingham MPs recognise this as well, which helps to explain their unity and purpose in calling for a full inquiry.

The difficulty is that there can be no way of knowing just what a DfE-led investigation might turn up. One very senior and long-serving city councillor told Chamberlain Files that he and his colleagues were involved in investigating allegations of extremist infiltration of schools 10 years ago.

The very clear inference was that council leaders turned a blind eye to what was going on back then because the subject was all too difficult and incendiary. A decade later, the failure to act has returned to haunt Birmingham and the adverse national publicity created is further damaging the image of this city.

Cover Image: Park View School

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