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Lord Whitby speaks out on Trojan Horse: ‘I was never told of extremism fears’

Lord Whitby speaks out on Trojan Horse: ‘I was never told of extremism fears’

🕔08.Jul 2014

Mike Whitby, the former Tory leader of Birmingham City Council, has said he knew nothing about alleged infiltration of state schools by extreme Islamists when he was in charge from 2004 to 2012.

Lord Whitby told Chamberlain Files that fears about secular schools being taken over by hardline Muslim governors were not raised at any meeting he attended during the eight-year period.

He has asked for an urgent meeting with Peter Clarke, the education commissioner who is conducting an investigation into the Trojan Horse affair, to “give him a perspective from my point of view”.

Mr Clarke’s report, due out before the end of the month, is believed to conclude that complaints from head teachers about the undue influence of governors intent on making secular state schools follow an extreme version of Islam have been rife for 12 years.

An Ofsted inquiry into 21 Trojan Horse schools reported that heads and teachers felt the city council had failed to support them in efforts to keep pupils safe from “the potential risks of radicalisation and extremism”. The council did not deal adequately with complaints from head teachers about the conduct of governors.

Breaking his silence over the Trojan Horse issue, Lord Whitby said he could not dismiss the possibility that education officials knew of the concerns but failed to pass them on to the council’s political leadership. Such an outcome would be a “serious matter” and should be investigated if true, he added.

He said he had spoken to former council chief executive Stephen Hughes since the Trojan Horse allegations began to emerge in March. Mr Hughes had confirmed that fears about radicalisation in schools were never discussed at formal meetings with the leader, Lord Whitby said.

Lord Whitby said there would have been plenty of opportunities for concerns to be raised.

He added: “During my administration from 2004 to 2012 I held almost every Monday morning a meeting with the chief executive, the deputy leader and officials where we plotted out what we were trying to achieve. Anything of concern was discussed.

“There was never any complaint made to me by any organisation or anyone in the council that concerned radicalisation in our secular state schools.

“Stephen Hughes has confirmed that I was never written to formally about concerns over radicalisation.”
Lord Whitby, a Methodist and regular worshipper at church, said he would have “investigated immediately” had allegations of infiltration been brought to him.

He said: “Had anything been brought to my notice, as a faith man myself, that any extreme interpretation of the scriptures and the exclusion of other faiths were occurring I would have been extremely concerned.

“Anything that challenges the respect that cultural groups have for each other should have been taken right up to the leadership of the council so that we could have made an assessment as to how damaging and challenging anything that might have been alluded to was.”

He pointed out that the Tory-Lib Dem coalition took steps to strengthen inter-faith relations.

“During our administration we didn’t just sit back and react to events. We created a Prevention Board which was set up to capture any concerns that might have existed within the cultural groups that make up Birmingham.

“We worked extremely well together and were praised for introducing a religious syllabus in our state schools which was written by the heads of all the great faiths.”

Lord Whitby added that it was important for “people of no faith” to understand matters from a Muslim perspective.
“Many groups that have come to Britain have a very robust understanding and adherence to their faiths. A secular society needs to understand how passionately people do live within their faith.”

However, it was imperative that all young people at state schools in Birmingham were given a rounded religious education.

“Children must get a broad brush exposure to all the world faiths when they come into our schools and then they can make their minds up accordingly,” Lord Whitby added.

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