By Emma Fox
It is with much frustration that we saw the BBC publish a piece today downplaying the seriousness of the ‘Trojan Horse’ scandal. This was the inquiry into a plot by Islamist extremists in Birmingham to takeover several schools in the area, replacing secular teachers and governors, with those who wished to impose strict, intolerant Islamic codes. A leaked document in 2014 sparked concerns that Islamists were attempting to impose gender segregation and prohibitions on teaching children about sex, homosexuality, and “Christian prayers” in schools, with instructions for other Islamic educators on how to do so.
Whilst the BBC appears to lament the legal fees required for the investigation, even quoting a school governor affected, calling it a “total waste of public money”. It’s difficult to avoid the conclusion that they have (quite literally) lost the plot.
The article failed to point out that the governor in question, Mr Tahir Alam of Park View school, has previously called for “girls [to] be covered except for their hands and faces” and was subsequently barred from education for overseeing extremist activity at his institution. This activity included inviting extremist speakers to address the pupils, promoting “unacceptable” teaching materials, and narrowing the curriculum to enforce “conservative religious teachings”. In fact, it was at Alam’s school that a WhatsApp group found to promote extremist content emerged amongst senior members of staff. The group created by the former acting principal contained messages calling homosexuals “animals” and “satanic”. The group was aptly named the “Park View Brotherhood”.
The BBC article continues by highlighting that after several individuals were investigated, “only” one teacher was consequently sanctioned – the former acting head of Oldknow Academy, Jahangir Akbar. Once again, this passing reference overlooks the independent panel review into Akbar’s misconduct, which firmly concluded that he “did not have regard to the need to safeguard pupils’ well-being”, sought to undermine “fundamental British values” – such as mutual respect and tolerance of those with different beliefs, and made a concerted effort to restrict religious diversity at a non-faith academy. The severity of Akbar’s case, swiftly dismissed as a drain on public resources, in fact demonstrates the necessity of these investigations.
Indeed, any large-scale inquiry into serious abuse of the public sector will inevitably see cases drop that fall on the periphery, and lack sufficient evidence for sanction. In fact, procedural errors by the now-defunct National College of Teaching and Leadership was the reason few teachers in this case were successfully prosecuted. However, the evidence regarding the Trojan Horse scandal remains clear, a small group of individuals from several schools across the Midlands deliberately attempted to impose a divisive, intolerant and illiberal form of Islam on vulnerable young pupils. By downplaying the findings of several independent inquiries, the BBC are playing right into the hands of those at the heart of the scandal. An abuse of this kind is precisely the type of inquiry the Department of Education should take seriously, and is right to make “no apology” for doing so.