Salma Yaqoob is wrong, the trojan horse schools were a disgrace
The Department of Education released a report which was headed up by Peter Clarke into the Trojan Horse schools which were in Birmingham and reportedly part of a plot of an islamist takeover. Salma Yaqoob who is a passionate advocate of the schools involved was seemingly very happy today at the report. She argued in her Guardian article that the report “found no evidence of plots to indoctrinate, groom or recruit school pupils to an agenda of radicalisation, violent extremism or terrorism.” Of this Salma is correct, but worrisome from the report is this “ I found clear evidence that there are a number of people, associated with each other and in positions of influence in schools and governing bodies, who espouse, endorse or fail to challenge extremist views.” The earlier quote from Salma is just about the only thing i agreed with in her piece, the report was a damning indictment into what can go wrong in schools if they aren’t supervised properly. The problems range from a hardline Sunni version of islam being used as an ideological torpedo across some of these schools to financial mismanagement which hasn’t yet been accounted for. The two things this report proves is that Salma Yaqoob was speaking nonsense on question time when defending these schools, and that greater accountability is needed across the board with schools.
She also stated that Birmingham parents can sleep more easily tonight, this leads me to believe that she couldn’t possibly have read the report. If I was a Birmingham parent and had read the report it wouldn’t reassure me of anything except the need to drastically reform the system which is currently in place. The report was an account into the bullying, intimidation, homophobia, sexism, segregationist, intolerant and discriminatory reality that these schools were accused of and the governors have a lot to answer for. These were not the equivalent of white middle class pushy parents as Salma Yaqoob was arguing, but an attempt to create schools with one doctrine which was to become prevalent in the school environment from top to bottom which was a very conservative view of Sunni Islam. The report also outlines that these actions were done with at the behest of a small minority of the local community when many did not want such a hardline approach but were too frightened to speak up and stop what was happening.
The report outlines that women teachers were discriminated against in a systematic way from being criticised for wearing too much make up and one report of a teacher being mocked for showing her neck, to accusations that women were denied access to promotions despite being more qualified than the people who would sometimes get these jobs and being told not to even bother applying. Incidents of segregation were also found to have occurred in some schools and not just in PE for special needs children like Salma Yaqoob claimed but across a variety of subjects including sex education. Sexism was not the only discriminatory practice going on in some of the schools but so was homophobia which included teaching homosexual relationships were wrong. This was exemplified by the park view Facebook page which were full of derogatory remarks about gay people and some claiming that it was a sign of the end times that people were gay. LGBT teenagers are especially vulnerable and it is very disappointing to see that these attitudes still prevail amongst some of those who were running our schools. Not only was sexism and homophobia apparent in some of these schools but so was evidence of a hardline view of Sunni Islam and a particular focus on islam itself. From reports of students being pressured to pray and ridiculed if not, to RE being compulsory up until year 11 and Islam being the only faith offered on that curriculum. There was also an incident of a trip to Saudi Arabia which was only offered to Muslim students because the trip included going to Medina and Mecca. These may sound like nothing incidents but if you add them together and the kind of community cohesion and availability for opportunity which is expected and rightly demanded by people disappears in these schools.
The report also found that the culture of these schools could lead to the children in them being intolerant of difference and diversity. However not only this but also the acceptance of a hardline version of Sunni Islam which was being disseminated which can lead to concerns about radicalisation in the future. Whatever people like might to think, if someone is raised in an environment where tolerance of others is disavowed and not considered important, and where hardline conservative faith is given to people then they will likely be at risk of falling to radicalisation whether that be christians who bomb abortion clinics or Islamist militants taking up arms in Syria. Any kind of indoctrination such as this is dangerous and needs to be labelled as such.
I would urge you to read the report into the travesty that these schools became, I cannot outline every wrong doing from financial mismanagement to discrimination which went on simply because there are so many. Not every wrongdoing was even outlined in this report as some were not named as the report states. When the trojan horse schools were first discovered it was thought to be a right wing witch hunt which would be mounted by Islamophobes. Sadly that scenario would have been more comfortable, because then we would know that the children in those schools wouldn’t be exposed to this repellent form of school governing. It is not Islamophobic to see that these practices in these schools were not compatible with good education and I would argue a humane way to give children the best holistic education possible. Thankfully the report has been written, the recommendations have been made and corrections can be made to the system to ensure schools do not fall into such disaster again.
The whole report and YouTube video of question time with Salma Yaqoob can be found at the following links: