The Guardian has published two important statements on the witch-hunt against Birmingham schools launched by education secretary Michael Gove and Ofsted on the basis of the transparently fraudulent “Trojan horse” letter.
The first explains the basis on which the Putting Birmingham School Kids First campaign has been formed. The second warns against the exploitation of LGBT equality and rights to smear Muslims.
We are forming the Putting Birmingham School Kids First campaign (Comment, 24 June). It aims to, firstly, ensure any issues of governance within Birmingham schools are fixed, and fixed fast. Secondly, to challenge the false and divisive allegation that this is a problem of systematic radicalisation, extremism or terrorism. The central allegation, that there was an organised plot to radicalise schoolchildren in a handful of Birmingham schools, remains unproven. What the Ofsted reports show is some governance issues in some schools. Communities across Birmingham now believe that their children’s educational potential and wellbeing is being threatened by politicians, who wish to be seen as “tough” on Muslims. The sensationalist references to extremism and national security have been deeply hurtful and damaging. Most importantly, they could prevent us finding the solutions we need to help schoolchildren in Birmingham. We will work with anyone who is willing to put the interests of our children first.
The Muslim community is no different to any other faith community in having a spectrum of opinions, from liberal to conservative, on what is the correct balance between secular and religious values in the provision of education. Instead of debating these issues openly, the government has taken the completely inappropriate approach of linking this with the prevention of terrorism. Workable solutions will not appear overnight. Trust needs to be rebuilt between those who should be working together. Our role in the journey is to provide parents, staff, pupils and governors with a strong forum within which to voice their opinions and explore solutions in a safe and transparent space. We are proud that Birmingham is among the youngest and most multicultural cities in the world and stand by its people in all their diversity.
Shabana Mahmood MP, Tim Brighouse (former education commissioner), Father Oliver Cross, Rev Andi Smith, Salma Yaqoob, Christine Blower, General secretary, NUT, Shabina BanoOldknow Academy Parents Association, Joy Warmington Brap, Dr Chris Allen Lecturer in social policy, University of Birmingham,Professor Richard Hatcher School of Education, Birmingham City University, Imran Awan Senior Lecturer, Birmingham City University,Janet Hoskyns Professor emerita, Former head of school education, Birmingham City University
We wish to express our opposition to current attempts to use LGBT equality and rights as a tool with which to condemn and make generalisations about Muslims, as well as further perpetuate Islamophobia. We are very concerned that Operation Trojan Horse in Birmingham appears to be targeting Muslim children with insensitive questioning that is not being applied to other children.
We are also deeply concerned that politicians and the media are manipulating equalities legislation for their own purposes by maintaining “a hierarchy of inequality” and attempting to create conflict between the LGBT community and the Muslim community, who are incidentally not mutually exclusive.
We are in favour of Ofsted inspectors using their brief to ensure that schools are carrying out their responsibilities under the Equality Act, but this must be applied fairly, equally and sensitively to children of all faiths and none. Schools need to develop inclusive curricula that celebrate diversity in ways that involve their local communities. This vital work is set back if one part of the community is unfairly typecast as being more homophobic than another. It would seem disingenuous of the Conservative party to assume it now has some moral high ground on the question of LGBT equality and freedom in schools, considering that they were the ones that instigated a generational failure of government towards teenagers, both LGBT and not, through the introduction of section 28.
Many of us work in schools with a high number of Muslim pupils and parents, and have successfully implemented policies to make our schools LGBT friendly. We are also aware that homophobia and transphobia still exist in our schools, colleges and universities, most of which are not overwhelmingly Muslim, and we commit ourselves to work with anyone regardless of their religious persuasion, to educate our young people about the importance of challenging prejudice and celebrating diversity in all walks of life.
Sue Caldwell LGBT teacher, Hackney NUT and statement co-ordinator,Annette Pryce NUT LGBT executive member, Laura Miles LGBT (Further education) UCU national executive, Tony Fenwick CEO LGBT History Month, Alex Kenny Chair of education and equalities NUT executive, Sam Kirk Holder of 2014 Blair Peach equalities award for LGBT work in her school in Bradford, Nick O’Brien Campaigns officer, Norfolk NUT, Chair Norfolk Pride, Pura Aziza UCU north-west regional secretary, Dave Brinson NUT LGBT advisory committee chair 2008-14,Trish Clinton Former NUS LGBT committee, womens place and bi rep,Debs Gwynn Equalities officer NUT St Helens, Richard BarrieResearcher, Carol Buxton Treasurer, Hackney NUT, Nic Nugent Joint equalities officer, Hackney NUT, Juno Roche NUT LGBT advisory committee, Nick Jones NUT LGBT advisory committee, Helen McGuinness Secretary, Norwich and District NUT, Scott LyonsDivisional secretary, Norfolk NUT, Chrissie Smith Joint divisional secretary, Norfolk NUT, Emma Ballard-East Divisional secretary, Halton NUT, Matthew Evans Secondary school science teacher, Joanne Bradley Secondary school behaviour specialist