Hunt warns against schools extremism in Birmingham


Tristram Hunt: "I welcome Birmingham City Council's investigation'

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Tristram Hunt, Labour's shadow education secretary, has warned against religious extremism in schools.

In a speech to the NASUWT teachers' union, Mr Hunt said schools should not have "gender-based segregation" and that teachers must not be "undermined".

Mr Hunt welcomed Birmingham council's investigation into the "so-called Trojan Horse conspiracy".

The Department for Education is also examining claims of schools being "taken over" by Muslim hardliners.

The inquiries follow an anonymous letter alleging that factions within the Muslim community were seeking to gain influence over schools in Birmingham.

'Divide and isolate'

Mr Hunt, addressing the teachers' union conference in Birmingham, said he does not want a French-style separation of religion and education.

But he responded to what he described as "allegations of infiltration, intimidation and the pursuit of a divisive religious extremism through systems of school governorship".

"We need to be clear about the duties which a state-funded school is expected to fulfil," said Mr Hunt

Start Quote

We cannot have head teachers forced out; teachers undermined; curricula re-written; and cultural or gender-based segregation”

End Quote Tristram Hunt Shadow education secretary

"We cannot have narrow, religious motives - which seek to divide and isolate - dictating state schooling.

"We cannot have head teachers forced out; teachers undermined; curricula re-written; and cultural or gender-based segregation."

The city council this week launched its own inquiry into 25 schools.

Education Secretary Michael Gove also appointed a former counter-terror chief, Peter Clarke, to establish whether there was any substance to the allegations.

Ofsted has carried out inspections of 18 schools in Birmingham.

But the claims about such "take-overs" have been strongly rejected by schools caught up in these claims.

Tahir Alam, chair of governors at Park View School, has warned of a "witch hunt" and has dismissed the "ridiculous assertions".

Mr Hunt said that the concern about Birmingham shows the difficulty of an over-centralised control of schools - and he says Labour is planning to publish a review of the local oversight of schools.

He argued that the current local system for monitoring schools had been "comprehensively undermined".

He repeated calls for the end of the use of unqualified teachers in schools and called for improvements in ongoing professional training for teachers.

The Department for Education says it is right that state schools should have the same flexibility over hiring staff as private schools, so they can bring "great linguists, computer scientists, engineers and other specialists into the classroom".

A spokeswoman for the education department also rejected the suggestion that the structure for overseeing academies was a factor in concerns over extremism.

"It is nonsense to suggest the academies programme has led to or exacerbated these problems. In fact the majority of schools causing concern in Birmingham are council-run. Academies and free schools are subject to stricter scrutiny than council-run schools," she said.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 197.

    184. George

    ##How about the PARENTS take their kids to their choice of religious brainwashing##

    It may be better child protection to make all religion, and teaching into it an adult only occupation. Any cult in contact with a child is up to no good, indoctrination at least. We protect children from other things like drink, tobacco, porn. Religion should be added to protect their minds.

  • rate this

    Comment number 196.

    how can this be BBC you tell me multiculturisum is a good thing, you tell me I should rejoice .

    Have you been feeding me porkies ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 195.

    Jews, Christians and Muslims have more in common than not

    Let's remember most Muslims are law abiding citizens with similar values to Christians Jews Buddhists Hindus atheists etc!

    Extremism / fundamentalism exists in all religions.

    Let's keep religious indoctrination out of all schools and use that time to develop in children the skills of learning and reasoning for themselves

  • rate this

    Comment number 194.

    Funny, I haven't seen any one agreeing to the Muslim take over of our schools, I wonder why. BBC please note.

  • rate this

    Comment number 193.

    The problem is Biblical (and Koranic) literalism. You can beleive in God, fine. You can beleive all sorts of things that can neither be proven nor disproven, fine. But once you start believing things that are refutable with basic reason or observation -- because they're written in a book that's the literal word of God, and thinking otherwise will send you to hell -- you have a problem.

  • Comment number 192.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 191.

    I understand the problem is about accusations of muslim extremism in schools.I understand those who wish to deny it exists and assume they will put forward their arguments.But it is worth noting a devious move - lets discuss ANY form of religious teaching and call for it to be banned. That way the issue is deflected away from allegations about muslim extremists.Oh please, can we have some honesty

  • Comment number 190.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 189.


    "Oh they're at it again."

    Yes afraid so, it is called debating and communicating.
    Terrible thing to do...

  • Comment number 188.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 187.

    Respecting people regardless of their religious identity is an important part of the school curriculum. If the religious extremists wish to encourage the children to meet their beliefs, then they must arrange in the different ways but NOT in the private or government-funded schools.

  • rate this

    Comment number 186.

    It's very worrying what appears to have been going on in Birmingham -some state schools having been targeted for take over by governors or staff with hardline religious views, probably involving bullying and unfairly forcing some staff out, and subsequently subjecting children to gender segregation and possibly the lack of a broad curriculum and information about other faiths and atheism etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 185.

    Giving decision making power to small communities, whether faith-based or not, obviously brings an element of risk.

    What Labour fail to understand, in education policy as in so much else, is that limited risk is good. Mistakes come to light, flaws are repaired and lessons are learned. In other words, we make progress.

    Local government's pathological fear of all perceived risk does the opposite.

  • rate this

    Comment number 184.

    @175 Deb
    "why not send kids to a church of their parents' choice for an hour on a Friday accompanied by teachers, who then shut up about religion for the rest of the week."

    Why? Isn't that still state sponsored indocrination? How about the PARENTS take their kids to their choice of religious brainwashing outside of school time?

  • rate this

    Comment number 183.

    "Mr Hunt, addressing the teachers' union conference in Birmingham, will say that he does not want a French-style separation of religion from schools."

    Why not? Any RI is a slippery slope (RE's okay). RI is for priests, rabbis and imams to teach, it should not be funded by the state.

  • rate this

    Comment number 182.

    quick glance at comments - oh oh they're at it again.

    Any old excuse eh?

    Still guess they have nothing better to do.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 181.

    Extremism in schools has nothing at all to do with labour's immigration policy. David Axelrod says so.

  • rate this

    Comment number 180.

    169 All for All
    "How to say kindly? By government expressing religious commitment, or opposition speaking out against religious extremism?"

    There is religious freedom in the UK. What irks is cultural extremism and ghettos informing one idea separate from the country that allows such freedom.

  • rate this

    Comment number 179.

    I think with the continual movement of people in a global world, that a state funded, secular education system with good standards is best for a cohesive society in the future. This would make everyone welcome at all schools and make people used to mixing with one another for when they enter the world of work.

  • rate this

    Comment number 178.

    Up to comment 172, 33 comments had been removed because the moderators found that they broke house rules.
    Maybe that's 33 comments from people who are not afraid to say it how it is.


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