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 536.

    there is a lot of anti religious posts on here , some people find comfort they find direction and they find happiness in their belief so who are we to deny them those things , although not a believer myself I find the persecution of someone because of their religion a tad distasteful if you do not want your kids taught RE send them to a different school . I am sure Dawkins has got one somewhere

  • rate this

    Comment number 254.

    I think we should move to a French style system which separates religion and education. The current role of governors in running schools is archaic and is at the root of a number of issues in our schools including the issues in Birmingham. This system must change to one of professional paid appointments

  • rate this

    Comment number 237.

    I'll try again. Birmingham is just the tip of the iceberg. Other towns and cities will be revealed to have this same problem. Time to focus elsewhere up and down the country as well?

  • rate this

    Comment number 222.

    Hardline religious views should not be imposed on any state school. Also, bullying of staff and unfairly forcing staff out should not be tolerated in schools or any other institution. Better guidelines should also be given to school governors about their role. Some governors in Birmingham appear to have behaved inappropriately by bullying and unfairly forcing some staff out.

  • 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.


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