Ofsted reports released today bring some much-needed clarity to recent allegations that a number of Birmingham schools have been targeted by Islamist extremists. In light of these reports, and their confirmation of on-going attempts by extremists to target these schools, Quilliam recommends the following:
– Schools should not be judged on academic results alone, rather they should also be judged on their ability to produce well-rounded individuals prepared for life in modern Britain.
– The teaching of religion should be objective, balanced and non-discriminatory, whilst all school activities and practises must be inclusive and devoid of religious or political influences. External speakers should also be robustly vetted.
– While state schools must remain sensitive to the cultural needs of all pupils, isolationist and xenophobic tendencies must be challenged robustly, and not construed as part of faith or cultural practice. Governors and teachers should also be offered cultural awareness and counter-extremism training.
– Governance structures need to be improved so that schools are more careful about who they appoint. Extremists, even if they are non-violent extremists, should not be allowed to work in schools or be governors. Challenging non-violent extremism in this way is already government policy; it needs to be implemented.
Quilliam’s Managing Director, Ghaffar Hussain, said today:
“Discussions around Islamist extremism need to be more honest, rather than polarised by rival alarmist and denialist factions. Denialists must recognise that extremism is real. Pretending it is not, out of fear of negative repercussions, only encourages such repercussions by making the work of extremists easier, further fueling the far-right and aiding xenophobia.
Alarmists must recognise that the vast majority of parents, pupils and teachers at these schools are not extremists. The allegations, which Ofsted has now verified to a large extent, concern attempts by a small section of entryist hard-liners to paint themselves as ‘the community’. Succumbing to the idea that this faction is indeed ‘the community’ further fuels Islamists by legitimising them as the only interlocutors.”