Anyone interested in multicultural and equality issues will not have missed the popular press driven discussion of education in Birmingham, labelled as the Trojan Horse affair. Many words have been written on the controversy, including a few helpful ones. Here is some historical, educational and policy background.
(A version of this was published in Race Equality Teaching spring 2014.)
The press release from the Bishop of Birmingham, on behalf of the city’s faith leaders, has stated: “We are profoundly concerned that some of the public media have distorted the discussion on what has become known as ‘Operation Trojan Horse’, demonising sections of the community in a completely unacceptable way.”
MG Khan, a trusted colleague who has contributed a great deal to education in the city, is a member of the governing body of one of the schools implicated in the affair, Saltley. For him Trojan Horse “is being used to destabilise governing bodies in Muslim majority schools in Birmingham by galvanising Ofsted into snap inspections that would find these governing bodies unfit for governance, caricaturing them as driven by ideology rather than student needs.”  Like MG, I also take a wider view of the situation.
Christine Quinn, Executive Head at Ninestiles School, has been quoted as saying that some of the demands made by Muslim parents “were entirely reasonable, and based on the premise that Pakistani Muslim children had previously been very poorly served by the city’s schools.” For those of us committed to the provision of good multicultural education the challenge is clear and clearly stated: to consider those ‘reasonable’ issues which Quinn has spoken of and respond appropriately.
The personal and the professional
Given that much of the post-war development of race relations in Birmingham is also the story of my family and community, I would like to draw on both personal and professional perspectives, what has been referred to as ‘autobiographical sociology .
During the 1950s my father and many other men in our community had come to Birmingham in search of work. At the time they had little intention to stay here permanently. So we as children were left behind with our mothers. Later when the situation changed, due in part to the enactment of the first racist immigration legislation in 1962, families also began to arrive. This was when I came, in 1970, moving into the same house where my father had lived.
Coming as a teenager meant that I was able to experience the school system. When I arrived, according to the educational practice of the time, I was bussed off to one of the two immigrant Reception Centres in the city. After two terms there, I was able to transfer to the school in our neighbourhood. These were difficult times for us minority young people. We faced a great deal of hostility in the schools and where we lived. My first day at school began with a very tall white boy lifting little me up off my feet, pushing me against the wall and saying “we don’t want any more Pakis, do we”. He put me down and then turned to his mates who cheered him. The few Pakistani boys in the class just watched. Since those days, I have fulfilled a number of roles in the city, as employee of the City Council. A few years after leaving school, I was employed as a Youth Worker. Later, I began my teaching career in the local schools and most recently, I spent ten years as a Schools Adviser.
With the benefit of research, I have been able to learn that education policy makers and practitioners in the days I arrived were still working out what to do with us immigrants. It had only been a few years before when the first education policy had been developed by government . It was this that had made bussing of immigrant children legal, based as it happens on the advice of the Birmingham MP, Denis Howell. He proudly described his role in his autobiography. More broadly, the city had also played a central role in creating a hostile environment for racial minorities. Birmingham Immigration Control Association had been the main instigator of the 1962 legislation, mentioned above. Within education, it had only been a few years since the following teacher recruitment advertisement had been placed, as highlighted by Professor Sir Tim Brighouse  . It gives us a clue as to the thinking of the time:
Birmingham children are white and they’re black
Immigrants come, we can’t send them back
Really we’d like to but now they’re here
Millions who multiply year after year
It’s our job to teach them to live just like us
Nicely and soberly without any fuss
God knows how we’ll do it, we’d all like to try
Have you desire to give help and try
And teach in our schools? We’ll see you get paid
May we please employ you to give us your aid?
Fortunately, things then changed for the better. Around the late 1970s, like a number of other authorities, Birmingham began to put in place multicultural education policies and employ suitable staff to help implement them. With hindsight, we could refer to this period as the heyday of education in the city. There is much that we can learn from the developments of the time.
By the early 1980s, Birmingham had in place numerous staff whose job it was to help implement general multicultural education as well as focus on the particular needs of pupil groups. As pointed out by Maurice Coles in an earlier edition of this journal , education practice of the time was guided by a comprehensive 35-page policy statement which “committed the Education Department to delivering entitlements through the establishment of a strong multicultural/antiracist/equal opportunity perspective in all its institutions.” This had three clear aims:
- To be aware of and to counter racism and the discriminatory practices to which it gives rise
- To be aware of and to provide for the particular needs of pupils having regard for their ‘racial’, ethnic, cultural, historical, linguistic and religious backgrounds
- To prepare all (original emboldening) pupils for life in our multicultural society and build upon the strengths of cultural diversity. “There is racial inequality in Britain because in the main white people exclusively control most positions of management, government, influence and power; black people are disproportionately represented in menial work or have no work at all.”
Sadly, in the decade that followed, we saw, both locally and nationally, a slow move towards the colour-blind period in education. For example, soon after its publication, the Swann Report  , one of the most comprehensive documents on multicultural education, was shelved leading to a de-emphasis of multicultural education. What was started during the Conservative era, was continued unabated under New Labour. In Birmingham, by the time the above-sighted article by Coles was published, a difference-blind approach had arrived which encouraged and facilitated across the board improvements. In a report commissioned by the authority , it was acknowledged that the city had been accepted “nationally as a leading authority in the field of race equality..” which had “established an enviable reputation as an urban authority that takes seriously both an overall agenda to ‘raise standards’ and a commitment to greater equity and social inclusion” and that it was “often seen as a model for how others should respond to these issues”. But then much of the race-specific work was dismantled. The report pointed out that the new “[s]school improvement and effectiveness does not necessarily embody a meaningful concern with race equality. Research elsewhere (and Birmingham’s own recent statistics) suggest that pursuing ‘effectiveness’ without a conscious and explicit focus on race equality will not narrow the ‘equality gap’”. The report also drew attention to an ‘implementation gap’. While the authority had made a “bold and important commitment to closing the existing ‘equality gap’, its schools are equally dominated by national initiatives and professional concerns.” The report’s authors pointed out that by following a national agenda, schools “promoted ‘improvement’ strategies that are known to detrimentally affect minority ethnic pupils”.
The document drew attention to racial injustice in the city. It pointed out that “the practices, procedures and customs which determine the allocation of resources do discriminate, directly or indirectly, in favour of the white majority and against minority groups.”
The authority had emphasised that the policy was equally necessary for all-White schools as it was for those which had a multi-racial population. It explained the concepts of racism and White privilege and pointed out that:
Lack of focus on Pakistani underachievement
In the ‘standards’ era that followed, for many years to come we were to see a focus on the needs of underachieving groups. However, in reality much of the attention was focussed on the needs of Black Caribbean children, both nationally and in Birmingham. The Swann Report had claimed that Asian children were achieving as well as the white ethnic group. It would be many years before it was recognised that within the overall ‘Asian’ category, groups such as Pakistani were under achieving.
According to David Gillborn “..it remains true that a great deal of social science research on race and education in the UK focuses explicitly on Black (African Caribbean) groups” . A similar point was made in a government-commissioned report . “Over the years there has been almost no research regarding the position of Muslim pupils in the education system. Nor has there been much research concerning the dominant cultural groups that make up the Muslim communities, like Pakistani and Bangladeshi heritage pupils”. The report pointed out that no attempt had been made to map the curriculum against criteria designed to reflect the experiences of these pupils nor any curriculum development work concerned with their needs.
The problem was replicated at the local Birmingham level. Although the Pakistani community had attempted to draw attention to the underachievement of its young people , the belief amongst the City Council was that, in due course, “Pakistani pupils will soon show rapid improvement as generational factors work through” . Sadly, for large numbers of young people concerned, the prediction is yet to come true.
Attainment gap not closing
Over the years, Pakistani pupils have continued to make improvements in the benchmark A-C grades at GCSE. In Birmingham while only 32 per cent of them achieved these grades in 2006, the percentage had gone up to 56 per cent in 2012. However, it is necessary to point out here that while they made improvements so had other pupils from higher achieving groups such as Indian or White so the gap between them continued. Another factor worth bearing in mind is the growth in actual numbers of Pakistani young people in Birmingham schools. In 1995, there were 27,123 of them in Birmingham schools, 16.7 per cent of the overall school population. By 2011, the number had gone up to 42,558 – 24.5 per cent overall. Due to this growth, even though Pakistani pupils have improved on their A-C grades a similar number are still leaving school without these grades.
Table 1 makes it clear that, in 2006, 68 per cent of Pakistani pupils had left school without 5 A-C grades. In terms of actual numbers this meant 1377 pupils, making it 19 per cent of the total thus leaving without these qualifications. By 2012, the situation had improved. There were only 44 per cent, or 1133 in number, of Pakistani pupils not achieving the grades. However, they made up a higher percentage, 23 per cent of the overall pupils leaving without these qualifications.
Table 1: Percentage of pupils ‘Not Achieving 5A*-C (incl. English& maths)’ 2006-2012
|Pakistani (%Not Achieving 5A*-C (incl. English& maths)
Source: Birmingham City Council, ‘Report to the Children and Education Overview and Scrutiny Committee/Cabinet’, 26 January 2011 (Table 7c), 27 February 2013 (Table 7d).
One explanation of the continuing problem of Pakistani under-achievement could be how targets are set in schools. Of the three types of targets, listed below, only the first, inclusive, approach is said to help underachieving groups.
inclusive targets: the lower a group currently attained, the higher its improvement target. Consequently, if the targets were realised then the inequalities of attainment between white pupils and ethnic minority ethnic groups would be reduced. For the authors, “ this is in line with the dominant approach to equal opportunities issues in previous work on ‘underachievement’; in much equal opportunity legislation; and in our analyses of attainment inequalities.”
common improvement targets: here, regardless of each group’s current position, the same target was set for them. Although, on the face of it, this seemed a fair way of setting a target but, according to the authors, it showed a very limited understanding of social justice.
increase inequalities targets: here, higher targets were set for higher achieving students with the result that, if the targets were achieved as set, it would cause “Pakistani and African Caribbean pupils [to] fall further behind their white peers.”
For a brief period, Birmingham Local Authority did advise its schools to set differentiated and inclusive targets, i.e., the lower a pupil group attained, the higher its improvement target. It is not clear whether any of its schools currently pursue such a policy.
A Muslim majority city!
According to the Department of Work and Pensions, Birmingham will become the first Muslim-majority city in Europe. We can see evidence of this in the local schools. In 2011, Muslim pupils were the largest religious group, more than all the Christian denominations put together. At a general city level, according to the most recent census, the two wards which had the greatest number of religious electors were predominantly Pakistani.
It has been known for some time that for Pakistani pupils their religion is of greater importance than it is for other groups. This has now been confirmed through my doctoral research conducted in city’s state schools. In response to the statement: ‘My religion is very important in my life’ Muslim pupils indicated the greatest agreement: Pakistanis at 88.8 per cent and Bangladeshis at 87 per cent. Indian pupils were only slightly behind, at 85.7 per cent. A very small minority, 28 per cent, of the White-British agreed with the statement.
For the Pakistani pupils their religion was not just about believing and activities; it had a clear impact on their schooling. It taught them to be better students, to respect teachers and respect learning. More generally, many of them reported that their parents at home and teachers at the mosques they attended after school had taught them to respect elders in general. I was able to triangulate this through my interviews with the Pakistani parents. The interviewees, boys and their parents, made over one hundred references to the word ‘respect’, with the majority referring to teachers and education. The following quotes were typical of the responses:
The same level of respect, for teachers, for mosque, for parents; that’s the way I have been brought up. It’s all the same. You’ve got to respect your elders no matter what; you can’t be rude to them. You’ve just got to show them a lot of respect. My mum and my dad have always told me that you’ve got to respect whoever is older than you, you’ve got to show them respect. I’ve always been told: respect your elders. I respect my teachers a lot. Pupil
Just to show respect and have manners. ..(Respect) for your elders. For people your own age as well; don’t act as if you are bigger than them, don’t act arrogant, brash… Treat them as how you’d want to be treated. Pupil
It is also worth pointing out here that for the parents, being educated was more than achieving the benchmark 5 A*-C qualifications. They considered that both the religious and secular – deen and dunya – were essential to the purpose of education and what being ‘educated’ meant. They saw it of equal importance that their children were taught to be good human beings, with good manners and morals, something that is often neglected in our target-driven school system.
“(Education) also includes knowing about his religion; he needs to know what Islam is, read his prayers, the fundamentals of Islam; it would make him a good human being as well. (Religion is) very, very important for us. In the way that, he needs it so to be a good human being. To understand his religion, religion is very, very important. Parent
Culturally responsive pedagogy
The Bullock Report, A Language for Life, had famously said:
‘No child should be expected to cast off the language and culture of the home as he crosses the school threshold, nor to live and act as though school and home represent two separate and different cultures which have to be kept firmly apart.’
In my view this is often the experience of Pakistani children in our schools. Compared to, say, their white middle class peers, they are likely to face the greatest ‘discontinuity’ and ‘incongruence’, given the distance between their worlds within school and their wider lives. With very few exceptions, language is one area where such a problem can occur. Much of our education system is predicated on the philosophy of the ‘subtractive bilingualism’ of the 1960s where there is little recognition or respect, let alone reinforcement, for the children’s heritage languages. Taking an autobiographical approach, I have elaborated on this subject elsewhere.
Diane Abbott, MP, was recently reported as saying that Black children were being harmed by the colour-blind education system . The same could be said for Pakistanis. The following statement from Angela Overington, Improving Pupil Performance Division, makes clear the government policy in this respect :
In attempting to narrow (the) attainment gaps, the previous Government developed a number of centrally-driven, targeted interventions for Black and minority ethnic pupils – including one aimed specifically at raising the attainment of Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Somali and Turkish Heritage pupils. .
The current Government’s approach to tackling inequality, as set out in the Equality Strategy, moves away from treating people as groups or ‘equality strands’ in need of special treatment. Instead, the Government intends to act as a catalyst for change by developing frameworks that will help create fairness and opportunities for everyone (my emphasis).
According to Geneva Gay , culturally responsive teaching is one which uses the cultural characteristics, experiences, and perspectives of ethnically diverse students as conduits for teaching them more effectively. This is based on the assumption that when academic knowledge and skills are situated within the lived experiences and frames of reference of students, they are more personally meaningful, have higher interest appeal, and are learned more easily and thoroughly. For Gay, the essential elements of such teaching involved the teachers developing a knowledge base about cultural diversity, being caring, communicating with ethnically diverse students, and responding to ethnic diversity in the delivery of the teaching. I believe that, given the demographics, it is highly necessary to develop within Birmingham a Pakistani (Muslim) responsive pedagogy, which alongside other areas indicated in this article also accommodates religion and linguistic diversity. This will be elaborated in the conclusion of my doctoral research .
The imperative of teachers having knowledge about cultural diversity in order to effectively meet the needs of diverse students was also stated by the Swann Report. It outlined what mainstream teachers needed to do in order to do a ‘good’ job in diverse contexts:
“ It is a teacher’s responsibility to know and understand the children he teaches to the best of his ability – in particular to know and understand those social and cultural elements of an individual child’s upbringing and experience which contribute to the formation of his distinctive personality, and to accept and to value these distinctive characteristics, so that his understanding of them informs the content and method of his teaching of each child”.
The task of equipping for diversity has been seen to be even more important for white teachers as they may have little awareness or understanding of minority communities and of racism. It has also been pointed out that schools cannot teach children well if teachers lack an understanding of their students’ cultures and lives, and if they lack meaningful relationships with their families. Research has shown that teachers are not well prepared to teach diverse students whose cultural values are different from their own, and that many White teachers hold negative stereotypical views about minority ethnic children and have little knowledge of cultural diversity. 
According to my own research, a quarter of Pakistani pupils disagreed with the statement ‘Teachers deal fairly with incidents involving religious abuse’ while thirty seven per cent of them disagreed with the statement ‘Teachers deal fairly with racist incidents’. Even more worryingly, over forty per cent of them disagreed with the statement ‘Teachers in my school treat all pupils fairly’.
In 2010, in my role as Local Authority Adviser, I produced a report on occurrence, reporting and addressing racist incidents. According to the policy at the time, schools were asked to make a return, to the local authority, on their racist incidents. The returns were aggregated and a report was produced. When making the return schools completed the ‘action’ column to say they had taken action. What action had been taken or its appropriateness was rarely made clear. The process seemed ‘hit and miss’. A number of the schools made nil returns while similar schools nearby made returns to say a large number of racist incidents had occurred. It was never clear why some schools had racist incidents more than while others had less than expected. Some schools treated such incidents as an equalities matter while for others it was an issue of safeguarding.
According to Sarah Pearce , reluctance to engage with the meaning and consequences of racism is common in English schools. She pointed out that many white teachers are unwilling to engage with issues of race. This reluctance stemmed from an acute sense of the complexity and personal threat involved in race talk. For her, arguably the best place to equip teachers on this matter was during their initial training. However, she goes onto point out that since, in England, from September 2013, individual schools bear most of the responsibility for student teachers’ learning, it seems unlikely that such intensive work will be carried out as part of school based training. She called for more and better support for teachers in the early stages of their careers. “As more responsibility for early teacher development falls to schools in England, that support needs to be planned in the context of school life. Providing a ‘learning space’ in which new teachers can think, talk and thereby make sense of, their experiences beyond their initial training phase may be one effective approach.”
Funds of knowledge and the role of teachers
It has been pointed out that the knowledge children bring to school, drawn from personal and cultural experiences, is central to their learning. Luis Moll and colleagues  defined this as ‘funds of knowledge’ – “historically accumulated and culturally developed bodies of knowledge and skills essential for household or individual functioning and wellbeing”. The job of good teachers is, therefore, to build bridges between the students’ pre-existing knowledge and experiences and the new material they need to acquire. To do so, it requires the teacher to be socio-culturally conscious, so as to understand that people’s ways of thinking, behaving, and being are deeply influenced by such factors as race/ ethnicity, social class, and language; without this insight, teachers are unable to cross the socio-cultural boundaries that separate too many of them from their students. It also necessitates the teachers’ affirming views of students from diverse backgrounds, seeing resources for learning in all students rather than viewing differences as problems to be overcome. According to Villegas and Lucas , such teachers see all students, including those from ethnic minority communities “as learners who already know a great deal and who have experiences, concepts, and languages that can be built on and expanded to help them learn even more. They see their role as adding to rather than replacing what students bring to learning. They are convinced that all students, not just those from the dominant group, are capable learners who bring a wealth of knowledge and experiences to school”.
It is well known that schools have a duty to make sure that the needs of all pupils and not just the majority are catered for. This means equipping staff to understand pupils’ backgrounds and finding space to celebrate and cater for every pupil. However, it is questionable whether teachers in our schools are equipped to deliver a culturally responsive education which builds on students’ funds of knowledge, especially when it comes to the education of Pakistani children. The Teacher Training Agency issued guidelines in 2000, asserting that every trainee teacher needed to understand how to prepare all pupils to play a part in culturally diverse society. This was followed by the publication of professional standards for qualified teacher status making clear that teachers must have an understanding of pupils’ backgrounds and take account of it in the planning and delivery of teaching. However, according to Klein , by 2003, the agency’s own research had found that 65 per cent of newly qualified teachers felt that their training had not prepared them to teach in culturally diverse schools. “Most training institutions deal with equality in a day, or just one session, or not at all.” It is known that schools cannot teach children well if teachers lack an understanding of their students’ cultures and lives, and if they lack meaningful relationships with their families .
The Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) Teacher Standards that were introduced in 2007 specifically addressed equality and inclusion. The document spoke of the importance of “responding to learners’ diverse needs and overcoming potential barriers to learning and assessment”, and the need to make sure that trainee teachers “are confident that they can reflect these values, aims and purposes in their lesson planning and teaching” and are able to “take practical account of diversity and promote equality and inclusion in their teaching” including in the choice of resources. It was incumbent on initial teacher training providers “to ensure they train teachers who are committed to promoting the development and well-being of children and young people and know how to take account of diversity and promote equality and inclusion in their teaching.”
Sadly, what little reference there was to equality and inclusion has now disappeared. The new Teachers’ Standards introduced in September 2012 omit specific references to race equality, diversity and inclusion.  It is quite likely that these changes will be seen by providers as an indicator of government priorities and will lead to a further de-emphasis of these areas.
In a special issue of the journal ‘Race, Ethnicity and Education’ , this matter was explored, with depressing conclusions. One article pointed out that nearly two-thirds of trainee teachers felt unprepared to teach pupils from Black and Minority Ethnic backgrounds. Another writer pointed out that the “omissions related to race, ethnicity and culture in the Teachers’ Standards in England and wider teacher education curricula have left teachers and student teachers unsure and lacking in confidence about how to talk about race and ethnicity never mind how to understand their position as teachers to tackle the inequalities that schools as public institutions may perpetuate.”
A diverse and representative workforce
It is generally accepted that the number of teachers from the different ethnic backgrounds should be similar to that of the backgrounds of the pupils. According to the government “the school workforce should reflect the diversity of the school population.”  The Swann Report similarly pointed out the desirability for the staffing of the education service to reflect the make-up of the population. In their view this would help to provide greater employment equality. The ethnic minority teachers would be a source of cultural expertise within schools, who would help to challenge institutional and individual racism and contribute towards meeting the particular needs of ethnic minority pupils; acting as role models for them. Such staff would also provide reassurance for ethnic minority parents that their needs would be understood. For the Swann Report, such diversity would help to counter “the inherent incongruity of “all white” teaching staffs, often living well away from the catchment areas of their schools”. They were of the view that, when recruiting teachers, candidates’ particular ethnic, cultural, linguistic and religious background should be seen as a part of the job specification. In recognising that much of a teacher’s influence on the pupils was indirect – who they are rather than just what they do – they argued that “an education which seeks to prepare all pupils for life in a pluralist society can surely best be provided by a teaching force which is itself pluralist in character”.
The importance of a teaching workforce that reflects the diverse make-up of pupils was to continue to be government policy. In 2007, the Training and Development Agency for Schools pointed out that the “teaching force should be representative of society as a whole and providers should review how their recruitment practice positively promotes equality of access to ITT for underrepresented groups”.  This is based on the understanding that for ethnic minority pupils, teachers from their own background were more in a position than are White teachers to integrate their realities of background and culture, while, at the same time, acknowledging, validating, and affirming their identities. In addition to being a teacher and role model, such teachers routinely assume the roles of surrogate parents, mentors, motivators, counsellors, and disciplinarians .
Alistair Ross also made a case for diversity in the teaching workforce. For him, learning is a formative activity conducted through a variety of processes, both explicit and very visible and subtle and invisible. The process of learning conveys a wealth of meanings to young people. Therefore, who fulfils the role of teacher is an important part of the process. For him, teachers as a profession must have the capacity to reflect the full spectrum of cultural and social traditions and systems in their collective professional practice and the presence of ethnic minority teachers is essential in challenging racism. According to Ross, while all teachers would be concerned with challenging racism, “some of the subtleties of racist practice and behaviour may be more obvious or more capable of recognition, by teachers who have themselves some direct experience of having suffered from racist behaviours themselves”.
As to the actual diversity within the teaching workforce, there continues to be an underrepresentation of ethnic minorities, especially of Pakistanis, when the percentage of teachers is compared with that of the pupils. According to the Department for Education, in November 2012, there were 899,000 full-time equivalent school employees, out of which 93.3 per cent were White and 0.8 per cent Pakistani. According to the Department for Education, at the same time, out of a total pupil population of 6,661,255, 78 per cent of the pupils were White and 3.8 per cent of Pakistani heritage. In Birmingham, in 2003, Pakistani staff were between one to two percent of the teaching workforce, against a pupil population of 19 per cent at the time . The situation urgently requires a Positive Action strategy within the framework of the equality legislation.
Birmingham has often had the reputation of being a role model local authority, especially in matters of race relations and multicultural education. It has the potential for doing so again, even in the current context where schools have been ‘freed’ from its democratic control. However, the education system will need to acknowledge the implications of the demographics where Muslims are the largest religious group amongst the pupils and where Pakistanis are soon to become the largest pupil ethnic group.
In the Birmingham policy statement, referred to above, in spelling out racial equality, it was stated:
“It follows there will be racial equality in education when black people are proportionately involved in teaching and administration at all levels, in higher and further education and in streams, sets, classes and schools leading to higher and further education.”
Lee Jasper had once said: “if you have a school that’s 90 or 80 per cent of one ethnicity or another, then it’s quite proper to expect the teaching staff and governors to reflect that local community” . The Birmingham Stephen Lawrence Commission had stated that “there should be a clear expectation that each governing body is representative of the ethnic composition in the school”. According to my research (Iqbal 2013), the city would need to recruit an additional 1000 Pakistani governors in order to bring it in proportion to the pupil make-up from the community.
Operation Trojan Horse has created a very nasty atmosphere in Birmingham. Its main casualties have been logic and natural justice such as ‘innocent until proven guilty’. A backdrop to this has been a lack of trust, accountability and democracy which have resulted from the ever reducing role of the LEA – a process which began with the Education Reform Act 1988 and has been almost concluded by the Coalition government.
I was speaking to an atheist Pakistani chair of governor of a Birmingham school with a 100 per cent Muslim pupil population and where the headship is vacant. They are afraid that if they appoint a Muslim head, it would add to the outcry. Referring to a comment MG Khan had made, surely the outcry should be if such an appointment was not made.
The press release from the Bishop of Birmingham, sighted above, has reminded us that “like any parents, Muslims in the city want the very best education for their children so that they can participate fully in British society”. The President of the Birmingham branch of the National Union of Teachers has similarly stated that “All parents, whether they be Christian, Jewish, Muslim or not religious want a good education for their children in an environment that respects their culture whilst preparing them to be part of multi-cultural Britain” . My research has confirmed this categorically as far as the Pakistani community is concerned. It now remains for education practitioners and policy makers to respond accordingly.
The new Chief Executive of Birmingham City Council, Mark Rogers, gave an interview to Paul Dale, a Blogger for Chamberlain Files, on the subject of Trojan Horse. “During his interview Mr Rogers did not use the words ‘Muslim’ or ‘Islam’, preferring instead to talk about Birmingham’s “new communities”. He later referred to people wanting to create “an educational environment conforming to the prevailing culture and customs in the countries they come from” .
There used to be a practice in the Birmingham City Council that new employees participated in an Induction programme, with input on Equalities. If such practice is still current and includes senior posts like his, then this would be one opportunity to point out to Mr Rogers that Muslims have been a part of Birmingham for a very long time indeed. Having already helped Britain to win many of the key battles during both the world wars, they played a central role in the post-war rebuilding of our nation. All of the Pakistani pupils I interviewed had been born here and in some cases their parents too. So, the Pakistanis are not a ‘new’ community, having been a part of the city’s landscape in large numbers for at least half a century.
Mr Rogers has a background in education. I would venture to give him some reading homework. This would include Danielle Joly’s ‘Britannia’s Crescent: Making a place for Muslims in British Society’ . She had made the point, that “Muslims cannot be overlooked in Birmingham in 1986.” The statement could be equally made in 2014. Another publication would be Makhdoom Ahmad Chishti’s ‘Lok Virsa- exploring the Muslim heritage’. At the start of the book, it is stated: “Since the nineteen century there has been a Muslim presence in Britain.” Mr Chisti is a member of the Council’s Equalities Division. The Birmingham Stephen Lawrence Commission report, much of whose recommendations are still relevant would also be on the list as would be my own ‘Dear Birmingham- a conversation with My Hometown’, which provides current information on exclusion of the Pakistani community.
Karamat Iqbal is a practitioner in equalities and education.
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