Trojan horse & faith-based education

Clearly there is plenty that is wrong with at least some of these ‘Trojan horse’ schools in Birmingham (although I must say that it does not help when the problems are named after a Greek myth!). However, given that the chair of governors at one of the leading ‘Trojan Horse’ schools is himself an Ofsted inspector and some of the accusations against these schools such as ‘teaching boys and girls separately’ and ‘playing down other religions’ could both be levelled at many state schools, I am troubled about the way that the government is going to exploit this situation to given themselves even more draconian powers to use against schools. At its heart, this situation highlights just how little secular power-brokers understand faith and its interface with education. The assumption is that good education is religiously neutral and that those who argue that all education implicitly has a faith position (even if that faith position is that there is no god) are regarded with suspicion and ridicule. Whilst I am in no way pro-Islamic education, the British educational model has permitted people of faith to cultivate educational models that reflect their particular worldview and deliver a curriculum to children shaped by this thinking. In this frenzy over extremism, this must not be lost. One final point is worth making, I feel; Ofsted itself has a case to answer here – some of the schools engulfed in this crisis were previously described as ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted inspectors. However, I doubt that under Michael Wilshaw’s leadership there will be any acknowledgement of this – heads might roll at Ofsted, but there is no way that Wilshaw will do the honourable thing and fall on his sword. Perhaps ‘Trojan horse’ is an apt name for this situation – after all in the ancient myth we find subterfuge being used to achieve what could not be won openly – the question simply remains who are the Greeks and who are the Trojans.

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