City could wit­ness new Tro­jan Horse scan­dal in schools Sit­u­a­tion has got worse, not bet­ter, ar­gues au­thor

Birmingham Post - - NEWS - Carl Jack­son Lo­cal Democ­racy Re­porter

BIRM­ING­HAM could be on the brink of an­other Tro­jan Horse scan­dal, an ed­u­ca­tion ex­pert has warned.

Dr Kara­mat Iqbal be­lieves the un­der­ly­ing is­sues that led to the 2014 scan­dal which al­leged hard­line Is­lamic teach­ing in sev­eral Birm­ing­ham schools has got worse.

The boss of ed­u­ca­tion con­sul­tancy For­ward Part­ner­ship, which sup­ports dis­ad­van­taged pupils, ar­gues some schools should in fact be more in­te­grated with mosques.

He ex­plores the con­tro­ver­sial topic along­side wider ed­u­ca­tional is­sues faced by the Sec­ond City’s large Mus­lim pop­u­la­tion in his new book British Pak­istani Boys Ed­u­ca­tion and the role of Re­li­gion. It is subti­tled ‘In the Land of the Tro­jan Horse’.

There has been much de­bate about the scan­dal, which em­broiled more than 20 schools in in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

Ini­tial fears of a plot to rad­i­calise pupils proved to be un­founded although the nu­mer­ous en­quiries which en­sued did find ev­i­dence of a con­certed ef­fort to es­tab­lish more Mus­lim gover­nors and staff within schools.

Dr Iqbal be­lieves that at its heart Tro­jan Horse was about a ‘disquiet’ among the Mus­lim com­mu­nity at poor ed­u­ca­tion stan­dards and the high num­bers of Pak­istani and Mus­lim pupils leav­ing school with­out proper qual­i­fi­ca­tions.

He also as­serts there was a ‘ com­mu­nity dis­con­nect’ be­tween par­ents and the schools.

Dr Iqbal said: “Some peo­ple have ar­gued the stan­dards is­sue is worse and the trust is­sue is worse in that the com­mu­nity and schools do not trust each other. The un­der-rep­re­sen­ta­tion of Pak­istani peo­ple on gov­ern­ing bod­ies is worse.

“So the sit­u­a­tion Tro­jan was trig­gered by is ac­tu­ally worse. I have posed the ques­tion could Tro­jan hap­pen again? The an­swer is yes. Of course, it may not hap­pen. Let’s hope not.”

Dr Iqbal, who hails from Kash­mir, spent the best part of six years up to 2017 work­ing to­wards a PhD at the Uni­ver­sity of War­wick which has led to his lat­est book.

Dur­ing his re­search he vis­ited three state schools in Birm­ing­ham, sur­veyed more than 200 pupils and con­ducted around 50 in­ter­views with stu­dents, par­ents and teach­ers.

One of the main fac­tors driv­ing un­der­achieve­ment, Dr Iqbal ar­gues, is the re­li­gious com­mit­ments placed on many Pak­istani pupils to at­tend madrasas at mosques.

He says this has a neg­a­tive im­pact on their abil­ity to com­plete home­work and causes missed so­cial op­por­tu­ni­ties.

“Pupils are spend­ing quite a bit of time af­ter school go­ing to classes at the mosque,” Dr Iqbal said.

“A child leaves school at 3.15pm. they are rush­ing home, chang­ing into ap­pro­pri­ate clothes, do­ing their ablu­tion and then go­ing to the mosque for a cou­ple of hours, in­evitably they are go­ing to be tired. They may not have time to do home­work. They also miss out on ex­tra cur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties, a time for ex­tra learn­ing but also some fun. This is what I call op­por­tu­nity cost.”

He ar­gues schools and mosques need to work to­gether more, sug­gest­ing a num­ber of pos­si­ble so­lu­tions in­clud­ing mosques run­ning home­work classes and in­cor­po­rat­ing more rel­e­vant re­li­gious stud­ies in the cur­ricu­lum as well as teach­ing Urdu and Ara­bic lan­guages in or­der to re­duce the time spent at Madrasa.

Ul­ti­mately, how­ever, it is for the schools and mosques to come to their own ar­range­ments, he adds.

Dr Iqbal also states schools need to gain a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of pupils’ home life, point­ing out that many Pak­istani house­holds do not al­ways have the space and equip­ment for chil­dren to com­plete home­work, whilst their If par­ents may not have knowl­edge sub­ject in or­der to help.

The book also sup­ports the ar­gu­ment that Pak­istani and Mus­lim teach­ers are un­der-rep­re­sented in Birm­ing­ham schools and gov­ern­ing bod­ies, and states that even those in ed­u­ca­tion tend to be ‘lower down the peck­ing or­der’.

There has been vary­ing the­o­ries around the anony­mous let­ter sent to Birm­ing­ham City Coun­cil which orig­i­nally ig­nited con­cerns by re­fer­ring to a con­spir­acy by Mus­lim groups – dubbed Op­er­a­tion Tro­jan Horse – to in­stall more gover­nors in schools.

Many ar­gued it was merely a fake let­ter to stir up ten­sion, but Dr Iqbal ar­gues that whether it was authen­tic or not it was merely a ‘trig­ger’ for real is­sues which could sur­face again if they are not ad­dressed.

He said: “Re­search shows chil­dren who don’t achieve well at school don’t tend to go on to achieve well in life.

“Their con­tri­bu­tion to the econ­omy is less, they be­come de­pen­dent on so­cial ser­vices and drawn to crime. But this is of a not au­to­matic, just more likely.”

Dr Iqbal adds: “Pak­ista­nis are a large part of the com­mu­nity. Their chil­dren are a the sec­ond largest eth­nic group g in Birm­ing­ham schools. Their suc­cess will im­pact on the suc­cess of the city.

“If they are suc­cess­ful then the city c will be suc­cess­ful. If they are not n suc­cess­ful that will im­pact on the city in the long-run, it may m be im­pact­ing al­ready.

“We have to recog­nise the Pak­istani Pa pres­ence in the city and an at a broader level the Mus­lim pres­ence and deal with it in a planned strate­gic way.

“That way we con­trol the sit­u­a­tion rather than wait for a trig­ger which then causes a sit­u­a­tion to blow up like Tro­jan Horse.”

Pak­ista­nis are a large part of the com­mu­nity... Their suc­cess will im­pact on the suc­cess of the city. Dr Kara­mat Iqbal

> Dr Kara­mat Iqbal, who runs an ed­u­ca­tion con­sul­tancy

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