by Kevin Meagher
Given we’re constantly told we live in an age of evidence-based policy-making, the reaction to the so-called Trojan Horse case in Birmingham owes more to Medieval peasant superstition.
What has warranted the blanket media coverage of recent weeks? No organised conspiracy to ‘Islamify’ state schools in Birmingham has been uncovered. No evidence of criminality has been produced. No charges are pending.
All that has happened so far, despite almost daily media attention and a series of top-level investigations, is that a handful of schools in one if the poorest parts of the city are to be placed in special measures at the behest of schools inspectors.
Yes, there are suspicions about what might have gone on, however much of the reporting has been little more than conjecture – more heat than light – blackening the reputation of Birmingham’s Muslim community in the process.
But that didn’t stop yesterday’s Observer. With no substantive news from Birmingham to report, the paper fell back on the old tactic of producing an opinion poll which showed:
“70% [of the public] said the taxpayer should not be funding the promotion of religion in schools, 60% said such schools promoted division and segregation, and 41% said they were contrary to the promotion of a multicultural society.”
Of course it’s worth pointing out, for the avoidance of doubt, that parents who want to send their children to faith schools are still taxpayers. Just as it’s worth noting that none of the schools involved in the Trojan Horse ‘scandal’ are, in fact, faith schools at all.
Nevertheless, shadow education secretary, Tristram Hunt, was enjoined to comment. He thought the case “raised questions” about “how we manage potential tensions” around “faith, multiculturalism and state education”.