The problem with government’s idea of ‘british values’ and why the trojan horse affair matters
The new requirements introduced under Prevent in 2015 included a statutory duty on schools to promote ‘British values’, which has become part of the national curriculuam. This law was published following the Birmingham Trojan Horse Affair, a deeply problematic precursor to any notion of ‘British values’.
During this event it was claimed that teachers at Park View School were guilty of ‘Islamicising’ the school.
In fact, no charges of extremism were brought against teachers, and the cases against the senior leadership team collapsed due to an ‘abuse of process’ by lawyers acting for the Department of Education, including non-disclosure of relevant evidence.
Park View School had been a failing school in 1996, but by 2012 it was deemed outstanding and in the top 14% of schools in England.
Its pupil intake was 98.8% Muslim and 72.7% of pupils were in receipt of free school meals (against a national average of 15.2%). Only 7.5% of children had English as a first language (against 82.7%).
This remarkable turnaround to become a leading school in Birmingham was an example for other schools in the area.
But neither the official inquiries into the alleged ‘Islamic plot’, nor the media, reported that Park View Academy had been asked by the Department for Education to takeover other schools.
This had been part of the Department’s schools’ improvement programme and had taken place under the scrutiny of officials.
The takeovers were signed off by the Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove. Gove was the very figure to have supported the Trojan Horse storm on Park View school.
The Trojan Horse Affair demonised an outstanding Muslim-majority school and made it the means to justify the teaching of ‘British values’ by law, under Prevent, in all publicly-funded schools in England, including academies and free schools.
Today, the duty has become, in effect, a new national curriculum, one which is defined by purported “requirements of national security”, an astounding approach to young people and children.
Additionally, the way ‘British values’ are being shaped, is seen to contribute to the idea of British Muslims as a ‘suspect’ community that ‘do not share our values’.
The government has also sought to incorporate the anti-colonial, anti-racist discourse, as well as discourse on the far-left and environmental activism under its strictures about extremism – that is, as “threats” to ‘British values’.
If they aren’t Muslim values, or values shared by those with a passionate concern for anti-racism, environmentalism and social justice, then whose values are these ‘British values’?