What happens in a secular schooling system when, free from ‘the shackles’ of elected local government, parents exercise the choice the state gives them and their school chooses to reflect its community’s aspirations in the way it caters for the “spiritual, moral, social and cultural development” of children? What happens when the community that school serves is predominantly Muslim, even though the school is not a faith-based school?
The intriguing ‘Trojan Horse’ school debacle in Birmingham is set to run and run. What is extraordinary about it, however, is the fact that although it says more about the unmanageable shambles that is schooling provision in the country right now, than about Islamic extremism in schools, however that’s defined, there is very little comment about this aspect of the whole sorry saga.
The first and most obvious thing to be said is that Park View School is an Academy, a Mathematics and Science Academy, in Alum Rock, a socially deprived area of Birmingham with a largely Muslim population. As such, it enjoys the unrestricted powers of any other Academy, including the right to set its own curriculum and not follow the National Curriculum. It is not a denominational school like the Jewish, Roman Catholic and Church of England schools to be found in many a city in England, but its student population is predominantly Muslim.
The second obvious thing to be said is that, like any predominantly Christian community, people who call themselves Muslim do not all believe the same things, behave in the same ways or have the same expectations of schooling. Christians vary widely in their views about salvation, gender and gender subordination, wealth, social justice, sex education, sexual conduct, same sex relationships, crime and punishment, and much else besides. So do Muslims.