CANTERBURY, England (RNS) Government education inspectors and teachers are on a collision course after reports that Islamists are taking over schools in the English Midlands and encouraging students to believe in the biblical account of creation and accept the separation of girls and boys in classrooms, swimming pools and sporting fields.
Officials from the Office for Standards in Education have launched an inquiry into 21 schools in the Birmingham area suspected of being a part of an Islamist plot. Six of the 21 gave rise to what the office calls “serious concerns,” which include allegations that staffs were appointed on the basis of their religious beliefs.
Education Secretary Michael Gove recently raised a storm of controversy after he appointed a counterterrorism expert, Peter Clarke, to look into these claims.
Birmingham is Britain’s second-largest city. Parts of it are dominated by members of ethnic communities — most of them Muslims.
But not everyone believes this is a cause for alarm.
Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, called on the media to show “a sense of proportion” after tabloid reports of the takeover plot by hard-line Muslims called Operation Trojan Horse.
A 2011 census showed that there were 2.8 million Muslims in England and Wales — up from 1.6 million in 2001.
Hobby insists Muslims have reacted positively to a government call on leaders of ethnic communities to provide schools catering for the needs of local communities.
In many parts of the Midlands, ethnic communities are in the majority. A new book published this week by the think tank Policy Exchange says ethnic communities will make up a third of Britain by 2050.
YS/MG END GRUNDY