The conclusions of the Education Select Committee regarding its investigation into the Trojan Hoax were unequivocal: there was no extremism, nor any takeover plot in Birmingham schools.
There was one incident, however as I have clarified, the fingers point back at a PREVENT officer using the school’s facility to copy over counter-extremism material. Despite this, Michael Gove’s buddy Peter Clarke and his report continue to be cited (see here and here), even though the report is riddled with issues: absence of corroborated evidence, ignorance of competing statements, (This bit here doesn’t make sense: those making claims were perpetuating them same but these issues were ignored) because they were not Muslim, and the commissioner of the report possessing an ideological hatred of Islam.
One would think that those teachers who saw the opportunity and obfuscated their personal vendettas with smears stereotypically implicating the Muslim community would perhaps learn their lesson, and not drag the demagogic terms “Trojan Horse” back onto the agenda. When it comes to one particular head teacher though, beating a neoconservative dead donkey is the order of the day.
Reported in a few papers including the bigoted Birmingham Mail, the Times (front page no less) and Guardian and Mirror, Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson recently decided to revive the tired Trojan Hoax claims and an NAHT conference, stating that:
“Trojan Horse has not gone away. Those of us who were involved, we knew it was the tip of the iceberg… We still have dead animals hung on the gates of schools, dismembered cats in playgrounds. We have petitions outside schools, objecting to teachers teaching against homophobia.”
Hewitt-Clarkson went onto state that she has received death threats, adding to the chilling atmosphere being created by the above astonishing statement.
There is some disparity between the reports about her death threats. The Mirror reported it as,
“[Hewitt-Clarkson] had received text messages threatening her over the school’s curriculum. The message read: ‘Any headteacher who teaches my children it’s alright to be gay will be at the end of my shotgun’.”
By the time the Guardian published it, it “text messages” became a message on Facebook:
“She said a death threat had been made against her on Facebook saying: “Any headteacher who teaches my children it’s all right to be gay will be at the end of my shotgun.””
Moreover, the Guardian added that, “NAHT officials said complaints had been made to the police but West Midlands police said on Sunday that it had no record of complaints being made.”
One thing I have learned is that lies and spin played a major part of the demonisation of Muslims last year during Michael Gove’s war; hearsay and sweeping claims made by anti-Muslim naysayers were taken as truth, while Muslim voices fell on deaf ears. A demand for evidence is, therefore, not an unreasonable one. It is in keeping with the “British values” of justice and fairness, no?
Demand for evidence becomes greater when given the mismatched reporting and the fact the police have stated that they have no record of the complaint. A simple screenshot of the message or a crime reference number would suffice as evidence to prove that complaints had been made to the police at around the time of the incident taking place. Indeed if it is found that the police were not notified at that time then this would be a serious failing on the part of the head, Hewitt-Clarkson, and a grave safeguarding issue potentially placing the lives of children at risk. If a death threat is received from a crazed gunman stating that he will shoot the headteacher, we have to presume that police would be called immediately and additional safeguarding measures put in place to protect children. If Ms Hewitt-Clarkson has failed to safeguard children, Ofsted should be notified.
The two other claims are either equally unsubstantiated or heavily spun. Let’s take the first one: dead animals hung on school gates and dismembered cats left in playgrounds. This is being used as evidence that the “Trojan Horse” has not gone away. The implication made is that Muslim governors and/or parents have killed these animals and left their bodies on school premises as part of the ‘Trojan horse’ plot.
Dead animals are evidence of either a cat fight gone wrong or the act of a sadistic individual who needs to be reported to the RSPCA. Hewitt-Clarkson and her NAHT buddies need to provide proof that these incidents and the Trojan Hoax are linked before demonising the Muslim community. In fact, we need to ask again whether the RSPCA/Police were contacted by the schools in which these horrifying incidents occurred. The cause of death of these animals should have been ascertained immediately as this could be another potential safeguarding issue for pupils at the schools. If this was not done, then the schools have failed in their safeguarding responsibilities and Ofsted should be notified.
For the record, I put these perfectly reasonable questions to Hewitt-Clarkson’s Twitter account.
Quite. I had more questions to ask, but alas, no answer was forthcoming from the normally blusterous and publicity-hungry head.
Parent petition equal to Trojan Hoax claims?
We then have some democratic activity being painted with the brush of “extremism”: parents petitioning outside schools. We are told, with a healthy dose of spin, that the parents are objecting to teaching against intolerance of homosexuality. However, the petition was against the CHIPS programme – which is NOT mandatory – as being the means of delivering the message of tolerance, with the specific concern being the appropriateness of the material for the age group. Even the Birmingham Mail reported this earlier this month and the concerns of parents were noted:
“It’s not just a Muslim issue, it is an opinion shared across all faiths.
“The material needs to be age appropriate and we do not feel it is.
“I know it’s part of life and they need to learn about it, but I feel it would be more appropriate when they are in Year 5 or Year 6.”
My sources in Birmingham state that the objection has come from Muslims across the religious spectrum. Indeed denoting such an opposition through democratic means as “Trojan Horse” evidence and therefore “extremism” means that presumably parents participating in a democratic petition are now “extremists”. Thank you Hewitt-Clarkson, for making your Gove-esque, anti-Muslim hatred clear. Perhaps what accentuates the perception of Muslim minority discrimination is the fact that the reportage of Christian opposition to the CHIPS programme is notable only by its absence.
According to one report,
“some parents had been supported by Safe at School, a campaign run by the anti-abortion group the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (Spuc), which had emailed them a list of questions and comments to make (see below).”
In October 2014, parents at Welford School voiced their concerns to the school. The head teacher who experienced these complaints was more transparent in terms of where the opposition came from:
“For us it is not about Muslim hardliners or anything like that,” he says, explaining that the objectors come from “a range of religions and some of no religion at all”.
My sources also state that another Christian campaign group, “Because Children Matter”, have produced a leaflet called CHIPS Refried, which analyses the content.
By focussing on the Trojan Hoax, Hewitt-Clarkson disingenuously limits the discussion to Muslims only. Given her contributory support of Michael Gove’s anti-Muslim war, to the point of throwing in “relentless questioning” by governors whose role it is to question, as evidence of Trojan hoax allegations, one wonders whether Hewitt-Clarkson has an axe to grind against Muslims, the group of people which make up the majority of her pupils at her school. My sources state that there is friction between the head and the local community, however, as I have not been able to corroborate details of the potential roots of her disconcerting profiling of Muslims, I will defer this point to a possible follow-up article.
Or perhaps Hewitt-Clarkson wants to keep the focus on Muslims, because it is easier to do so given the open season, virulent anti-Muslim sentiment in Britain, which allows for unsubstantiated claims against Muslims to be made and believed with complete nonchalance. Easier, than say, justifying why the percentage of pupils at her school achieving level 4 or above in reading, writing and maths has been lower than average across Birmingham Local Authority schools and lower than the national average for the last three years. Or, easier than explaining why Key Stage 1 results in 2014 were also far lower than the national average (with maths results having dropped by a massive 10 percent in just one year). Perhaps.