See below for a message from myself and Shabana Mahmood MP:
Don’t Lose Faith
Liam Byrne MP and Shabana Mahmood MP
The allegations made about some Birmingham schools are incredibly serious. From the word ‘go’, we demanded that nothing be swept under the carpet, that parents have the facts – and fast.
We want specifics; has gender segregation taken place in mixed schools, yes or no? Have extremist preachers been invited to give assemblies, yes or no?
Why is this necessary? Because Michael Gove’s education policy has left our city with a fragmented school system over which no one has control. Michael Gove and the DfE are theoretically responsible for the numerous academies in our city but how on earth can they do that from Whitehall?
The fact is they can’t and everyone knows it. This has allowed claim and counter claim to flourish – in this context the truth is hard to find.
As the net has widened, these investigations have left local parents with an anger-making sense that schools have come under suspicion merely because they serve a population that is predominantly Muslim; that state schools which make reasonable accommodations for local needs – like allowing a day off to celebrate a religious festival, or allowing pupils to use a school room to pray during the lunch break – might be fine for some – but not for Muslims.
Schools take these steps because they respect students with strong religious convictions and recognise that faith plays an important role for those students in driving their aspiration and every child we inspire helps make our city a richer and better place.
Yet now thousands of Muslim parents feel that they and their children are automatically under suspicion, and that the education they receive will be viewed through the prism of counter-terrorism.
We simply do not accept this.
For many people faith is an integral part of their daily lives. It is a strength to be harnessed which is why today we call on the city’s faith leaders to come together to show the city just how excellence in standards and strength of faith can be coupled better in our state schools.
At the same time we hope that the lessons will be learnt. Ofsted must ask some searching questions about how it so misjudged standards in the past. Michael Gove has to tell us how he let things get out of hand. Of the five schools allegedly bound for special measures, four are academies for which he and no-one else is accountable.
Faith has inspired greatness in our country – and has done for centuries. Let’s build an education system in which it can flourish.
Not just for some. But for all.