The Birmingham Book Lessons in urban education leadership and policy from the Trojan Horse affair#18.99*
- A comprehensive overview of The Trojan Horse affair in Birmingham (UK), looking at the key incidents involved.
- Colin Diamond has collected a wealth of fellow writers who reflect upon the experiences from the affair, examining key implications.
- The book recognises the complexities of inner-city schooling, drawing from a wealth of diverse communities, and how school leaders can embrace and welcome such diversity.
- The first-hand accounts of the affair make for fascinating reads, sharing learnings such as school leadership, governance and educational policy.
- This is an important and reflective book that looks at a critical incident in the educational history of the English system, understanding the complexities of communities and well as working to get the best balance.
Supported by Crown House Publishing
In February 2014, an anonymous letter was published in the media that fuelled a witch-hunt against Muslim school governors in Birmingham. Dubbed the ‘Trojan Horse Affair’, this damaging, scarring episode had profound consequences for education both in the Birmingham area and more widely.
It highlighted the use and abuse of power in the education system at school, local and national level, dividing the whole community and having widespread repercussions for tolerance, acceptance and equity. These included damage to the reputation of a city and a part of its community by politicians and the press determined to find radicalised violent extremism. Birmingham City Council had an exemplary education history, but their fall from grace as England’s leading local education authority in 2002 to the humiliation of being under the Department for Education’s direction and monitored by a commissioner was demoralising for all involved.
The affair threw into sharp relief the relationship between the state, education and faith. It remains a hotly contested narrative with entrenched positions on both sides of the debate and, for some, will always be a hoax directed against Muslim school governors in Birmingham. For them, then Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, weaponised the letter and unleashed the power of the state against a group of governors who had been attempting to improve the life chances of inner-city Muslim children over many years. For the Department for Education, this was an existential crisis – it appeared to Gove that a version of Islamism was infiltrating schools in Birmingham.
The reality is that there is no single narrative or ‘truth’. There are, in fact multiple, overlapping perspectives that weave together into a three-dimensional picture. One such perspective explains that there were attempts to run some schools on more Islam friendly lines but that this was never a national security issue.
Now, in a new book, Professor Colin Diamond of the University of Birmingham contributes to and edits a collection of first-hand accounts from a number of respected educationalists who lived and worked successfully in Birmingham over the years. In The Birmingham Book, he and his contributors share the learning that has arisen from the Trojan Horse affair and examine the implications for school leadership, governance and education policy, seeking to contextualise the major events that occurred in that period.
The themes that have emerged from the Trojan Horse experience will be familiar to all those in education leadership roles in inner cities; The Birmingham Book highlights many of these, including the challenge of getting the balance right in schools that serve communities in complex, urban, multi-faith societies and how to work with socially conservative religious cultures and faiths whilst simultaneously cultivating, without imposing, those more traditional ‘fundamental British values’, as described by the government at the time.
In his book, Colin reveals a kaleidoscope of values that should be central to all schools: trust, belief, tolerance and professionalism. In short, it’s about a community and its shared commitment to making childhood the very best it can be for all its children – and seeing schools as a vital part of this process. In Colin’s own words: “When all the intersectional elements within a city’s education community align, they create learning power with the heat of phosphorus; when they clash, that same heat can be destructive and leave lasting damage.”
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