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LGBT teaching row is Trojan Horse, claims expert

The row about LGBT teaching in Birmingham primary schools is fundamentally a repeat of the Trojan Horse controversy – says the expert who predicted it could happen.

The row about LGBT teaching in Birmingham primary schools is fundamentally a repeat of the Trojan Horse controversy – says the expert who predicted it could happen

Dr Karamat Iqbal has argued that the ‘community disconnect’ that he believes was a key driver behind the Trojan Horse affair in 2014 has resurfaced again in the latest Birmingham education dispute to spark a national debate.

He has called for a greater partnership between schools and parents to prevent similar situations spiralling out of control in the future.

Dr Iqbal, an education and diversity consultant who runs Forward Partnership, addressed Trojan Horse in his recent book ‘British Pakistani Boys, Education and the role of Religion’.

In an interview with the LDRS upon its release he said: “Some people have argued the standards issue is worse and the trust issue is worse in that the community and schools do not trust each other.

“The under-representation of Pakistani people on governing bodies is worse.

“So the situation Trojan was triggered by is actually worse.

“I have posed the question (in my book) could Trojan happen again? The answer is yes.”

Now several months on Dr Iqbal has reflected on the LGBT teaching row.

The controversy was initially prompted by the No Outsiders programme at Parkfield Community School in Alum Rock, although in recent months the emphasis has switched to Anderton Park Primary in Sparkhill which promotes equality, including LGBT, through storybooks.

Many Muslim parents have argued the books go against their religious beliefs and are not age-appropriate, while the schools have argued that they are promoting diversity in accordance with the Equality Act.

Dr Iqbal said: “Trojan Horse was about different issues, but fundamentally it is about education and how it’s provided and how the partnership is working or not working between the providers of education (schools) and the community.

“They (schools) are public servants, servants of the community, we forget that sometimes. They are not there as non-accountable bodies, they are accountable bodies.

“Trojan Horse was predicted. There was a trust breakdown, there was a community and school disconnect and that continues to be and in fact it is even worse.

“There will be other affairs and controversies. It’s important to learn the lessons from what’s happened and build infrastructure, some sort of system for dealing with it properly.

“Rather than have a situation where there’s inappropriate behaviour or an inappropriate way of dealing with conflict and understanding which has the potential for misuse and abuse by different parties.

“If people have an opinion and there isn’t a proper system of communicating that, if they don’t feel they are being heard then they will take it elsewhere. It won’t go away.”

Elaborating on the ideal relationship between schools and parents, Dr Iqbal said: “The phrase I constantly come across from the Department for Education is ‘Parents as the first educators of children’.

“It is about absolute partnership. It’s a partnership between schools and parents of children at the school, but also partnership between the school and the community that’s around them.

“I see schools very much to be not just in a community but of the community and with the community.

“We know partnerships are not easy, you have to work through them, address the difficult issues then you have a relationship of trust and whatever comes up in the future you will be ready.”

Dr Iqbal stressed that equality was a ‘mainstream matter’ that should be a running theme through all subjects at all ages levels.

He said: “There’s a danger in thinking this is about No Outsiders. This is about equality and teaching about it and as to what resource you use is detail.

“I don’t think any school should stop teaching about equality. All schools should teach about equality not just in multi-cultural, multi-racial areas like Birmingham but across the country.

“Wherever you are, we are one society, one country and it’s important for children to learn about the diversity in our society.

“It’s not just about one dimension of equality but all equality. The Equality Act lists nine different characteristics and it’s important for children to have an understanding of all of those areas as they go through the school system.

“It doesn’t all have to be taught in primary school. After primary they’ll go to secondary and college, university.

“It’s important to make sure as you go through the system the same subjects, the same messages are reinforced.”

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