The Home Front: Beware the Real Trojan Horse
The Home Front: Beware the Real Trojan Horse

The Home Front: Beware the Real Trojan Horse

Antionia Robinson FAITH MAGAZINE September-October 2014

Beware the Real Trojan Horse 

While civil libertarians and family campaigners have been exercised by the proposed “Cinderella Law” in England and the “Named Person” legislation in Scotland, you’d be forgiven for having missed an insidious consultation being rushed through on the hush-hush in just six quiet weeks this summer.

The Consultation for Promoting British Values in School is a hastily thrown together set of amendments to the Independent School Standards (2013) which ensured all independent schools’ activities and teaching be informed by the 2010 Equalities Act.The consultation proposes strengthening the Independent School Standards regulations and extending these to all schools (state and independent), emphasising that a school’s “written policy, plans and schemes of work [… must] not undermine the fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs.” Proposed changes would “provide a stronger basis for swift intervention in schools which are not actively promoting British values.” All of which sounds reasonable on the surface.

Moral teachings have always been the front line of conflict between Catholic schools and state regulators: the difference now is that what is proposed would give the state powers that it didn’t have before. 

In the context of the consultation “British Values” are largely defined by the 2010 Equalities Act, already used as a big stick to beat Christians. The disingenuous use of “British Values” (or “values” at all) in this context exudes the whiff of Orwellian Newspeak. The “values” a school must actively support and promote include a positive view of transgender and gender reassignment, “marriage” in all state approved forms, and a plethora of sexual variants.

A Catholic secondary school teaching that marriage is between a man and a woman would be in direct contravention: FAIL. A Religious Education class teaching that Extra ecclesiam nulla salus would be in contravention: FAIL. Catholic teaching on abortion, transsexuality and gender also contravenes the Equalities Act agenda. A school that taught the faith with any degree of rigour would automatically fall foul. If you thought British Values might include fair play and cricket, think again.

The Consultation for promoting British Values in School was cobbled together in the wake of an investigation into the alleged commandeering by Islamists of some secular state schools in Birmingham. The most disturbing thing about the so-called “Trojan Horse” affair wasn’t that Muslims are teaching their children to be Muslims (we should be used to that) but rather the reports that followed on the back of the story of The Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED) inspections of Muslim independent schools in other areas.

Inspectors failed schools on “diversity” criteria based on young children declining to talk about their “attitudes to homosexuality”. One school asked the inspectors to leave, saying that it upset and unsettled the children to have a stranger enter the (primary) classroom and demand that the children talk about something they were uncomfortable with. A spokesman said “It was a kind of sex education lesson but by untrained inspectors without the consent of parents or the school,” In a sane world this would be an entirely reasonably response: in what other situation could a complete stranger approach a group of young children and ask them about same sex attraction? OFSTED’s reply to the schools was robust: “The Independent School Standards, published by the Department for Education, set out that schools have a duty to teach pupils tolerance of different groups within society.” Why then, the school asked, did inspectors focus on same-sex attraction to the exclusion of race and disability?

Clearly the inspectors went in with an agenda, and a more robust set of tools to forward this agenda in all British schools is heading our way.

An “emergency inspection” of an independent traditionalist Catholic school was made at the request of the Department of Education shortly after the Independent school guidelines came into force. The request was made by the DoE to “check the school’s compliance with the independent school regulations for … ensuring that balanced views are presented in teaching”. The school was found to be lacking in “balance” of political views (in other words a laudable dearth of moral relativism). A follow-up inspection published in 2014 reported that “at the time of the emergency inspection, the head teacher was unaware of the regulations regarding the promotion of partisan political views in teaching… This issue has now been appropriately addressed…The regulation is now met.” One can only imagine that the school has found a Jesuitical solution to this problem. Whether larger and less rigorously Catholic state schools would be motivated to find a solution rather than capitulating is more of a worry.

Moral teachings have always been the front line of conflict between Catholic schools and state regulators: the difference now is that what is proposed would give the state powers that it didn’t have before.

Whilst the ostensible motivation for this is to stop radicalisation of young British Muslims, it is difficult to believe that OFSTED inspectors would not prefer to pick the lower-hanging, easier and less controversial fruit. Catholic schools will be a quick win.

In reality what this will mean more ground conceded to the government’s “Equalities” agenda: the guidelines state that schools will have to demonstrate not only that they do not contravene the 2010 Equalities Act but that they “actively promote” and support it. Although this may have been the de-facto reality until now, the proposed legislation will allow swift enforcement of any transgressions: the government’s bark will have a bite. The real Trojan horse in the Birmingham affair is the imposition on schoolchildren of a radical liberal agenda lurking behind a thin veneer of “British Values”.

Antonia Robinson is a home-educating mother of four and lives in London

Faith Magazine