Birmingham City Council could have tackled the Trojan Horse problems much earlier but officials failed to speak out because they were worried about damaging “community relations”, according to Sir Mike Tomlinson.
Concerns had been raised with the council long before the emergence of the Trojan Horse letter. But Sir Mike told TES there was a “failure to make any comment” because officials “thought to say anything could damage community relations”.
However, refusing to talk openly about the issues at an earlier stage had actually “weakened” some community relations, he said.
Sir Mike’s comments follow the publication of a government-commissioned report on integration by Dame Louise Casey this week, which says that authorities have turned a blind eye to divisive religious practices “for fear of being branded racist or Islamophobic”.
“The authorities, whoever they are, have got to be able to speak out about these matters without fear of breaking any law,” Sir Mike said.
He added that the “biggest remaining task” for Birmingham was improving community cohesion because areas of the city remained as “monocultural enclaves”.
However, Birmingham had made “a lot of progress” since Trojan Horse and the chances of a repeat in the city were “very, very small”. A number of “quite unique” partnerships and school structures had been established that other areas could learn from, Sir Mike said.
“Everybody is sharing information,” he added. “Everybody is there making sure that they know what the issue is in the particular school and who’s tackling that problem.
“Those structures, in my view, prevent problems from escalating too far. And that’s why I’m confident that, at the moment, while the people concerned with the original Trojan Horse affair are still citizens of Birmingham, I think that there is very, very small chance indeed of any school becoming affected in the way that the 21 [involved in the original affair] were.”