On 22nd July 2014, a Government statement on Birmingham Schools was repeated in the House of Lords by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools, Lord Nash. The Bishop of Birmingham, the Rt Revd David Urquhart, responded to the statement. He called for Government support of the Kershaw Report, asked for clarity on responsibility and accountability in the education system, and argued that the incident highlighted the need for greater understanding of faith and religion throughout civil society.
The Lord Bishop of Birmingham: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for bringing the Secretary of State’s Statement to the House and for the publication of Peter Clarke’s report. As he mentioned, this goes alongside Ian Kershaw’s report, which was published on Friday, about Birmingham City Council and it has the support of the Birmingham Trojan horse review group, of which I am a member. That group has published its own, wider recommendations in this complex and troubling period. Does the Minister agree that both reports are thorough and hard-hitting, and that there is much in common in their findings?
Will he also affirm that it is vital now that we have a co-ordinated effort across all interested parties and responsible bodies, not only to rectify wrongdoing and implement the welcome recommendations of both reports but to ensure that every child in Birmingham has an excellent education, preparing her or him to flourish in our liberal 21st-century democracy, so that they can start the new academic year in September confident that the proper structures, monitoring and support are in place? Can he also reassure the House that, given the arrangements he is proposing, with these rapid and responsible responses to new structures and influences in Birmingham, we will be absolutely clear by September who is responsible for what in this revolutionary period in our education system? Will sufficient resource be directed to enable local authorities and their partners, new and old, to achieve this safeguarding, which is the responsibility for all children, in whatever form of education or schools they are, and can he reassure the House that they will receive that?
May I also make a wider point about this complex matter? Faith, in a city such as Birmingham, is of great importance to a huge number of the population, which is perhaps unusual across the population of the country. The issues that we face in these reports are wider than just education and, of course, the Prevent strategy, such as making sure that proper arrangements are in place for the safety of all. Will the Secretary of State’s department consider taking responsibility for developing a new awareness and experience among all professionals, of whatever responsibility, of what lived faith looks like in a 21st century city and enable a wider conversation about faith, not only in education but throughout civil society?
Lord Nash: I welcome the right reverend Prelate’s “look forward” approach to this matter and am grateful to the diocese of Birmingham for its support for the schools and academies programme and its collaborative approach to working both with the department and with other dioceses. As the right reverend Prelate says, both reports are hard-hitting. We should all take stock and analyse all the recommendations.
As for being clear by September who is responsible for what in these schools, it is clear now today that we have changed the members of the Park View Educational Trust, which was responsible for three academies, Park View, Golden Hillock and Nansen Primary. They will become trustees of the trust. We will bring in further outstanding heads as trustees, who will be responsible between now and the beginning of September for securing the schools and analysing which teachers may have behaved inappropriately. They will not hesitate to take the right action against any teachers who have behaved unprofessionally and will make sure the schools are safe and ready for opening in September. Probably during August, we will work with potential sponsors for these schools to ensure their long-term future. This has invited a wider discussion about faith, which is very welcome.
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