An equality campaigner has singled out Muslim faith schools in Britain as the worst culprits for encouraging division and failing integration, amid new research that shows the British are increasingly rejecting multiculturalism and choosing to socialise only with people like themselves.
Matthew Taylor, the chairman of the Social Integration Commission and a former advisor to Tony Blair, cited the exceptionally homogeneous nature of student intake at Muslim faith schools as a stumbling block towards integration. The Independent newspaper reports the cost of all the people of Britain failing to get along perfectly is some £6 billion a year.
Taylor’s comments appear to match the experiences of the Department for Education, which spent much of 2014 dealing with the so-called ‘Trojan Horse’ scandal, in which a number of British schools were found to have been ‘taken over’ from the inside by Islamist school governors, who were in the process of forcing out Christian or moderate Muslim members of staff.
While the department has tackled many of the identified ‘Trojan Horse’ Muslim schools, it has gone much farther, targeting previously rated ‘Good’ Christian schools and criticising them for failing to welcome foreign cultures into the classroom. Some church schools have had their OFSTED report scores damaged for failing to invite an Imam into the classroom to lead assemblies or lessons, an essential part of what the department believes is necessary to prepare children for “modern Britain”.
As well as criticising Muslim schools for purposefully recruiting a homogenous student body, Taylor also scorned children themselves for naturally forming social groups of similar children, even within schools that were superficially otherwise diverse. He said it was the responsibility of staff to break up these social groups and to force children to play with others unlike themselves.
Taylor told the Independent: “even when the kids do arrive in the school, very often the schools don’t pay sufficient attention to the fact that there are very, very different groups in the playground and they don’t attend to the need to bring them together.
“One of the ways in which we should be preparing young people for the world in which they’re going to live is getting them used to and relaxed about mixing with people from different classes, different ages and different ethnicities.
“Britain’s becoming more diverse and if we don’t think about this and we’re not willing to act on it, the danger is that we’ll become more separate”.
“We have to recognise that Muslim faith schools seem to be much more monocultural than Catholic faith schools or Church of England faith schools.
“It’s a very difficult policy because if you have Catholic and Church of England faith schools you can’t really deny the need for Muslim faith schools, but there is a different character, they tend to be much less diverse”.
He added: “I think schools should be asked to report on their level of integration and their strategies for integration… I think it’d be a great question to ask school governors: what are you doing to make sure the pupils in your school are mixing with a broader cross-section of society?”