Thinking Anglicans

Trojan horses, religion in schools, and public opinion

We have reported previously here, and then here, about the issues raised by events in a number of supposedly secular Birmingham schools.

British Religion and Numbers has published two articles discussing the public opinion polls that have been undertaken in response to all this.

Back on 12 June, there was Trojan Horse Plot and Other News.

Two-thirds of the British public think there is substance behind the allegations of a ‘Trojan horse’ plot whereby hardline Muslim groups have attempted to take over certain schools in Birmingham. However, opinion is divided about where blame for this state of affairs lies. These are among the findings of a poll conducted by YouGov for The Sunday Times, in which 2,134 adults aged 18 and over were interviewed online on 5 and 6 June 2014 (i.e. before the formal release of Ofsted’s reports on the 21 schools on 9 June). The data tables were published on 8 June at:

The opening questions were generic, YouGov’s panellists initially being asked whether it was acceptable for state schools with a majority of pupils from Muslim families to set rules reflecting their interpretation of Islamic religion and culture. Overwhelmingly (85%), this was deemed unacceptable, with still higher proportions among UKIP supporters (95%), the over-60s (93%), and Conservatives (91%). Overall, only 7% defended the operation of Islamic rules in these circumstances, and no more than 11% in any demographic sub-group…

Then on 18 June, BRIN published More Trojan Horse Polling. This includes two separate polling reports:

Trojan horse plot (1)

For the second week running, YouGov was commissioned by The Sunday Times to investigate public opinion surrounding issues raised by the so-called ‘Trojan horse’ plot, whereby Muslim hardliners were alleged to have been trying to take over the governance of some state schools in Birmingham. For this second poll, 2.106 Britons were interviewed online on 12 and 13 June 2014, with data tables published on 15 June at:

More than three-quarters (79%) of respondents identified some risk to state schools being taken over by religious extremists, 34% agreeing that there was a large risk in many parts of the country and 45% a minor risk in just a few parts of the country (with 10% detecting no significant risk and 2% none at all). Risks were most likely to be perceived by Conservatives (88%), UKIP voters (94%), and the over-60s (91%). One-half the sample considered that academies and free schools were at greater risk from religious extremism than local authority controlled schools, while 28% judged them at equal risk…

Trojan horse plot (2)

The ‘Trojan horse’ plot also provided the context for an online poll by Opinium Research among 1,002 UK adults aged 18 and over on 12 and 13 June 2014. It was conducted for The Observer, with a report appearing on pp. 1 and 14 of the main section of that newspaper dated 15 June. The survey concerned ‘faith schools’, although it should be noted that the schools at the centre of the ‘Trojan horse’ plot were not faith schools in the strict meaning of the term, but rather community schools, some under local authority control and some academies. The tables from the Opinium poll were released on 16 June and can be found at:

In the wake of the ‘Trojan horse’ controversy, Opinium’s panellists were asked whether they thought some predominantly Muslim schools were actually fostering extremist attitudes among their pupils. Most (55% overall, 60% of men and 63% of over-55s) considered that they were, far more than the 16% who believed that mainly Muslim schools were simply reflecting the values and views of the parents of their pupils. A further 29% did not know or otherwise could not choose between the two options on offer…

Do read the full analysis on each of these three polls.

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