Discourses of Extremism and British Values

The Politics of the Trojan Horse


  • Stefanie Sinclair The Open University




British values, extremism, party-political discourses, school governance, radicalisation, representations of Muslims


This article critically investigates the production of party-political discourses of “extremism” and “British values” in response to the so-called “Trojan Horse affair.” This “affair,” which first hit UK media headlines in 2014, relates to allegations of an organised Islamic plot aiming to infiltrate schools in Birmingham to radicalise schoolchildren. Though these allegations remain unproven, they have been used to justify changes in educational policies, practices and government guidance for schools, registered childcare providers, universities and colleges in the UK. This article explores the context that has shaped party-political discourses of “extremism” and “British values” employed in connection with the Trojan Horse affair. It investigates political agendas these discourses have been tied to and considers the impact they have had.

Author Biography

Stefanie Sinclair, The Open University

Stefanie Sinclair, Senior Lecturer in Religious Studies, Department of Religious Studies, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, The Open University, Milton Keynes, UK.


Adams, Richard. 2014a. “Birmingham politicians and parents speak out against Trojan horse scandal.” The Guardian. 27 June. http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/jun/27/trojan-horse-birmingham-politicians-respond

———. 2014b. “Is the Trojan horse row just a witch hunt triggered by a hoax?” The Guardian. 8 June. http://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/jun/08/trojan-horse-extremism-political-storm-michael-gove-ofsted

———. 2014c. “Ofsted inspectors make U-turn on ‘Trojan Horse’ school, leak shows.” The Guardian. 30 May. http://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/may/30/ofsted-u-turn-trojan-horse-park-view-school-leak

Allen, Chris. 2010. Islamophobia. Farnham, UK: Ashgate.

———. 2014. “Operation Trojan Horse: How a Hoax problematised Muslims and Islam.” Discover Society 10. http://www.discoversociety.org/2014/07/01/operation-trojan-horse-how-a-hoax-problematised-muslims-and-islam

Arthur, James. 2015. “Extremism and Neo-liberal Education Policy: A Contextual Critique of the Trojan Horse Affair in Birmingham Schools.” British Journal of Educational Studies 63 (3): 311-328. https://doi.org/10.1080/00071005.2015.1069258

Awan, Imran. 2014a. “Operation ‘Trojan Horse’: Islamophobia or Extremism?” Political Insight 5 (2): 38–39. https://doi.org/10.1111/2041-9066.12062

———. 2014b. “The Blog: Why Muslims in Birmingham feel like a ‘suspect’ community.” The Hunffington Post. 9 March. http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/imran-awan/muslims-birmingham_b_4917182.html

Baxter, Jacqueline. 2014. “Policy briefing: Trojan Horse, the media and the Ofsted inspectorate.” Discover Society 10. http://discoversociety.org/2014/07/01/policy-briefing-trojan-horse-the-media-and-the-ofsted-inspectorate-2/

———. 2016. School Governance: Policy, Politics and Practices. Bristol: Policy Press.

BBC News. 2014a. “Extremism in Schools: Gove ‘Changed Mind’ on Inspections.” 9 June. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-27769973

BBC News. 2014b. “May and Gove’s Row over Extremism in Schools.” 4 June. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-27691901

———. 2014c. “Michael Gove Apologises over ‘Trojan Horse’ Row with Theresa May.” 8 June. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-27750921

———. 2014d. “Ofsted Reports on 21 Birmingham Schools – Full List.” 9 June. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-27765372

———. 2014e. “Trojan Horse Row: British Values Appeal Overwhelming, Says PM.” 10 June. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-27778272

———.. 2014f. “‘Trojan Horse’: The 21 Schools in Detail.” 9 June. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-birmingham-27766973

———. 2014g. “Trojan Horse: ‘Tragedy’ if Governors Stepped Down.” 18 June. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-birmingham-27899596

———. 2014h. “ ‘Trojan’ trust boss slams ‘shoddy’ school inspections.” 16 June. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-birmingham-27873715

———. 2016. “What does it mean to be an academy school?”16 March. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-13274090

Brighouse, T., Richardson, R., Yaqoob, S., Wylie, T., Hewitt, I., Sayyid, S., Merali, A., Choudry, S., Singh Gill, B., Shadjareh, M., Mura, F., Ali, A., Coles, M. I., Vakil, A., Cressey, G., Gree, S., Draper, M., Shah, A., Bashir, T., Kahn, M.G. 2014. “Ofsted credibility at stake over ‘Trojan Horse’ schools inquiry.” The Guardian. 3 June. http://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/jun/03/ofsted-credibility-at-stake-trojan-horse

Caldwell, S., Pryce, A., Miles, L., Fenwick, T., Kenny, A., Kirk, S., O’Brian, N., Aziza, P., Brinson, D., Clinton, T., Gwynn, D., Barrie, R., Buxton, C., Nugent, N., Roche, J., Jones, N., McGuiness, H., Lyons, S., Smith, C., Ballard-East, E., Evans, M., Bradley, J. 2014. “Trust at Birmingham schools needs to be rebuilt.” The Guardian. 25 June. http://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/jun/25/trust-birmingham-schools-needs-rebuilt

Cameron, David. 2011. “PM’s speech at Munich Security Conference.” Government of the UK. 5 February. https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/pms-speech-at-munich-security-conference

———. 2014. “British Values Aren’t Optional, They’re Vital. That’s Why I will Promote Them in EVERY School.” MailOnline. 15 June. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2658171/DAVID-CAMERON-British-values-arent-optional-theyre-vital-Thats-I-promote-EVERY-school-As-row-rages-Trojan-Horse-takeover-classrooms-Prime-Minister-delivers-uncompromising-pledge.html

Clarke, Peter. 2014. Report into Allegations Concerning Birmingham Schools Arising from the ‘Trojan Horse’ Letter. London: Department for Education. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/340526/HC_576_accessible_-.pdf

Cook, Chris. 2014a. “Inside the Trojan Horse.” BBC News. 28 April. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-27188055

Cook, Chris. 2014b. “May and Gove’s Think Tank Row.” BBC News. 5 June. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-27709008

Coolness of Hind. 2014. “Exposed: Evangelical Christians Behind Trojan Horse Letter.” Coolness of Hind: A Concerned Muslims Blog. 12 July. http://coolnessofhind.wordpress.com/2014/07/12/exposed-evangelical-christians-behind-trojan-horse-letter/

Coughlan, Sean. 2016a. “School Chief Bans Use of the Term ‘Trojan Horse.’” BBC News. 12 March. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-35794359

———. 2016b. “Teachers Warn Extremism Police Prevents Open Debate.” BBC News. 28 March. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-35907831

Department for Education. 2014. “Guidance on promoting British values in schools published.” Government of the UK. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/guidance-on-promoting-british-values-in-schools-published

Education Act. 2005. 44(1). http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2005/18/pdfs/ukpga_20050018_en.pdf

Fairclough, Norman, and Ruth Wodak. 1997. “Critical Discourse Analysis.” In Discourse as Social Interaction. In Discourse Studies: A multidisciplinary introduction, Volume 2, edited by Teun A.van Dijk, 258–284. London: Sage. https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctt22p7kfq

Garner, Richard. 2013. “How did Park View go from bottom of the league tables to an Ofsted ‘outstanding’ rating?” Independent. 30 January. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/schools/how-did-park-view-go-from-bottom-of-the-league-tables-to-an-ofsted-outstanding-rating-8473831.html

———. 2014. “Trojan Horse Row Q&A: What is the ‘Muslim Plot’ all About – and Why is it So Important?” The Independent. 8 June. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/trojan-horse-row-qa-everything-you-need-to-know-about-alleged-plot-by-fundamentalist-muslims-to-take-9509465.html

gov.uk. 2016. “Types of School: Academies.” https://www.gov.uk/types-of-school/academies

Hansard. 2014a. “Birmingham schools.” House of Commons. June 9. Vol ume582: 264–285. https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2014-06-09/debates/1406095000002/BirminghamSchools

Hansard. 2014b. “Extremism.” House of Commons. June 9. Volume 582: 245–263. https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2014-06-09/debates/1406095000001/Extremism

Heath-Kelly, Charlotte. 2013. “Counter-terrorism and the Counterfactual: Producing the ‘Radicalisation’ Discourse and the UK PREVENT Strategy.” The British Journal of Politics and International Relations 15 (3): 394–415. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-856X.2011.00489.x

Hjelm, Titus. 2011. “Discourse analysis.” In The Routledge Handbook of Research Methods in the Study of Religion, edited by Michael Stausberg and Steven Engler, 134-150. Abindgon: Routledge. https://doi.org/10.5840/jrv20153114

Holmwood, John and O’Toole, Therese. 2018. Countering Extremism in British Schools? The Truth about the Birmingham Trojan Horse Affair. Bristol: Policy Press. https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctt22p7kfq

HM Government. 2015. Prevent Duty Guidance: Guidance for specified authorities in England and Wales on the duty in the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 to have due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism. http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukdsi/2015/9780111133309/pdfs/ukdsiod_9780111133309_en.pdf

Home Office. 2011. Prevent Strategy https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/97976/prevent-strategy-review.pdf

Institute for Social and Economic Research, University of Essex. 2014. “Just who feels British?” Understanding Society. https://www.understandingsociety.ac.uk/2014/01/09/just-who-does-feel-british

Kennedy, D., G. Hurst, and R. Gledhill. 2014. “New Evidence Raises Doubts About Extremist Plot to Take Over School.” The Times. 11 March. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/new-evidence-raises-doubts-about-extremist-plot-to-take-over-school-k92bhqwq595

May, Theresa. 2014. “Theresa May’s letter to Michael Gove in full.” The Guardian. 4 June. http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/jun/04/theresa-may-letter-michael-gove-in-full

Mercer, Kobena. 1990. “Welcome to the Jungle: Identity and Diversity in Postmodern Politics.” In Identity: Community, Culture and Difference, edited by Jonathan Rutherford, 43–71. London: Laurence and Wishart.

Mogra, Imran. 2016. “The “Trojan Horse” affair and radicalisation: an analysis of Ofsted reports.” Educational Review 68 (4): 444–465. https://doi.org/10.1080/00131911.2015.1130027

Morey, Peter and Yaqin, Amina. 2011. Framing Muslims: Stereotyping and representation after 9/11. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. https://doi.org/10.1080/00131911.2015.1130027

Nandi, Alita and Platt, Lucinda. 2014. Britishness and Identity Assimilation among the UK’s Minority and Majority ethnic groups. ISER Working Paper Series No. 2014-01. Institute for Social and Economic Research, University of Essex/Economic and Social Research Council. https://www.iser.essex.ac.uk/research/publications/working-papers/iser/2014-01.pdf

National College for Teaching and Leadership. 2017. “Professional Conduct Panel Outcome: Mr Monzoor Hussain, Mr Hardeep Saini, Mr Arshad Hussain, Mr Razwan Faraz, Ms Lindsey Clark.” https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/619386/PVL_Panel_decision_and_reasons_for_web.pdf

National Union of Teachers. 2016. “Prevent Strategy.” 28 March. https://www.teachers.org.uk/news-events/conference-2016/prevent-strategy

Ofsted. 2014a. Inspection Report: Golden Hillcock School – A Park View Academy: 2–3 April 2014. https://files.api.ofsted.gov.uk/v1/file/2391869

———. 2014b. Inspection Report: Nansen Primary School – A Park View Academy: 2-3 April 2014. https://files.api.ofsted.gov.uk/v1/file/2391873

———. 2014c. Inspection Report: Oldknow Academy: 7-8 April 2014. https://files.api.ofsted.gov.uk/v1/file/2391833

———. 2014d. Inspection Report: Park View School Academy of Mathematics and Science: 5–6 and 17–18 March 2014. https://files.api.ofsted.gov.uk/v1/file/2391877

———. 2014e. Inspection Report: Saltley School and Specialist Science College: 9-10 April 2014. https://files.api.ofsted.gov.uk/v1/file/2391825

———. 2015a. Monitoring inspections of Schools that are Subject to Special Measures. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/457224/Monitoring_inspections_of_schools_that_are_subject_to_special_measures_from_September_2012.pdf

———. 2015b. School Inspection Handbook: Handbook for inspecting schools in England under section 5 of the Education Act 2005. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/school-inspection-handbook-from-september-2015

———. 2016. “About Us.” Government of the UK. http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/about-us

Park View Educational Trust. 2014. http://www.pvet.co.uk/

Qurashi, Fahid. 2016. “Prevent gives people permission to hate Muslims – it has no place in schools.” The Guardian. 4 April. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/apr/04/prevent-hate-muslims-schools-terrorism-teachers-reject

Trojan Horse Review Group. 2014. Report to Leader of Birmingham City Council, 18 July. www.birmingham.gov.uk

Weale, Sally. 2015. “Teachers Urged to ‘Disengage’ from promotion of British Values.” The Guardian. 30 March. http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/mar/30/teachers-urged-to-disengage-from-promotion-of-british-values



How to Cite

Sinclair, S. (2019). Discourses of Extremism and British Values: The Politics of the Trojan Horse. Implicit Religion, 21(4), 339–361. https://doi.org/10.1558/imre.38965




Most read articles by the same author(s)