The home secretary Theresa May has gone public with direct criticisms of education secretary Michael Gove's handling of the Trojan Horse affair – suggesting an internal cabinet tussle over who can be toughest on threats of extremism.
In a letter released on Tuesday night, May upbraided Gove for the Department for Education's handling of allegations regarding Islamists in Birmingham schools for what she called "the inability of local and central government to tackle the problem effectively".
In the letter May asks Gove: "Is it true that Birmingham city council was warned about these allegations in 2008? Is it true that the Department for Education was warned in 2010? If so, why did nobody act?"
May went on to tell Gove: "It is clear to me that we will need to take clear action to improve the quality of staffing and governance if we are to prevent extremism in schools."
She said: "The publication of a code of practice for supplementary schools was an agreed Extremism Task Force commitment and we agreed at the conclusion of the ETF's work that the code should be voluntary.
"However, since the publication of the ETF report in December there have been serious allegations of extremism in some Birmingham schools and accusations about the inability of local and central government to tackle the problem effectively.
"In this context, I am not convinced that a voluntary code is sufficient and I believe it would be sensible to include the option of developing a mandatory code in your consultation document."
She said the consultation document should be clear that "nobody should be forced to dress in a particular way" but warned against changing the task force's agreed definition of Islamist extremism.
"The consultation document should be clear that nobody should be forced to dress in a particular way. We do, however, need to recognise that many moderate Muslims, as well as people of other religions, believe that covering one's hair is a religious requirement and some parents will therefore want their children to do so.
"The text on dress requirements should therefore not be part of the extremism definition but, consistent with the Government's already-stated position on the burqa, we should state clearly that nobody should be forced to dress in a particular way."
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