Louise Casey’s long-awaited report on extremism for Downing Street will defend councils retaining a coordinating role in education as part of a zero-tolerance strategy against segregation and intolerance, LGC understands.
The outspoken civil servant, who has led government work on the Troubled Families programme and wrote a report into Rotherham’s child sexual exploitation scandal, was commissioned by David Cameron last year to examine issues including community cohesion and social opportunity.
It is anticipated a short interim report setting out some of the facts about the population makeup of divided communities will be published shortly, with her hard-hitting full report being delivered to the new prime minister in the autumn.
Insiders suggest the reports will supply “a stocktake of the tougher end of Britain”, looking at the ethnic make-up of poorer areas, examining issues such as high birth-rates, incidences of domestic violence and the status of women in certain communities.
The full report will defend the regularly criticised counter-extremism programme Prevent, despite many members of ethnic minority communities saying it alienates the groups to which society needs to reach out by labelling them as being at risk of extremism.
Ms Casey, the director general of the Casey review team, is understood to argue that there is “no other show in town” than Prevent, and that the safeguarding of children from becoming involved in terrorism is of paramount importance.
It is likely the report will be viewed sympathetically by incoming prime minister Theresa May who in 2011, as home secretary, called for Prevent to contribute to an “unyielding fight against extremism, violent extremism and radicalisation”. Ms May also urged the tackling of the “insidious impact of non-violent extremism, which can create an atmosphere conducive to terrorism and can popularise views which terrorists exploit”. Such themes are understood to run through Ms Casey’s review.
Ms Casey will also offer an unfavourable critique of the Department for Communities & Local Government’s integration strategy. Her review will say there has been too much focus on the “softer” end of integration, such as community leaders of different faiths eating curry together, rather than confronting segregation and fighting objectionable views.
One source with knowledge of the review said some of the government’s policies on education “aren’t helping” to build cohesive communities by resulting in certain schools being dominated by pupils of different religions.
A report by the British Humanist Association last year claimed “virtually all religiously selective state schools in England are breaking the law” by failing to follow the school admissions code, discriminating against children whose families hold other or no religious beliefs. Meanwhile, cohesion expert Ted Cantle last year used an LGC article to claim the advent of free schools and academies, and the government-supported growth in faith schools, allowed them to “operate in isolation” and “target separate communities without considering community cohesion”.
Although the government retreated on a plan to make all schools self-governing academies, it has reduced the powers of councils over schools. Education secretary Nicky Morgan is understood to tomorrow due to be outlining the government’s policy on councils’ role in education in a speech.
The source with knowledge of the Casey review said: “You might not necessarily need schools to be run by local authorities but you do need a local authority to have a strategic overview of what their communities are looking like.”
Among the other potentially controversial areas to be discussed in the report is the high birth-rate in the south Asian and Orthodox Jewish communities and the concentration of certain ethnic groups in particular areas, with some wards having a population of up to 75% of Pakistani heritage.
It will say that while society overall is becoming less religious, a sub-group of the population is becoming more religious.
In a speech at last week’s Local Government Association conference, Ms Casey gave a hint about some of her review’s content.
She urged civic leaders to tackle “the 1%” of the population who did not share society’s common values, including those of the far right and Islamic extremists who she labelled “the peddlers of hate and of harm”.
“Across all of our institutions we need to be much bolder in not just celebrating our history, heritage and culture, but standing up for our democratically decided upon laws of the land, and standing up to those that undermine them. Nothing can or should override them,” she said.
Among policies she mooted were moves to bolster “basic integrity” in public service, including the disqualification of councillors who did not pay council tax or were convicted of child sexual offences. She also suggested councillors could sign an oath, in the same way police and MPs do.
Ms Casey also declared herself “worried” about sharia courts, which she said had attracted criticism from “countless” women’s groups.