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All eyes on Birmingham as the ‘Trojan Horse’ bolts

All eyes on Birmingham as the ‘Trojan Horse’ bolts

🕔09.Jun 2014

The worst media headlines since the Handsworth riots 30 years ago will descend on Birmingham today as Ofsted publishes reports on 21 schools linked to the Trojan Horse affair.

Six of the schools are set to be placed in special measures – the toughest sanction available to the watchdog – and 10 others are likely to be rated as “requiring improvement”.

While Ofsted is not thought to have found an organised plot linking the schools, inspectors are expected to say they did uncover clear evidence of infiltration by a clique of socially Conservative Muslim governors seeking to impose strict Islamic principles on pupils.

Education Secretary Michael Gove will make a statement in the House of Commons when he is expected to accuse some governors and teachers of being motivated by Islamist ideology “at odds with fundamental British values”.

David Cameron, the prime minister, is understood to have asked Mr Gove to arrange for Ofsted school inspections in future to take place without notice. His move follows a claim that Oldknow school in Birmingham “hastily arranged shows of cultural inclusivity” including lessons on Christianity after being told in advance of Ofsted’s visit.

Speaking in advance of today’s publication by Ofsted, Mr Cameron said: “Protecting our children is one of the first duties of government and that is why the issue of alleged Islamic extremism in Birmingham schools demands a robust response.”

It’s thought Mr Gove is also considering using new powers to impose life bans on teachers and governors involved in Trojan Horse, and may remove state schools in Birmingham from city council control.

The Education Secretary is likely to delay any action until next month when former Metropolitan Police counter-terrorism commander Peter Clarke publishes his report into allegations of extremism.

Mr Clarke is examining possible links between key figures named in the Trojan Horse affair.

Today’s events and any subsequent action by the Government will add to the forecast issued last month by city council chief executive Mark Rogers, who said a “firestorm” would hit Birmingham when the Ofsted reports were published and warned that structural change might be forced on to the council.

Trojan Horse has shot up the political agenda, with the affair attracting scalps at the highest level. Mr Gove and Home Secretary Theresa May were involved in an unseemly public spat over which Government department was to blame for allowing extremism to flourish in Birmingham schools.

Mr Gove was forced to apologise to Mrs May by the prime minister, and also to the Home Office official in charge of counter-terrorism, who had been the target of his criticisms in the press. One of Mrs May’s closest advisers was forced to resign after she was found to have briefed journalists against Mr Gove.

Widespread leaks from the Ofsted reports have been widely reported by the BBC, Daily Mail and Guardian as follows:

– Teachers at Oldknow Academy told school inspectors they were alarmed by the use of terms such as “white prostitute” in assemblies, and that non-Muslim teachers were banned from being present.
– It is claimed that in one assembly, just before Christmas last year, a senior teacher led ‘an anti-Christian’ chant. He allegedly shouted at the pupils “Do we believe in Christmas?”, to which the pupils replied collectively “No we don’t.”
– An Oldknow teacher is said to have posted a message on social media urging all Muslims to disown those who gave up their faith. He said: “Do not love the one who does not love Allah. If they can leave Allah, they will leave you.”
– In their report onn Golden Hillock school, Ofsted say: “Too little is done to keep students safe from the risks associated with extremist views.” The school is said to have been taken over by extremists with an “Islamising agenda.”
– Golden Hillock did not provide adequate sex education and some female teachers at were spoken to in a way they found ‘intimidating’. The school did little to “mitigate against cultural isolation”, leaving students “vulnerable to the risk  of marginalisation from wider British society and the associated risks, which could include radicalisation”.
– At Park View Academy, it is alleged that pupils were told homosexuality is evil, given lists of Christian teachers and told to try to convert them and that staff preach “mind-blowing” anti-Western propaganda in assemblies. Students “are not prepared properly for life in a diverse and multicultural societ”.
– Teachers at Park View have not received enough training in the government’s anti-extremism Prevent programme. The Ofsted report is believed to say: “The academy is not doing enough to keep students safe, including raising students’ awareness of the risks of extremism.”

Spokespersons for Oldknow, Golden Hillock and Park View have all denied the claims and accused Ofsted inspectors of pursuing a “political agenda”.

Mr Gove will be under pressure to explain why evidence of extremism went uncovered for so long. Only a year ago, an Ofsted inspection of Oldknow found it outstanding in all areas, including in promoting multi-racial harmony. Park View was rated by Ofsted as outstanding in 2012.

One unexpected intervention came from West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner Bob Jones, who warned that Ofsted’s report would be dismissed by the Muslim community on the basis that the findings were discriminatory.

Mr Jones, a former Labour councillor in Wolverhampton, issued a statement even though West Midlands police is not directly involved in investigating Trojan Horse.

He accused Mr Gove of eroding the confidence of the Muslim community in the ability of any investigation to uncover the truth about the Trojan Horse allegations.

Mr Jones said: “.  We now have the position that even if clear, incontrovertible evidence of schools’ failure in both academic standards and financial management is uncovered, there is likely to be resistance to accountability on the basis that any such findings are driven by discrimination against the Muslim community rather than an objective assessment.

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