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Attempts to play down Trojan Horse plot backfire as Ofsted finds ‘Islamist political ideology’ at non-faith city schools

Attempts to play down Trojan Horse plot backfire as Ofsted finds ‘Islamist political ideology’ at non-faith city schools

🕔21.Apr 2014

Attempts by Birmingham City Council to play down the Trojan Horse affair are looking increasingly ill-judged after Ofsted was reported to have found that children at non-faith schools are being discriminated against and subjected to strict Muslim teaching.

A snap inspection uncovered “extensive evidence of flaws in leadership and management” which was “driven by an Islamist political ideology”, according to reports in the Sunday Telegraph newspaper.

The six schools – Park View, Golden Hillock, Nansen, Oldknow and Saltley and Alston – are likely to be placed under special measures in a move that could see entire leadership teams removed, and may even lead to closure of the schools.

Park View, Golden Hillock and Nansen are academies and part of the Park View Educational Trust. They are supposedly non-faith schools but Ofsted reportedly found that lessons and school activities were based on militant Islamist principles.

Ofsted identified the following failings, according to the leaked documents:

  • Park View School was found to have practised forced and discriminatory gender segregation in classrooms. Extremist preacher Sheikh Shady al-Suleiman was invited to address students at the school.
  • At Park View and Golden Hillock, the curriculum had been “Islamised” with GCSE subjects restricted to comply with conservative Islamic teaching.
  • At Nansen there were no lessons in the humanities arts or music for year six students and Arabic was compulsory for all students, an almost unheard of rule at a primary school.
  • Christian pupils at Golden Hillock were left to “teach themselves” GCSE religious education.

A separate report by the Department for Education has substantiated many of the allegations including the illegal segregation of pupils and discrimination against non-Muslim children.

Inspectors from Ofsted conducted emergency investigations at a total of 17 Birmingham schools following claims of infiltration by hardline Muslim governors and teachers.

Their findings are yet to be formally published. But leaked copies name six of the schools as being “inadequate for leadership and management”, which is the lowest possible ranking.

A further nine schools will be graded as “requiring improvement” in leadership and management, the second lowest rank, and given enhanced monitoring and support. They are: Adderley, Regents Park, Highfield, Gracelands, Ladypool, Marlborough, Montgomery and Waverley.

Ofsted’s involvement, at the direct request of Education Secretary Michael Gove, underlines the extent to which the Trojan Horse investigation has been removed from Birmingham City Council.

Although the council has set up its own internal review, this is likely to be superseded by the findings of government-appointed Commissioner, Peter Clarke. Mr Clarke, a former Metropolitan Police counter-terrorism expert, has been given the task of examining claims of extremist infiltration.

His appointment was criticised by the council and West Midlands Chief Constable Chris Sims, who called it “deeply unfortunate”.

Meanwhile, the BBC has reported that Ofsted chief executive Sir Michael Wilshaw is to take charge of Ofsted’s investigation in Birmingham. Sir Michael attracted criticism last year when he described Birmingham as one of the worst places in the developed world for children to grow up in.

Birmingham City Council has blocked the appointment of local authority school governors, but the decision is likely to have a limited impact because parent governors and staff governors can still be elected. Governing bodies also remain free to appoint community governors and co-opted governors.

Council leaders and the chief executive Mark Rogers refute claims of a conspiracy. Mr Rogers told Chamberlain Files earlier this month he was certain no organised plot to infiltrate schools existed and added that the Trojan Horse letters detailing a plot were “almost certainly spurious”.

Mr Rogers believed that “new communities” in Birmingham were simply looking for the same educational environment for their children that they would get in the country they came from.

There were certain “customs and practices” these communities wanted to see that did not always fit in with the national curriculum that exists in Britain.

They were asking “legitimate questions” about the type of schooling they wanted for their children and how that could fit in with the “liberal education system” we have in this country.

His comments were widely reported in the national media.

Park View Educational Trust issued a statement over the weekend stressing that it is in confidential discussions with Ofsted about the watchdog’s findings.

The Trust said it did not recognise media accounts as “accurate or reasonable descriptions of our schools”.

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