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Birmingham council slammed over ‘we know nothing’ Trojan Horse strategy

Birmingham council slammed over ‘we know nothing’ Trojan Horse strategy

🕔13.Oct 2014

A former police chief appointed to probe the Trojan Horse affair has criticised the “extraordinary” behaviour of Birmingham council bosses who told him they knew nothing about allegations of schools being taken over by militant Muslim governors when it transpired they had been aware of the claims all along.

Peter Clarke came close to accusing the city council hierarchy of attempting to wreck his investigation by burying vital evidence.

In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph Mr Clarke disclosed that even after his inquiry was set up, officials and senior politicians had denied all knowledge of a plot, both in public and to Ian Kershaw, the former head teacher appointed by the council to oversee a separate Trojan Horse inquiry.

“Then, very late in my inquiry, my team found an email buried in a mass of documentation submitted by the council which showed that they had known about it all along.

“Despite all the interviews that both I and Ian Kershaw had with officials, none of them at any time made reference to that earlier correspondence,” he said.

Mr Clarke, a former Metropolitan Police counter-terror expert, was appointed Education Commissioner by the Government with a remit to get to the bottom of the Trojan Horse claims.

He produced a report that found evidence of a “sustained” attempt to impose hardline Muslim views in a number of Birmingham non-faith schools and criticised the council for not addressing the issue: “It’s quite clear that they at least knew or suspected that these sorts of things were happening for some considerable period of time, but didn’t do enough to stop it.”

In the Sunday Telegraph interview Mr Clarke suggests Trojan Horse is merely “the tip of the iceberg” of Islamist infiltration in British schools.

He rejected a claim by Education Secretary Nicky Morgan that ministers “had got to the bottom of the issue”, telling BBC Radio WM: “Of course the Government hasn’t got to the bottom of the Trojan Horse affair, nowhere near it.

“You haven’t got to the bottom of it until you’ve proved or disproved whether there is something similar happening elsewhere.”

His comments came as fallout from the affair continued to be felt keenly in Birmingham.

Police were called to one of the schools inspected during the investigation after complaints of disorder involving Muslim parents protesting against teaching that homosexuality was acceptable.

Officers went to Welford School, in Handsworth, following reports of trouble during a meeting between head teacher Jamie Barry and parents. It’s understood that Mr Barry had sanctioned the display of a poster in the school urging respect for people of all sexualities.

A Birmingham city council spokesman said: “We are concerned that parents are objecting to elements of the equalities and diversity agenda which forms part of the national curriculum. It is not acceptable for parents to pick and choose between aspects of this agenda.”

Meanwhile, Oldknow, another Trojan Horse school, where it is alleged children were prevented from celebrating Christmas, has been subject to re-inspection by Ofsted and the Education Funding Agency amid concerns that radical staff have not been removed and that “dubious practices” have not been abolished.

The continuing friction between some Muslim parents and city schools will be a matter of deep concern for Sir Mike Tomlinson, who has taken over from Peter Clarke as Education Commissioner for Birmingham.

Sir Mike, 72, a former chief inspector of schools, began work a week ago and reports directly to Education Secretary Nicky Morgan and Birmingham council chief executive Mark Rogers.

He faces a tricky task in steering a line between delivering Government recommendations while somehow keeping on board parents demanding a more ‘Muslim-based’ education for their children in secular schools.

A Department for Education spokesman insisted that progress was being made in addressing issues raised by the Trojan Horse inquiries: “The trustees at the three academies overseen by Park View Educational Trust (PVET) and at Oldknow Academy have been replaced, and the new boards have worked tirelessly to ensure their schools opened to pupils in September.

“An interim executive principal for PVET and an interim principal to Golden Hillock have both been appointed and the former principal of Oldknow Academy has returned. Saltley School, whose governors were criticised in the reports, now has an approved interim executive board in place to drive forward improvements.

“More widely, the Government is introducing a requirement for all schools to actively promote the fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs.”

Sir Mike’s main responsibilities will be to:

  • Make sure that Birmingham council drives immediate improvements in those schools highlighted in recent reports and work with any others which may be vulnerable
  • Embed improvements into the council’s structures, building a credible and effective role for them in supporting the city’s schools.

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said: “I am pleased that we have been able to appoint someone of Sir Mike Tomlinson’s calibre and experience to this crucial role.

“With his strong track record in local government and education he is the right person to ensure all children in Birmingham receive the education they deserve so they can reach their potential and go on to build a better future.

“His skills and experience will help deliver rapid and sustainable progress within Birmingham city council so they are unified in driving up the quality of schools and school oversight in the region.”

Birmingham council chief executive Mark Rogers said: The Education Secretary’s appointment of Sir Mike Tomlinson is a good decision for Birmingham. His experience and reputation give us confidence that we will be constructively supported and challenged in our efforts to move forward at pace from the recent controversies.”

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