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Education Secretary threatens ‘direct action’ if council fails to implement Trojan Horse reforms

Education Secretary threatens ‘direct action’ if council fails to implement Trojan Horse reforms

🕔29.Jan 2015

The Government will intervene directly if Birmingham city council fails to respond to issues raised by an inquiry into the Trojan Horse takeover of schools by hardline Muslims, reports Paul Dale. 

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan told MPs this morning that she would not hesitate to issue a statutory direction to the council if it did not push ahead with an education services improvement plan.

Mrs Morgan said she had met city council leader Sir Albert Bore earlier this month along with Cllr Brigid Jones, the cabinet member for children’s services and told them she was concerned that the pace of reform was too slow, and that “much stronger leadership” was needed.

She confirmed that Sir Mike Tomlinson, the former Ofsted chief appointed education commissioner to oversee the council’s response to Trojan Horse, will remain in post until March 2016.

Mrs Morgan  was commenting on progress since former Metropolitan Police counter-terrorism commander Peter Clarke issued his report into Trojan Horse in July last year.

Clarke found “disturbing” evidence that people with a “shared ideology” were trying to gain control of governing bodies in Birmingham schools, mostly academies outside of the control of the council.

His report exposed an “aggressive Islamist agenda” and highlighted “intolerant” email messages between school staff.

Clarke criticised the city council for ignoring evidence of inappropriate behaviour by ultra-conservative Muslim governors and teachers at its own schools. There was “incontrovertible” evidence that the council knew about the Trojan Horse allegations and complaints about head teachers being bullied by governors but failed to act for fear of being labelled racist.

Mrs Morgan told MPs all of the recommendations in the Clarke Report had been implemented or were on track. She added:

If the events witnessed in Birmingham were repeated again today they would be identified and dealt with more quickly and in a far more effective way.

But there is no room for complacency. We must remain vigilant.

I am determined that we should act whenever we receive information of concern.

We should build resilience into the system to make sure it is able to resist attempts to undermine it.

A significant amount has been achieved but the job has not been done. The problems won’t be resolved overnight.

New trustees and head teachers have been imposed at all of the Trojan Horse academies “to tackle the legacy left by the previous trustees”, Mrs Morgan said.

She continued:

The two trusts at the centre of concerns have suspended a significant number of staff pending disciplinary hearings. We must take direct and decisive action but must also follow an established and fair process.

Every school should be promoting fundamental British values. The battle against terrorism begins at school where young people learn to be tolerant citizens and seize the opportunities offered by modern Britain.

Waheed Saleem, Chair of Park View School, said:

I am pleased that the Secretary of State has acknowledged the considerable work that the Trustees, local governing bodies and the senior leaders have done to respond to the considerable challenges that were faced by the Trust, but we are not complacent in ensuring we continue with the progress we have made so far.

We are all committed to maintaining the excellent standards in education at Park View School and this has been borne out in today’s school performance tables. We remain the best performing non-denomination school in the local area. The students must be commended for their resilience in continuing to achieve despite the challenges they face. We have recruited high performing senior leaders and front line teachers and continue to ensure we provide an excellent service in a safe environment.

I would like to thank the parents, local community, councillors and Liam Byrne MP for their support to myself and Adrian Packer, the Executive Principal and we look forward to continuing to work with them.

Responding to the Education Secretary, Cllr Brigid Jones, cabinet member for children and family services, said:

Birmingham City Council has been calling for some time now for the Department for Education to accept the failings in both the department and its academies, and publish a plan to address them, as we have with ours.

I am pleased to see this Secretary of State now doing so. Parents of children in academies, which answer directly to the DfE, need confidence that failings in those academies will be taken as seriously by the DfE as we have taken the failings in ours.

On that note, however, I must again express my disappointment that the Department for Education’s recent review of its own actions was undertaken internally. Birmingham City Council submitted itself some time ago to extensive independent external review on this issue, and to command the confidence of parents I believe the DfE should have done the same.

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