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Gove appoints former counter-terrorism police chief to probe Trojan Horse schools ‘radicalisation’ claims

Gove appoints former counter-terrorism police chief to probe Trojan Horse schools ‘radicalisation’ claims

🕔15.Apr 2014

A former counter-terrorism police chief has been appointed by the Government to investigate allegations that Birmingham schools are being targeted by Islamist extremists.

Peter Clarke will review evidence in relation to the Trojan Horse letters sent to Birmingham City Council giving details of a supposed stealth plot to replace moderate teachers and governors with hardline Muslims.

In his role as Education Commissioner, Mr Clarke will be accountable to the Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove and will work closely with the council to “analyse evidence of extremist infiltration in both academies and council-run schools.”

He will report back to the department this summer.

News of Mr Clarke’s appointment by Mr Gove broke 24 hours after council leader Sir Albert Bore announced his own review of the Trojan Horse allegations under the leadership of a former head teacher.

He will be the second Government-appointed Commissioner to oversee events in Birmingham. Lord Norman Warner was named last month to oversee improvements to children’s social services.

The Secretary of State’s decision to appoint a former police officer would appear to be significant.

Although West Midlands Police has been in possession of Trojan Horse letters since last November, the force has said it is not investigating any terrorism-related issues. Birmingham City Council continues to insist there is no evidence of any organised plot to radicalise school children.

Mr Clarke is likely to investigate whether Birmingham schools have fulfilled a statutory duty to address the Government’s anti-terrorism Prevent agenda and have drawn up plans to tackle extremism.

The Department for Education said Mr Clarke’s appointment meant allegations “which have been the subject of intense speculation can be examined in a professional and dispassionate manner, based on established facts”.

A DfE spokesman said Mr Clarke would use his “substantial and much-respected experience in leading investigations at a high level” to probe the Birmingham allegations.

Mr Gove said: “I am extremely concerned by the allegations made in connection to a number of schools in Birmingham.

“I have already asked Ofsted to inspect a number of schools of concern and these investigations are ongoing. But wider, more comprehensive action is needed. These allegations need either to be substantiated and firm action taken, or to be shown to be baseless. We cannot allow uncertainty for parents or pupils to persist.

“That is why I am appointing a commissioner to oversee this work. Peter Clarke brings a wealth of relevant skills and experience, and is very well placed to lead a fair and thorough assessment of the evidence, and report back to me. We expect he will work closely with Birmingham City Council.

“No pupils should be exposed to extremist views or radicalisation while at school. I have tasked Peter Clarke with getting to the bottom of these allegations, so schools in Birmingham can continue the excellent progress that so many have been making.”

In a press release announcing Mr Clarke’s appointment the Department for Education said it had maintained close contact with West Midlands Police and Birmingham City Council since the Trojan Horse allegations first emerged.

The press notice continued: “All schools are subject to a tough inspection regime and the government has been clear that it will not hesitate to take firm and swift action if pupils are being let down or placed at risk.”

Mr Clarke’s remit will cover both maintained schools and academies, including free schools, university technical colleges and studio schools. He will be supported by a small team of Department for Education officials, and will be able to seek expert opinion and advice as necessary, including from Ofsted.

He is likely to be in place initially for 3 to 4 months before reporting back to the Secretary of State for Education.

Mr Clarke was an officer in the Metropolitan Police for 31 years and has held a number of executive and non-executive positions in the public and private sectors, including as a non-executive board member for the Serious Organised Crime Agency from 2009 to 2013.

He rose to the rank of deputy assistant commissioner at the MPS, heading up the Counter Terrorism Command.

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