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Gove poised to remove Trojan Horse schools from Birmingham council control

Gove poised to remove Trojan Horse schools from Birmingham council control

🕔16.May 2014

Birmingham schools named in the Trojan Horse affair are likely to be removed from city council control and either converted to academies or run by an independent trust.

Senior council officials and councillors are resigned to radical intervention by Education Secretary Michael Gove when Ofsted inquiries into allegations of Islamic extremism at the schools are published.

More than 20 schools are under investigation following a range of claims including forced segregation of boys and girls, assemblies where extremist views were put forward, and a failure to follow the national curriculum in subjects such as physical education, music and dance.

Some of the schools where allegations have been levelled are academies, but most are council-run.

Four inquiries are underway into the Trojan Horse claims, which centre on an alleged ‘stealth’ takeover plot of secular schools by ultra-conservative Muslim governors and teachers.

As well as Ofsted, the council is running its own inquiry. An Education Commissioner, Peter Clarke, former Metropolitan Police counter-terrorism commander, has been appointed by the Government to investigate the claims, and the Department for Education is also looking into the matter.

Given the sensitivity of the probe, none of the inquiries is likely to report until after the local council elections on May 22. It is possible, however, that Ofsted and the Department for Education may make a move before May 31 – the date set for Birmingham Labour councillors to elect their leader.

Council leader Sir Albert Bore is being challenged by backbencher John Clancy. It remains unclear how the prospect of the council losing control of schools might play out with the Labour group.

The BBC is reporting that ‘super-heads’ could take over running clusters of schools in Birmingham, with some schools being taken from council control and being converted to academies.

Government ministers are said to have approached heads of successful schools and academy trusts about taking over other schools where there have been concerns. The likelihood is that ‘Trojan Horse schools’ could be placed under the leadership of high-achieving head teachers.

Ofsted has already indicated its belief that Birmingham council is too large to run schools effectively. However, the sheer size of the city and its hundreds of schools makes it highly unlikely that a private sector contractor could be found to take control.

Mr Gove’s expected hard line was confirmed last week by city council chief executive Mark Rogers who was recorded at a meeting with head teachers warning of a “firestorm” when the Ofsted reports were published, and telling his audience to prepare for “significant structural changes” within the education department.

One of the schools at the centre of the claims, Park View Academy, has embarked on a belated public relations exercise in an attempt to rebut allegations of extremism.

Tahir Alam, chairman of the governors, appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme to categorically deny the “false allegations”.

As part of its rebuttal campaign, Park View has issued a video portraying the school as a paragon of good learning with happy, smiling, children.

The school has also invited the more sympathetic media to look around its classrooms, including The Guardian which found no evidence of extremism.

Birmingham Perry Barr MP Khalid Mahmood told the programme that many of the schools named in the Trojan Horse probe had acted to change their ways as a result of the publicity and scrutiny.

Park View Educational Trust, which runs three schools in Birmingham, issued a statement rebutting all of the claims, and warning that Trojan Horse was a breeding ground for allegations to be repeated and conflated in an attempt to ‘prove the plot’.

The statement blamed former staff who “for a variety of reasons felt that Park View School was not the right professional environment for them”.

“Our assemblies, or acts of worship, are used to focus on the spiritual and moral development of pupils and are relevant to their school and home lives,” said the statement from Park View.

“This includes looking at the common values of kindness, mercy and forgiveness and talking to students about studying hard, and being a good friend.”

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