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How much did Birmingham council’s Tory-Lib Dem coalition know about Trojan Horse?

How much did Birmingham council’s Tory-Lib Dem coalition know about Trojan Horse?

🕔07.Jul 2014

A Trojan Horse investigation will prompt questions about why Birmingham council’s former Tory-Lib Dem ruling coalition failed to investigate reports of an Islamist takeover of inner city schools.

It is understood that an inquiry by education commissioner Peter Clarke will say the council ignored complaints from head teachers about infiltration by militant Muslim governors for at least 12 years.

For most of that period, from 2004 to 2012, Birmingham was run by a Conservative-Liberal Democrat partnership, with Tory Mike Whitby as leader and Les Lawrence as cabinet member for education.

Letters alleging a Trojan Horse plot in schools emerged in November 2013, after Labour had regained control of the council under Sir Albert Bore’s leadership. It was at that point that the council began a formal investigation and passed the letters to West Midlands Police.

It’s thought Mr Clarke will say the council has known about claims of infiltration since 2002, but failed to investigate or take any action.Neither Lord Whitby nor Mr Lawrence could be contacted for comment today.

Mr Clarke, a former Metropolitan Police counter-terrorism expert, will say that complaints from staff and parents were “shrugged off” by the council, according to a Sunday Times report.

Mr Clarke and his team are said to have discovered 25 Birmingham schools, some of them council-run, where militant infiltration is said to have taken place.

Earlier this year Ofsted inspected 21 Birmingham schools with Trojan Horse links. Ofsted chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw reported that a “culture of fear and intimidation” had developed through an organised campaign to promote a “narrow faith-based ideology”.

Six of the schools – five academies and one council-run – were placed under special measures.

Mr Clarke’s investigation will be the second inquiry to accuse the council of failing to act.

Sir Michael Wilshaw’s report found that the local authority had “failed to support a number of schools in their efforts to keep pupils safe from the potential risks of radicalisation and extremism” and did not dealt adequately with complaints from head teachers and governors.

Sir Michael added: “A number of school leaders said that they had not been supported by the local authority in their efforts to keep pupils safe from the potential risks of radicalisation and extremism. Although the local authority has received public funding to promote the Home Office’s Prevent strategy, Her Majesty’s Inspectors found that support for some schools in their efforts to raise awareness of extremism has been very limited.”

The Sunday Times says Mr Clarke’s report could prompt the Government to send in ‘super-headteachers’ to take control of 15 schools when it is published later this month.

It was also reported over the weekend that some of the schools placed under special measures following Ofsted’s inspection have spent £100,000 of public money in an attempt to block the removal of head teacher and governors by the Department for Education.

Staff at Oldknow Academy told The Sunday Telegraph that Jahangir Akbar, the acting head, told them the Government “is just blowing smoke” over the affair and “after a few months we’ll be OK, we can carry on as normal”.

The article claims that Oldknow has agreed to pay £5,000 to Pauline Geoghegan, the spokesman for Hands Off Birmingham Schools, an independent campaign which is fighting the removal of heads and governors. According to the newspaper article Ms Geoghegan’s invoice was uncovered in an emergency audit performed on Oldknow by the Education Funding Agency last week.

Ms Geoghegan, who writes the twitter account Politics in Brum, is quoted in the Sunday Telegraph article saying that she had been “contracted to do some work” for Oldknow “giving them guidance in handling the media”.

Ms Geoghegan told Chamberlain Files she was taken on to help Oldknow cope with a “media frenzy” arising from Trojan Horse claims.

She added: “The press was pitched up outside the school filming parents, pupils staff and governors, while acting head teacher Jahangir Akbar was working 18 hours a day writing an action plan over the past thirty days following Lord Nash’s letter warning that the academy’s funding is at risk of removal. He has been working co-operatively with EFA whilst I have been dealing with the press.

“There is no conflict of interest. I’m not a councillor, MP, governor, or a business person connected to the school’s internal financial affairs. I am getting attacked in a pernicious manner simply because I chose to lend my professional expertise to this high profile campaign, whilst engaged short term as a consultant by one of the schools who needed help.”

Birmingham City Council announced today that its own Trojan Horse inquiry is drawing to a close.

Anyone wishing to share information with Ian Kershaw, the former head teacher overseeing the probe, is invited to call 0121 303 7602. All information will be treated in confidence.

 

 

Park View, another academy placed under special measures after Ofsted’s inspection, has spent at least £75,000 of public money on a London PR agency and legal advice as it fights the removal of its head teacher and governors, according to the newspaper.

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