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Officials who failed to halt attempted takeover of Birmingham schools ‘to be held to account,’ warns council chief

Officials who failed to halt attempted takeover of Birmingham schools ‘to be held to account,’ warns council chief

🕔31.Jul 2014

Birmingham council officers who knew that ultra-conservative Muslims were taking over schools but failed to intervene because they did not want to upset community cohesion could find themselves the subject of disciplinary action.

City council chief executive Mark Rogers is considering “the extent to which individuals across the council can and should be held to account” for turning a blind eye to the Trojan Horse affair.

Writing in Local Government Chronicle, Mr Rogers says he will examine the motivation of officials whose actions contributed to a climate where it became impossible to challenge what was happening in east Birmingham schools because to do so would have been misconstrued as racism or Islamaphobia. (£)

He talks about the tough challenge of identifying “the originators of this culture”.

The council’s failure to stop governors imposing an “intolerant and aggressive Islamic ethos” on a small number of Birmingham schools is exposed in three Trojan Horse inquiries by Ofsted, education commissioner Peter Clarke and the council’s chief adviser Ian Kershaw.

Mr Rogers said governors and teachers who “took a conscious decision to act against the standards, laws, policies and conventions of public life “should be holding themselves to account by apologising and resigning, if they have not already done so.”

He pointed out that council leader Sir Albert Bore has issued a corporate apology for the shortcomings of officials and councillors.

However, Mr Rogers continued: “The gravity of the situation for the council goes beyond the issue of not seeing what was really going on.

“Both Kershaw and Clarke conclude that a climate existed within the organisation which inhibited people from doing the right thing. A fear of risking community cohesion came to the fore, inhibiting challenge because it might have been misconstrued as racism of Islamaphobia.

“It will be much harder, if possible at all, to isolate the originators of this culture, but it will categorically be Sir Albert’s and my shared responsibility to change this situation we find ourselves in as the solutions will require the most senior political and managerial leadership to make a change across the body corporate.

“In doing so we will undoubtedly think about the extent to which any individuals across the council can and should be held to account, with an assessment of motivation being a key for us.

“So, to answer the question ‘whose fault is it?’ first and foremost it was those few but determined individuals, governors and staff, who chose to act in ways that they knew were wrong.

“However, there is also a wider culpability in not acting when you should so there will be those at the council, and possibly the Department for Education and Ofsted, who now need to examine their motives and consciences too.”

Mr Rogers, who took over as chief executive in March, says he’s had an introduction “sans pareil” to the council with a “heavy focus on children’s services”.

He adds that it is time to move forward and strike a balance between “the yin of punishment” and the “yang of forgiveness and reparation”.

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