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Ofsted chief says Trojan Horse school heads believed they were victims of ‘orchestrated’ plot to oust them

Ofsted chief says Trojan Horse school heads believed they were victims of ‘orchestrated’ plot to oust them

🕔09.Jul 2014

Head teachers at Birmingham’s Trojan Horse schools believed they were victims of a “planned and orchestrated” strategy to oust them by conservative Muslim governors, Ofsted’s chief inspector has stated.

Sir Michael Wilshaw told the House of Commons Education Committee that he had interviewed eight or nine heads, past and present, and all insisted that their schools were targeted for infiltration with the aim that multiculturalism and an appreciation of all faiths would not be taught.

This strategy made youngsters potentially vulnerable to radicalisation, although there was no evidence that “extremism” had actually occurred in any Birmingham school.
Sir Michael was answering questions from MPs about his report last month which described “a culture of fear and intimidation” at some of the 21 Birmingham schools that were subjected to unannounced inspections in March.

The report accused governors of exerting inappropriate influence on the day to day running of the schools and seeking to impose “a narrow faith-based ideology in what are non-faith schools”.

Sir Michael accepted that he had no evidence of an orchestrated plot other than the claims put forward by the head teachers. One of the heads was so frightened about being questioned by Ofsted that an interview had to be held in a supermarket car park, Sir Michael added.

He said Ofsted uncovered policies in place that would have made children vulnerable to extremism.

He told MPs: “What we were looking at was to see if children in the schools we inspected were emotionally disconnected and culturally isolated from society that would have made them vulnerable to extremism.

“We didn’t see extremism in schools. What we did see was the promotion of a culture which would have made children in these schools vulnerable to extremism because of a disconnection to wider society and cultural isolation.

“What we did see were governors coming into schools deciding that they were going to move head teachers and senior staff out of the schools and promote their own ideas.
“It was distressing to see head teachers who spent their careers building these schools up to outstanding status to see these heads treated in that way.”

Asked why it was wrong for governors to promote the faith of almost all children at a school, Sir Michael said a strong adherence to a particular faith “should not allow them to bully staff, should not allow them to use unfair employment practices and it certainly should not allow them to promote intolerant views”.

He continued: “Our job was to look at whether these non-faith schools, and it’s worth emphasising that these were non-faith schools, were promoting a culture and curriculum that allowed youngsters to celebrate their own faith and to celebrate the faith of others which promote tolerance.

“If these schools promoted the reverse and encouraged youngsters to be intolerant and not to be aware of other faiths, that would leave them vulnerable to extremism.

“The result of these policies is for youngsters to look inwards rather than outwards. If they don’t have an appreciation of other faiths it makes them more vulnerable.”
Sir Michael said it was the duty of the head teacher and governors when the majority of children come from the Muslim faith to promote that faith and to “give every spiritual support necessary”.

However, he added: “But it is also a duty, particularly in non-faith schools, to make sure children understand and appreciate other faiths and cultures and to promote tolerance of these other faiths and cultures.”

Sir Michael was highly critical of Birmingham City Council, accusing the local authority of failing “over a significant period of time” to address concerns of head teachers about infiltration of governing bodies.

He reminded the MPs that Birmingham services for vulnerable children had failed eight successive Ofsted inspections, which “must be some sort of world record”.
He added: “It’s a blooming shame, really. We are building HS2 to Birmingham and investing a lot of public money. It should be our second city. We should really worry about what is happening here.”

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