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Ofsted’s Trojan Horse probe based on ‘pre-conceived notion’, claims Birmingham academy trust

Ofsted’s Trojan Horse probe based on ‘pre-conceived notion’, claims Birmingham academy trust

🕔22.Apr 2014

Three Birmingham academy schools at the centre of allegations about militant Muslim infiltration have hit out at Ofsted, accusing the watchdog of having “a pre-conceived notion” of what it expected to find when making a visit.

The Park View Educational Trust suggested Ofsted inspectors had already decided what they expected to see and were intent on “filling in the blanks” to discover supposed failings at Park View, Golden Hillock and Nansen schools.

It was reported over the weekend that the three Park View academies are among six Birmingham non-faith schools found by Ofsted and the Department for Education to be imposing an autocratic Islamist agenda on pupils, widely discriminating against girls and Christian pupils.

The six, said to have displayed “extensive flaws in management and leadership”, are likely to be placed under special measures, enabling the DfE to sack governing bodies and replace teachers and head teachers. In extreme instances, schools under special measures can be closed.

A further nine Birmingham schools will be graded as “requiring improvement” in leadership and management and given enhanced monitoring and support. They are: Adderley, Regents Park, Highfield, Gracelands, Ladypool, Marlborough, Montgomery and Waverley.

Ofsted chief executive Sir Michael Wilshaw, who is the Chief Inspector of Schools, is to visit Birmingham to take personal charge of an ongoing investigation into the alleged Trojan Horse plot to replace moderate teachers and governors with hardline Islamists.

Sir Michael’s presence means that Trojan Horse is now the subject of three inquiries.

Birmingham City Council has established a review group under the chairmanship of a former head teacher and a senior civil servant. Education Secretary Michael Gove has appointed former Metropolitan Police counter-terrorism expert Peter Clarke to investigate the matter. And Sir Michael’s imminent arrival in Birmingham opens the prospect of a third strand of inquiry.

In a statement, Park View Educational Trust sought to embarrass Sir Michael by pointing out that the Ofsted chief issued a glowing report on the Park View academy only two years ago.

The Park View statement said: “We welcome the announcement that Michael Wilshaw has now taken charge of Ofsted reports into our three schools, as well as many others in Birmingham.

“Mr (sic) Wilshaw knows Park View academy and on a visit in March 2012 stated ‘all schools should be like this and there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be like this if they’ve got the right culture, the right leadership, good teaching, good systems. There’s no reason why they shouldn’t be like this’.”

According to media reports based on leaked Ofsted documents, the three Park View Trust academies were found to be basing lessons on militant Islamist principles. Ofsted found:

– Park View School practiced forced and discriminatory gender segregation in classrooms. Extremist preacher Sheikh Shady al-Suleiman was invited to address students at the school.
– At Park View and Golden Hillock, the curriculum had been “Islamised” with GCSE subjects restricted to comply with conservative Islamic teaching.
– At Nansen there were no lessons in the humanities arts or music for year six students and Arabic was compulsory for all students.
– Christian pupils at Golden Hillock were left to “teach themselves” GCSE religious education.

Park View Trust’s uncompromising statement continued: “From the outset the Trust has argued that the pretext for these latest inspections – the so-called Trojan Horse dossier, now widely seen as a hoax – was prejudicial.

“We believe the inspections were approached with a pre-conceived notion of what would be found. It was then a case of ‘filling in the blanks.’ This is completely at odds with what schools can rightly expect from Ofsted, that inspectors come with an open mind and report back fairly.

“We won’t comment on the Ofsted reports, which are not final and still confidential, other than to say we do not recognise the accounts we have seen in the media as accurate or reasonable descriptions of our schools.

“The credibility of both Ofsted and its inspections is seriously undermined by the suggestion that the agency may be colluding with the media and breaching confidentiality. This would constitute a serious breach of protocol.

“We hope that Mr Wilshaw brings his personal knowledge of Park View Academy to this process and asks himself whether the climate of intense media and political scrutiny under which the Ofsted inspections have been completed can truly mean they can be considered fair or credible.

“Even more importantly, these ‘leaks’ and ‘briefings’ are already causing unwarranted and unnecessary alarm amongst families who are seeing reports of their schools ‘closing’ and teachers being ‘removed’ alongside any number of other sensational allegations. And just this morning one of our schools received hate mail, which we can only conclude is a direct consequence of media reporting.”

“We do not know where the ‘leaks’ and ‘briefings’ around these inspections are coming from. However, the fact that they are being attributed to Ofsted, as well as the Department for Education, should be as much a cause for concern for Mr Wilshaw as it is for us.

“Since the completion of those inspections unwarranted media intrusion has denied the Trust any proper period of confidential right of reply in relation to what inspectors say they found.”

This post’s headline originally referred to ‘closed minds’. Readers can read the full statement here. 

– Sub Ed.

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