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Ofsted’s ‘Trojan Horse’ verdict: ‘Culture of fear and intimidation’ in some Birmingham schools

Ofsted’s ‘Trojan Horse’ verdict: ‘Culture of fear and intimidation’ in some Birmingham schools

🕔09.Jun 2014

Birmingham schools at the centre of Trojan Horse claims have are gripped by a climate of “fear and intimidation” as rogue governors manipulate teaching appointments and seek to impose a narrow faith-based ideology on pupils, Ofsted inspectors have found.

In a highly-charged and critical report by the watchdog, Birmingham City Council was accused of failing to support a number of schools in their efforts to keep children safe and of ignoring complaints from head teachers about the conduct of governors.

Ofsted’s snap inspections took place against a backdrop of claims in an anonymous letter about an alleged plot by Muslim extremists to infiltrate classrooms in a number of non-faith schools.

After inspecting 21 schools, Ofsted uncovered an “organised campaign” with governors exercising inappropriate influence on policy and forcing out teachers who were not willing to comply.

However, the report issued by Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw makes no mention of a plot or conspiracy, and refers to “faith-based” issues rather than Mulsim or Islam.

City council leaders stressed that Ofsted’s finding were based on inappropriate ideology being forced on to some schools rather than extremist views.

Staff and head teachers spoken to by Ofsted described feeling intimidated and bullied by governors into making changes they did not support. In one instance a school leader was said to be so anxious about the consequences of speaking to Ofsted inspectors that a meeting had to be held in a supermarket car park.

Five of the schools have been placed in special measures by Ofsted and will have their governing bodies replaced. Four are academies – Golden Hillock, Nanseen, Oldknow, Park View – and the fifth, Saltley School, is run by the council.

In several schools staff reported that recruitment was “neither fair nor transparent” and there were examples of family members being appointed to unadvertised senior leadership posts in spite of poor references and contrary to the wishes of the head teacher.

The report accuses some governors of imposing a narrow faith-based ideology by narrowing the curriculum, manipulating staff appointments and using school funds inappropriately.

Sir Michael said some head teachers had little confidence that the city council would respond to their concerns about governors. The council had failed to exercise adequate judgment when appointing governors.

Sir Michael added: “It is my view that the active promotion of a narrow set of values and beliefs in some of the schools is making children vulnerable to segregation and emotional dislocation from wider society.

“Often, the curriculum, culture and values now promoted in these schools reflect the personal views of a small number of governors. However, they do not reflect the wider community in Birmingham and beyond.”

Sir Michael said he was concerned that in a few schools boys and girls were not being treated equally and pupils were being isolated “from a fuller understanding of different religions and cultural traditions.”

Birmingham City Council has been ordered to draw up an action plan addressing Ofsted’s concerns.

Council leader Sir Albert Bore and chief executive Mark Rogers met Education Secretary Michael Gove to discuss Sir Michael’s findings.

Sir Albert said he wanted to stress that Ofsted had found no evidence of a plot or conspiracy.

He added: “There have been unacceptable actions by a few people in a few schools. It is clear that some governors and governing bodies have failed in their duties. A number of schools have fallen below acceptable standards.”

Sir Albert said he was very concerned about standards at Park View Academy, which falls outside of the council’s control.

The council is to create a new post of School Prevent Co-ordinator who will be responsible for making sure that Birmingham schools and teachers follow the Government’s counter-terrorism Prevent Strategy.

The council added in a statement: “Evidence of a plot has not been presented but Ofsted presents evidence there has been concerted action to change the character, curriculum and staffing of non-denominational schools to reflect a narrow faith-based ideology.

“Safeguarding in all schools needs to have an appropriate and sustained focus on tackling the risk to children of extremism and radicalisation and, for some schools, this needs to be better supported by the local authority through training for head teachers, governors and staff.”

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