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Reputational damage to Birmingham from Trojan Horse claims ‘incalculable’

Reputational damage to Birmingham from Trojan Horse claims ‘incalculable’

🕔24.Mar 2014

Claims that Birmingham schools are at risk of being taken over by Muslim radicals are on the verge of spiralling out of control as Ofsted moves to sack the governing bodies of academies at the heart of the allegations.

Reputational damage to Birmingham – portrayed in the national media as a hotbed of dangerous fundamentalism – is incalculable, and Education Secretary Michael Gove has taken a personal interest in investigating what’s become known as the Trojan Horse plot.

Mr Gove has met city council leader Sir Albert Bore to discuss his concerns about the turn of events in the academies, which are outside of council control, and plans a further meeting.

There are fears that activists are also infiltrating council-run schools and pushing for them to convert to academies and for moderate head teachers to be replaced by militants.

A snap inspection by Ofsted of an academy at the heart of the allegations, Park View, resulted in downgrading the school from ‘outstanding’ to ‘inadequate’. The Alum rock-based school, once praised by David Cameron, will now be placed in special measures, giving the Department for Education the power to remove governors if it wishes to do so.

The school is accused of ‘Islamisation’ by hosting extremist preachers during assemblies and encouraging girls to cover their hair. It’s alleged that £70,000 was spent on loudspeaker equipment to summon pupils to prayers.

Ofsted officials are believed to be about to conduct inspections at several other schools at the heart of the Trojan Horse allegations including Nansen, Golden Hillock and Oldknow primary in Small Heath where it’s claimed pupils were led in anti-Christian chanting by a teacher in assembly.

Park View, Nansen primary and Golden Hillock academies are all run by the Park View Educational Trust. It’s emerged that Department for Education officials have been sent to the three schools in recent weeks to investigate allegations relating to Trojan Horse.

Perry Barr Labour MP Khalid Mahmood stepped into the row, calling on the Department for Education to replace the governing body at Park View. Mr Mahmood called for an inquiry and told the Daily Mail: “Local council officers have taken their eye off the ball. The council has allowed these governors to take over these schools under the radar.”

Park View hit back with a statement on its website insisting that allegations of Islamisation were “completely untrue” and “against our values and ethos”.

Fresh allegations about Oldknow were made in the Sunday Telegraph by investigative reporter Andrew Gilligan. He claimed the school, “which is supposed to be non-religious”, has organised at least three trips to Mecca out of public funds and requires all pupils to learn Arabic.

The head of another Birmingham primary school is under “non-stop attack” by radical governors, the newspaper claims.

Details of Trojan Horse were revealed two weeks ago by the Birmingham Mail.

The newspaper reported that it and the council had received documents “which purport to show Jihadists are targeting schools and orchestrating false allegations against staff, including non-Muslims”.

The documents, in the form of a leaked letter, suggest that moderate Birmingham headteachers have already been forced out by militant governors and staff and that others will follow. It’s claimed the tactics will be repeated in Bradford.

Labour-led Birmingham City Council now finds itself under intense scrutiny over the entire range of its children’s services, from its inadequate provision of services for vulnerable children to the latest claims about infiltration of schools by religious fundamentalists.

The council is facing claims of the type made by Khalid Mahmood that it has effectively turned a blind eye to the radicalism agenda in schools for years.

Council leader Sir Albert Bore issued a statement asking “for schools to address how they can play their part in the values of fairness and democracy so that we all play our part in achieving the city we want our children to grow up in”.

Sir Albert revealed that the council is seeking to appoint “additional senior management” with the skills necessary to work with schools and “review all the complaints we now have to develop a risk based action plan and implement some of the actions we need to take”.

In his statement Sir Albert warned of the dangers of “small numbers of people” taking over schools.

He said: “We all need to take an interest and a stake in the education of our children in the schools of our community.  If small numbers of people of whatever faith, beliefs or of none are left to run our schools then we are all the poorer for it, and the education of our children suffers.

Sir Albert’s statement continued: “It is hugely difficult to investigate Trojan horse, which is an anonymous collection of material. If these are the genuine concerns of a whistle-blower, we will afford the protection necessary to the investigation of those concerns.

“If however we find evidence that takes us to a motivation behind these claims which is not based on professional concern, we will act accordingly.  We have received many comments following the press interest and will review all of the issues.

“What matters here is assuring the parent who has chosen a school about the standards applied to the education of their child.  In particular those parents who have chosen a non-religious school need an assurance that their child’s education will reflect the choice they have made.”

Cover Image: Park View School via A As Architecture

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