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Trojan Horse school head banned after ‘undermining fundamental British values’

Trojan Horse school head banned after ‘undermining fundamental British values’

🕔05.Jan 2016

Two years after the Trojan Horse affair first hit the headlines, Birmingham schools are still feeling the impact of attempts to impose strict Islamic teaching in classrooms, writes Paul Dale.

Jahangir Akbar, a former acting headteacher of Oldknow Academy in Small Heath, has been banned indefinitely from teaching after being found guilty of professional misconduct.

A disciplinary hearing decided that Mr Akbar “failed to uphold public trust in the profession and maintain high standards of ethics and behaviours” and “undermined fundamental British values, including mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs”.

Even though Oldknow was a non-faith school, investigators said Mr Akbar allowed an undue amount of religious influence on the education of pupils and his behaviour amounted to “misconduct of a serious nature”.

The National College for Teaching and Leadership panel found that Akbar put pressure on teachers who did not share his views to leave and promoted those who supported him.

Mr Akbar also reacted inappropriately by shouting at a parent when challenged about his daughter’s education, and said he was glad when a pupil was said to have been bullied.

Allegations that he separated boys from girls in classes and banned sex education were not proven.

The panel accepted evidence that Mr Akbar banned the celebration of Christmas and instead introduced a two-day event for the Muslim festival of Eid. He also allowed pupils to go on a 10-day pilgrimage to Mecca.

The panel was satisfied that Mr Akbar’s “proven conduct tended to undermine tolerance and/or respect for the faith and beliefs of others”.

He will have to wait five years before he can apply to start teaching again.

In a ruling published by the Government the panel said that “by decreasing the diversity of religious education and eliminating a diverse range of cultural events, there was a failure to promote the spiritual, moral, cultural and mental development of pupils at the school”.

Mr Akbar was also found to have put pressure on staff to countersign cheques for expenditure that had not been properly authorised.

Payments included £20,000 to Stone King Solicitors and between £8,000 and £10,000 for Politics in Brum, described in evidence to the panel as a “PR Crisis Management Organisation”.

“No orders had been raised on the school system in respect of any of these invoices”, although the expenditure was subsequently ratified by governors, the panel found.

The panel said it was satisfied the Mr Akbar’s conduct breached the personal and professional conduct elements of the Teachers’ Standards.

Mr Akbar failed to uphold public trust in the profession and maintain high standards of ethics and behaviour. He did not have regard to the need to safeguard pupils’ well-being, in accordance with statutory provisions, and he “undermined fundamental British values, including mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs”.

Mr Akbar is the first of 14 teachers at Trojan Horse schools to have gone through a misconduct hearing. The lifetime ban was announced on behalf of Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, but because of mitigating evidence Mr Akbar will be allowed to apply for the conduct panel’s ruling to be lifted in 2020.

Oldknow Academy was one of the Birmingham schools named in claims of a takeover by groups with a hardline Muslim agenda. It was among five schools downgraded to ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted after an investigation triggered by allegations of a plot by religious extremists.

It has changed its name to Ark Chamberlain Primary Academy and is now under the leadership of a new headteacher, Wendy Baxter.

The serious nature of the Trojan Horse allegations became clear a year ago when Birmingham city council, acting on the advice of the Department for Education, announced an inquiry by former headteacher Ian Kershaw. A separate inquiry was ordered by the DfE, and was carried out by Peter Clarke, the former head of the Metropolitan police’s counter-terrorism unit.

Mr Clarke’s report found there had been a “co-ordinated, deliberate and sustained action to introduce an intolerant and aggressive Islamic ethos into a few schools in Birmingham”.

Clarke said there was no evidence of radicalisation, violence or encouragement of terrorism, but there were efforts to remove headteachers who did not conform with the wishes of governors. He said the aggressive Islamic ethos could “limit the life chances of the young people in their care and render them more vulnerable to pernicious influences in the future”.

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