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Trojan Horse schools ‘showing signs of progress’, insists Education Secretary

Trojan Horse schools ‘showing signs of progress’, insists Education Secretary

🕔15.Oct 2014

Five Birmingham schools at the centre of the Trojan Horse affair have made rapid progress since Ofsted inspectors found they were still not fit for purpose six weeks ago, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan has insisted.

Mrs Morgan said failings at the four academies and one council-run school, which included GCSE religious education students having to teach themselves for options other than Islam and segregation of pupils by sex, were being addressed.

The five schools – Golden Hillock, Nansen Primary and Park View Academy – all run by the Park View Educational Trust (PVET), as well as Oldknow Academy and Saltley School – were placed in special measures following inquiries that found evidence of hard-line Muslims taking control of a number of governing boards in Birmingham.

When Ofsted inspectors made an unannounced visit to the five schools at the start of the September 2014 term, they concluded “very little action has been taken to address the serious concerns raised earlier this year”.

Mrs Morgan told the Commons Education Committee that Trojan Horse was a shock to the system for Birmingham city council, for schools and for the Department for Education.

She revealed that the council has still not produced an improvement plan demanded by the Department for Education setting out how issues raised by Trojan Horse will be addressed in all city schools.

Sir Mike Tomlinson, the DfE-appointed Education Commissioner, is working with the council to produce the document but is “not yet there in terms of having the improvement plan ready to go”, Mrs Morgan added.

She indicated that Sir Mike’s appointment might be extended beyond 12 months.

Asked by MPs why progress at the five schools had been so slow, Mrs Morgan said it would take time to deliver cultural change and ensure that recommendations contained in the Clarke and Kershaw reports into Trojan Horse were adopted.

Following Ofsted’s inspection in September, Park View School approved a new improvement plan. Golden Hillock’s head teacher had ensured that GCSE religious studies children now received the help they needed.

Mrs Morgan said: “Definitely improvements have been made. Things have changed. My officials went into the schools on October 1 to check all these things out.”

However, she added: “I can’t sit here and say that everything has been addressed. I wouldn’t say everything has been dealt with. It will take time.”

Mrs Morgan said a review by the Permanent Secretary into what the Department for Education did or did not know about allegations of hard-line Muslim infiltration would be published in weeks. The review will look back over 20 years.

She told MPs there was a need for “people who promote a particular ideology” in schools to be identified and removed from the system.

“We should not hesitate to take action. This is not about Islamaphobia. It’s a concerted attempt to promote a particular type of ideology,” she added.

Mrs Morgan said schools should “not be shy” about promoting fundamental British values which should be “woven through the curriculum”.

Shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt accused Mrs Morgan and the DfE of dragging their feet over Trojan Horse.

Mr Hunt said: “The Government’s record of inaction on this issue is as long as it is unenviable. Warnings that schools in Birmingham were vulnerable from infiltration by radical influences were first passed to the Department for Education as early December 2010.

“It is absolutely incredible that we still find ourselves in a situation where RE pupils at Golden Hillock academy have to teach themselves about religions other than Islam or that, at the Park View Academy School, gender segregation is still not properly challenged.

“It is difficult to think of anything more complacent in the current climate than continuing to allow our children to be vulnerable to radical influences in the classroom.”

Mr Hunt posed 10 questions for Mrs Morgan:

1. Why has the Government not taken the “rapid action” that Ofsted recommended in June?

2. Does she agree that the Secretary of State, with backstop powers, has ultimate responsibility to maintain child safety and high standards in the four academy schools in question?

3. Can she guarantee that next time Ofsted reports on these schools the necessary action will have been taken?

4. Is she satisfied that she has discharged her full responsibilities for these particular schools in Birmingham?

5. Does she have full confidence in her Department’s ability to ensure it fulfils its responsibility for safeguarding children and challenging radical influences for all schools in her jurisdiction?

6. Have departmental officials attended meetings at any of the academies named in the Advice Note?

7. Can she answer her colleague the Home Secretary’s simple question: “Why did nobody act?”

8. In 2013 the Department rejected a Free School bid from the Park View Academy Trust citing “security” concerns. In the same month the Trust was allowed to take over a vulnerable academy. What were these “security concerns” and why was the academy conversion not stopped?

9. Are Ofsted and the Government at one on the policy of ‘Regional School Commissioners’ and does she think it’s viable that eight commissioners can properly oversee 20,000 state-funded schools from their respective desks?

10. Following the warnings in 2010, a Department for Education spokesperson said there is “no question” of extremist religious groups taking over a school. Does she agree with this statement now and can she guarantee we will not see another scandal like Birmingham?

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