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Wilshaw slams Birmingham’s ‘astonishing’ lack of urgency over Trojan Horse

Wilshaw slams Birmingham’s ‘astonishing’ lack of urgency over Trojan Horse

🕔18.Nov 2014

Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw has accused Birmingham city council of dragging its feet over the Trojan Horse affair by failing to deal quickly enough with an attempted takeover of schools by militant Muslim teachers and governors.

Sir Michael told the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee it was “astonishing” that the council had still not produced an action plan to address serious issues raised in official inquiries into Trojan Horse by Ofsted and former Metropolitan Police counter-terrorism commander Peter Clarke.

He claimed the council, now acting under the direction of Education Commissioner Sir Mike Tomlinson, had drawn up 13 or 14 versions of an improvement plan since June but had failed to reach any agreement on a final version.

Sir Mike replaced Mr Clarke as commissioner in September with a remit to oversee improvements to the standard of education in Birmingham following evidence of a “determined effort by a small number of people with a shared ideology to gain control and influence of the governing bodies of some schools”.

His main responsibilities are:

  • To make sure that Birmingham council drives immediate improvements in those schools highlighted in the reports and works with any others which may be vulnerable.
  • To embed improvements into the council’s structures, building a credible and effective role for them in supporting the city’s schools.

Sir Michael Wilshaw told MPs “greater urgency” was needed from the council and the Department for Education.

He told MPs: “I don’t think we’ve seen the end of the Trojan Horse issues.

“That’s why I’ve been clear that Birmingham’s got to step up to the plate and monitor what’s happening in their schools much more effectively.

“There needs to be a greater sense of urgency. It is astonishing the local authority has not produced an action plan… after 13 or 14 drafts.

“These are very, very serious issues.”

Ofsted will conduct further inspections of Birmingham academies named in the Trojan Horse reports in January.

Four separate investigations were conducted into the allegations, which were sparked by the so-called “Trojan Horse” letter – now widely believed to be a hoax.

The letter, which was sent to the council, referred to an alleged plot by hardline Muslims to seize control of a number of school governing boards in the city.

In June, Ofsted issued a damning verdict on the running of a number of Birmingham’s schools and declared five failing, placing them into special measures.

Those schools were Golden Hillock School, Nansen Primary School and Park View Academy – all run by the Park View Educational Trust (PVET) – as well as Oldknow Academy and Saltley School.

In an update published in October, Ofsted said those schools had not improved, with Sir Michael warning of slow progress in appointing new governors and senior leaders.

Speaking to the public accounts committee, Sir Michael said the DfE had to make sure new leaders at the affected schools were doing a “good job”.

Sir Michael appeared to contradict Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, who in September said she was pleased with the “tireless” work of the newly constituted Park View Trust board.

He told the MPs that he was concerned that an action plan drawn up by the Park View Trust “has not addressed the issues we raised in June”.

Chris Wormald, Permanent Secretary at the Department for Education, said Sir Michael was right to call for urgency, but said there were a number of things that needed to be done that “unfortunately do take quite a bit of time, particularly around a variety of staffing changes”.

Asked by committee chair Margaret Hodge whether the slow pace of change reflected difficulties over sacking people, Mr Wormald replied: “The law is the law”.

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