AN ANGLICAN governor of Park View Academy, the Birmingham school
suspected of being infiltrated by religious extremists, has hit
back at critics.
David Hughes, the vice-chairman of Park View Academy Trust and a
practising Anglican, has defended the trust against the allegations
contained in the so-called "Trojan horse" document, which have
sparked an intensive investigation by OFSTED and officials from the
Department for Education.
The document, which was sent to a city councillor last month,
alleges the existence of "Operation Trojan Horse", an organised
plot by extremist Muslims to Islamicise several Muslim-majority
schools by planting sympathisers on teaching staffs and governing
bodies. It accuses some staff and governors of spreading
pro-extremist propaganda, anti-Christian teaching, and the hounding
of non-Muslim heads and teachers.
The accusation has been described as malicious by the leaderof
Birmingham City Council, Sir Albert Bloor.
Tahir Alam, who chairs Park View Academy Trust, says that the
allegations are a "complete fabrication". It is understood that the
trust is considering legal action.
The claims are being investigated, none the less, by government
officials, who have now extended their investigations to a further
eight schools in the city. None of those involved is a Church of
In open letter sent on Tuesday to the Secretary of State for
Education, Michael Gove, Mr Hughes, a Park View governor for 15
years and a former head of governor-support for the city, writes:
"In all my time as a governor, we have not received a single
complaint about extremism or radicalism. If we had, we would have
investigated it openly and thoroughly."
He deplores what is, he writes,"a witch hunt against the most
successful school in England in its kind of neighbourhood". His
letter criticises two former members of staff who have complained
about extremism at Park View. Neither had made these allegations
when they left the school several years ago after disciplinary
inquiries, he writes.
Mr Hughes also turns his fire on Khalid Mahmood, MP for
Birmingham Perry Barr, for making allegations without having
visited Park View.In an interview for The Times this week,
Mr Mahmood said he had received complaints that people associated
with Park View Trust had become governors at other Birmingham
schools, and were pressing for stricter Islamic observance.
He accused Wahabist and Salafist hardliners of attempting to
indoctrinate children from the majority Sunni community into a
philosophy of religion not held by their parents. They hoped to
achieve their aims "by stealth", he alleged.
Mr Hughes's defence was supported by a joint statement from the
leaders of Birmingham's faith communities, which expressed a
"profound concern that some of the public media had distorted the
discussion of what has become known as 'Operation Trojan Horse',
demonising sections of the community in a completely unacceptable
Birmingham diocese's director of interfaith relations, Dr Andrew
Smith, said: "In every community there are those who seek to exert
undue influence on a school's agenda, making it difficult for
staff, parents and pupils." He insisted, however, that community
relationships were generally good, and Christians and Muslims
worked together on many local initiatives.
The Bishop of Birmingham, the Rt Revd David Urquhart, who is a
co-signatory, with Sir Albert Bloor, of Birmingham's
social-inclusion contract, called for a multifaith conversation on
issues of school governance, leadership, and mutual expressions of
faith in schools. The Church of England would take a lead in
establishing the talks, because "the best possible education for
every child is vital for community cohesion."
A DfE statement said that officials were working closely with
the city council and West Midlands police. "It would be
inappropriate to comment at this stage, but the Department would
not hesitate to act if standards were found to be
ST SAVIOUR's C of E Primary School in Alum Rock, the
most ethnically mixed part of Birmingham, and economically one
ofthe poorest, sends pupils to Park View Academy, writes
The briefest visit to St Saviour's tells you why the
OFSTED inspectors judged it an outstanding school. Its rankings put
St Saviour's among the best 250 schools in the country (based on
pupil progress from Key Stage 1 to 2). C of E inspectors also gave
it top marks for its clear Christian identity.
St Saviour's has a further, unofficial accolade: as an
outstanding example of interfaith co-operation. Of the 420 pupils,
only five arenot Muslim. There are Anglicans, Roman Catholics, and
several Muslims on the staff. About 60 per cent of governors are
Muslim, though they are chaired by the Vicar of St Mark with
Saviour, Saltley, the Revd Alan Thompson.
Christine Evans is in her 18th year as head teacher.
Sitting in her office, Mr Thompson and two Muslim governors,
Mahmood Hussein and Ashya Begum, explain why it works so
"We don't play politics or religion at school; we send
our children here to be educated," Mr Hussein, 20 years a governor,
says. His five children went to Saviour's.
"We don't play theology either," Mr Thompson says. "We
do it. We only celebrate what unites us, and that is a very great
Mrs Begum, a family project worker, says: "This school
has got it just right." One of the Muslim pupils, Simrah Malik
(aged ten), gave the same message when she spoke for the school at
Mr Thompson's induction in January. "God is taken seriously at St
Saviour's," she told the congregation. "We are a big, happy
On the table outside Mrs Evan's door are the Bible and
the Qur'an. "It's all about common values - and our community's
determination to help our children go as far as they can," she
Mrs Begum describes the consternation in the community
aroused by the "Trojan Horse" letter. She fears that the affair may
have a destabilising effect on the area and its schools. This view
is shared by Birmingham's diocesan director of education, the Revd
Jackie Hughes. "Schools in this area have really struggled to
improve - and have succeeded. Now that success is being