THE mass inspection of Birmingham schools by OFSTED, in response
to allegations of infiltration by Muslim governors and staff with a
conservative religious agenda (
News, 6 June), gave grounds for "grave concern", the Chief
Inspector of Schools, Sir Michael Wilshaw, said this week.
In an advice note to the Secretary of State for Education,
Michael Gove, after the publication of OFSTED reports on 21 of the
city schools, Sir Michael said that there was evidence that a
climate of fear and intimidation, accompanied by a sudden deep
decline in standards, had taken hold in schools previously
recognised as outstanding.
"Some head teachers with a proud record of raising standards had
been marginalised or forced out of their jobs," Sir Michael said.
One witness had been so anxious about talking to inspectors that
the interview had taken place in a supermarket car park.
Some head teachers believed that there had been an organised
campaign to target certain schools in order to alter their
character and ethos, and had identified governors who were "highly
influential" across several of the schools inspected, the report
While Sir Michael's advice note does not give a precise number,
a spokesman for the National Association of Head Teachers said that
it had supported 30 members with concerns, and had carried out
detailed work in a dozen schools.
Governors in some of the 21 inspected schools, Sir Michael said,
had sought to change policies and the curriculum in line with their
own personal beliefs. Moreover, inspectors had found specific
examples of the appointment of family members to unadvertised
senior posts, "in spite of poor references and against the wishes
of the head teacher".
In some schools, there had been questionable use of public
funds. Some staff complained that they had been treated unfairly
because of their gender or religious belief.
Of the 21 schools inspected, 11 have been told that they require
improvement, and five have been placed in special measures. These
include Park View Academy, at the centre of the allegations, and
its associated academies, Golden Hillock, and Nansen Primary;
Oldknow Academy; and Saltley School and Specialist Science College.
A sixth school, Alston Primary, is already in special measures.
Saltley is a local-authority school, and the council has already
announced its intention to replace its governors with an interim
executive board. The Trusts responsible for the four academies,
which are centrally funded, however, have been told that it is
likely their agreement with the Secretary of State will be
In a letter to Tahir Alam, who chairs the Park View Trust -
which oversees Park View, Golden Hillock, and Nansen academies -
Lord Nash, the Government's academies spokesman, said that the
Trust had failed in its obligation to provide spiritual, moral, and
cultural education that encouraged tolerance between people of
different faiths, and had not encouraged pupils to respect the
fundamentals of British democracy.
The letter also criticises Park View for failing adequately to
vet visitors to the school, and for inviting a speaker with known
Mr Alam, a former chairman of the Association of Muslim Schools,
has consistently denied all the "Trojan horse" allegations. The
Trust has that said it will resist the threatened withdrawal of
funding, and is expected to mount a legal challenge to OFSTED's
David Hughes, the vice-chairman of the Trust and an Anglican,
has also disputed OFSTED's findings. "The speed and ferocity with
which Park View School in particular has been condemned is truly
shocking. OFSTED inspectors came to our schools looking for
extremism, looking for segregation, looking for proof that our
children have religion forced on them as part of an Islamic
"The OFSTED reports find absolutely no evidence of this, because
this is categorically not what is happening."
Defenders of the schools involved in the investigations have
consistently drawn attention to their academic results, which are
significantly higher than the average achievement in comparable
areas of economic deprivation.
Sir Michael's report acknowledges this, but says that
examination success is outweighed by other factors. All five
schools, formerly rated outstanding or good, have been downgraded,
because inspectors were dissatisfied with their safeguarding
arrangements. In the current Birmingham climate, "safeguarding" is
a code word for the Government's "Prevent" agenda to stop the
radicalisation of young people, in which schools are expected to
play a significant part.
Sir Michael's advice note makes clear his view that Birmingham
city council failed to support schools "in their efforts to keep
pupils safe from the potential risks of radicalisation and
extremism. . . It has not dealt adequately with complaints from
head teachers about the conduct of governors." Nor, he says, were
they sufficiently careful about the suitability of those
recommended for governor positions.
Among his recommendations is mandatory training for all
governors, who should be clear that they are bound by prescribed
procedures if they wish to change the status or character of a
school. He also wants school and academies to receive clearer
guidance on what constitutes a balanced curriculum, and more
monitoring of funding agreements for academies and free
"In culturally homogeneous communities, schools are often the
only places where children learn about other faiths, cultures, and
lifestyles, and all must promote the wider values of British
society," Sir Michael said.
"If this does not happen, the principles that are fundamental to
the well-being of our society will not be transmitted to the next
AS OFSTED reported this week on inspections of 21
schools in Birmingham, inspectors visited Laisterdyke Business and
Enterprise College, Bradford. The city council replaced
Laisterdyke's governing body with an interim executive board in
The council said that it had taken the action because
"governors had increasingly undermined the capacity of senior
leaders, and slowed down decision making".
Concerns that Laisterdyke, a comprehensive school with a
mainly Muslim student body, and Carlton Bolling, a similar school,
had been targeted by governors with a conservative religious agenda
have grown over several months. Neil Weller, the chief executive of
Bradford Partnership, a consortium of 31 schools aiming to raise
educational standards in the city, said in an ITN interview on
Tuesday that concerns were focused on a small minority of