INTENSIVE lessons on the dangers of Islamic extremism were
already taking place at Sir John Cass and Redcoat School, in east
London, last week as the Church of England school, one of the most
successful of its kind in the country, was placed in special
measures by OFSTED.
The reason given by inspectors was: "The school has not put in
place steps to ensure that students, staff and governors understand
the risks posed by extremism."
The 1500-pupil comprehensive, where more than 90 per cent of
pupils are of Bangladeshi heritage, lost its previous "outstanding"
status after a snap inspection by OFSTED in September, which
confirmed suspicions that some members of the sixth-form Islamic
Society were misusing social media, including a dedicated school
You Tube channel.
Postings included links to extremist sites and messages
discouraging students from attending school events that did not
"adhere to a particular religious viewpoint".
One warned that any student who attended a leavers' party,
indulged in "free mixing" and "listening to music" would face
severe consequences later, the report reveals.
The report shows that the school's senior leadership team and
governors had reacted inadequately to warnings given earlier this
year by counter terrorism police. Arrangements for vetting visiting
speakers and monitoring student groups, were "not robust
Communication between the head, Haydn Evans, members of the
senior leadership team, and governors, was poor, inspectors
A statement from London Diocesan Board for Schools (LDBS) said
that urgent action was already under way to tackle the issues
raised by OFSTED. "Extremism has no place in our
society, especially not in our schools."
Diocesan staff are understood to be involved in an improvement
plan, which draws on the anti-radicalisation Prevent programme, now
in place at Sir John Cass. They hope the school, which will be
subject to frequent visits from OFSTED inspectors, could regain its
former Outstanding rating by Easter.
Sir John Cass and Redcoat is the only C of E school so far to be
inspected in relation to the Government's anti-extremism agenda.
The criticisms it faces are vastly different from those levelled at
the Birmingham schools - none of them faith schools - involved in
the "Trojan Horse" inquiry (News, 24
Where inspectors in Birmingham found evidence of co-ordinated
efforts by some teachers and governors to make their schools more
compliant with a conservative form of Islam, Sir John Cass senior
teachers and governors are criticised with failing to monitor the
internet activity and behaviour of some of their sixth formers.
The Chief Inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, also appears to draw a
sharp distinction in his advice note to the Secretary of State,
Nicky Morgan, between the findings of the snap inspection of Sir
John Cass and OFSTED's simultaneous unannounced visits to six
independent Muslim schools, two of them connected to the East
All six were found to be inadequate in all respects. with the
general curriculum compromised by concentration on Islamic
teaching. Sir Michael recommends the Education Secretary to use
powers under the Education Act 2002: likely lead to closure.
In the case of Sir John Cass, he promises robust evaluation of
school- and local-authority- improvement plans, and early
special measures monitoring visits.
As news of the downgrading of Sir John Cass was made public,
parents, former pupils and other locals piled in with praise for
the much loved school which is a beacon of success in a deeply
Heads of neighbouring schools rushed to the defence of the head
of Sir John Cass, Haydn Evans, who was awarded a CBE in the last
New Year's Honours list for his stewardship of the school for
nearly 20 years. Earlier this month he was awarded an honorary
degree by the University of East London for the same reason.
Sir John Cass and Redcoat was a failing school when Mr Evans
took over in 1995. He introduced rules that improved standards of
behaviour and academic achievement . By 2004 the school was seen by
OFSTED as a model for educating pupils of Bangladeshi and similar
backgrounds. In 2008 it was rated Outstanding.
Mr Evans was reportedly "shell-shocked" by the result of the
snap, inspection. A response from Tower Hamlets council emphasising
the overall success of the school included a brief statement from
Mr Evans. He was "surprised" by the finding. His priority was
rectify the problems OFSTED had identified, the statement said.