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Wilshaw takes over ‘Trojan horse’ team

25 April 2014

THE FEAST

Community-building: young people of different faiths meet in Sparkhill Park, Birmingham, on Wednesday of last week, to distribute balloons with messages of hope. The event was organised by a local charity, the Feast

Community-building: young people of different faiths meet in Sparkhill Park, Birmingham, on Wednesday of last week, to distribute balloons with mess...

AS SCHOOLS reopened this week after the Easter holidays, the Chief Inspector of Schools, Sir Michael Wilshaw, took personal charge of continuing investigations into the "Trojan horse" allegations of infiltration of a number of schools in Birmingham by Islamic extremists (News, 11 April).

A team of OFSTED inspectors has focused its inquiries on 15 schools in Birmingham at the request of the Department for Education (DfE). OFSTED expects to publish the inspectors' reports early next month, a spokesman said. Press reports say that at least six schools face the imposition of special measures.

Separate investigations are being carried out by Birmingham City Council, West Midlands Police, and the DfE. The DfE's appointment of the former anti-terrorism chief Peter Clarke to lead its inquiry was widely criticised in the city. The Vicar of All Saints', Small Heath, the Revd Oliver Coss, described it as a blow against community cohesion, it is understood.

David Hughes, the Anglican vice-chairman of governors at Park View Academy, which is at the centre of the allegations, also criticised the response to the allegations in an open letter sent to the Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, before Easter.

Although the original allegations suggested links between activists in Birmingham and Bradford, OFSTED confirmed that it had not been asked to investigate schools in other parts of the country with significant numbers of Muslim-majority schools.

In scores of Church of England schools in areas with large Asian-heritage populations, Muslim pupils are in the majority, but none of those in Birmingham is affected by the current investigations. In Blackburn diocese, which has 200 C of E schools, pupils are predominantly Muslim in at least 15, the deputy director of education, Fred Kershaw, said. There had been no evidence of attempts to exert un-due influence. "At some schools, the diocese has appointed Muslims as foundation governors who undertake to support the Christian character of the school."

Richard Noakes, the director of education for the new diocese of West Yorkshire & the Dales, which includes Bradford, said that there had been no evidence of activism affecting church schools.

London diocese educates atotal of 54,000 children in more than 150 schools. In areas such as Tower Hamlets, Muslims are in the majority at most schools.

The director of schools support, Liz Wolverson, said: "We make the Christian nature of the school very clear to parents when they apply. A few don't continue with their application, but most are happy that faith is taken seriously."

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