ALLEGATIONS in the so-called "Trojan horse" letter of an
organised attempt by some governors and senior staff to impose a
hardline, politicised Islamic agenda on a group of Birmingham
schools were largely true, the report of a top-level investigation
into the letter's claims, published on Tuesday, says.
Sent anonymously to Birmingham City Council last November, and
leaked to the press earlier this year, the letter was originally
dismissed by the council as a hoax designed to disturb community
relations in the city. The allegations were comprehensively denied
by those involved.
But, as further complaints surfaced, a former Secretary of State
for Education, Michael Gove, commissioned Peter Clarke, a former
head of counter-terrorism in the UK, to conduct an inquiry.
His report says that the council took a wrong approach to the
letter: "The important issue is not who wrote it, or whether it is
a genuine letter between co-conspirators, but whether the events
and behaviours described actually happened. It quickly became
apparent to me that, although there are some factual inaccuracies
in the letter, there is also a great deal that is true, some of
which had not previously been in the public domain."
After examining 2000 documents, including council emails and
social-media exchanges, and interviewing 50 witnesses, Mr Clarke
concluded: "I neither looked for nor found evidence of terrorism,
radicalisation, or violent extremism in the schools of concern in
Birmingham. However . . . I found clear evidence that there are a
number of people associated with each other, and in positions of
influence in schools and governing bodies, who espouse, sympathise
with, or fail to challenge extremist views.
"There has been co-ordinated, deliberate, and sustained action,
carried out by a number of associated individuals, to introduce an
intolerant and aggressive Islamic ethos into a few schools in
Birmingham. This has been achieved by gaining influence on
governing bodies, installing sympathetic head teachers or senior
members of staff, appointing like-minded people to senior
positions, and seeking to remove head teachers they do not feel to
be sufficiently compliant."
Mr Clarke rejected the view that they were responding to the
demands of the local Muslim community. "On the contrary, I received
evidence that, while the majority of parents welcome the good
academic results some of these schools produce, they are not
demanding that their children adhere to conservative religious
behaviour at school. . .
"I have been told by many witnesses that most parents do not
have the confidence to argue against the articulate and forceful
people who seek their imposition, for fear of being branded
disloyal to their faith or their community."
Evidence from teachers expressed their concern that children
were learning to be intolerant of difference and diversity, and
were not being prepared for life outside predominantly Muslim
communities. Moreover, the report says, the fact that it found
"very clear evidence that young people are being encouraged to
adopt an unquestioning attitude to a particular hardline strand of
Sunni Islam raises real concerns about their vulnerability to
radicalisation in the future. . . There are real fears that their
current experiences will make it harder for them to . . .
The Park View Academy and its associated Educational Trust are
cited as "the incubator for much of what has happened". People who
have been either teachers or governors at Park View were involved
in behaviour at other schools which had destabilised head teachers,
who had resigned or been removed.
The report says: "The tactics are too similar, the individuals
too closely linked, and the behaviour of a few parents and
governors too orchestrated for there not to be a a degree of
co-ordination and organisation behind what has happened."
The report also reveals the existence of the Park View
Brotherhood, an all-male social media group that included the
Acting Principal of Park View academy, Monzoor Hussain, and
influential teachers. Among the 3000 messages were disparagement of
some strands of Islam; scepticism about the Boston bombings and the
murder of Lee Rigby; offensive comments about British service
personnel; and a "constant undercurrent of anti-Western,
anti-American and anti-Israel sentiment".
"The numerous endorsement of hyperlinks to extremist speakers
betray a collective mind-set that can fairly be described as an
intolerant and Islamist approach that denies the validity of
alternative beliefs, lifestyles, and value systems, including from
within Islam itself," the report says.
Mr Clarke's report strongly criticises Birmingham City Council
for its failure to act on complaints from head teachers and others
as early as 2011. "During interviews with officers, it became
apparent that each complaint was dealt with on a case-by-case
basis. There was never a serious attempt to see if there was a
pattern to what was happening in school governing bodies."
In a statement to the House of Commons yesterday, Michael Gove's
successor as Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, said that the
success of efforts to encourage more Muslims to take up governing
roles had been damaged by the actions of a few. A new Schools
Commissioner for Birmingham would be appointed to help the council
address fundamental criticisms of the part it played, made in the
The Education Funding Agency would end its contract with the
Oldknow Trust, which runs one of the academies named in the report,
and governors at the local-authority-run Saltley School would be
replaced by an interim executive board. The National College of
Teaching and School Leadership's misconduct panel would consider
whether the behaviour of some teachers justified a ban from
Interviewed on Radio 4's Today programme on Wednesday,
Tahir Alam, the long-time chairman of Park View trustees, who
resigned last week, continued to deny the allegations. He said that
he had not known of the existence of the Park View Brotherhood
until he read the Clarke report.
BIRMINGHAM City Council's own review of the "Trojan
horse" allegations, led by the widely respected educationist Ian
Kershaw, re-ported last week.
It found no evidence of an anti-British agenda, but
clear patterns of behaviour that supported "a determined effort to
change schools, often by unacceptable practices, to influence
educational and religious provision".
In a comprehensive statement, the council's leader, Sir
Albert Bore, conceded: "The report has highlighted areas where we
have taken no action, acted too slowly, or simply have done the
wrong thing . . . often because of the risk of being seen as racist
or Islamophobic. Our proper commitment to cohesion in communities
sometimes overrode the need to tackle difficult questions about
what was happening in a small number of schools."
Sir Albert promised the council's full co-operation with
the Department for Education and OFSTED to deliver "a radically new
way of working". Changes, including new procedures for appointing
and training governors, would be in place by 2015, he
The Bishop of Birmingham, the Rt Revd David Urquhart,
described the Clarke and Kershaw reports as thorough and
hard-hitting. "This has been a time of untold anxiety for thousands
of our fellow citizens, both Muslims and others. We now seek to
achieve even greater cohesion in our city that has the potential to
lead the world in human flourishing," he said. A council-backed
forum to discuss the city effects of the Trojan horse allegations,
of which the Bishop is a member, has proposed setting up an
independently chaired civic leadership group, the Bishop