A "CULTURE of fear and intimidation" has taken hold in some
schools in Birmingham, the Chief Inspector of Schools said on
In his advice to the Education Secretary, written after
reviewing the inspections of 21 schools, Sir Michael Wilshaw warned
that governors had recently exerted "inappropriate influence" on
several schools in an attempt to impose a "narrow faith-based
ideology". Pupils were being left "vulnerable to segregation and
emotional dislocation from wider society". Five of the 21 have been
placed in Special Measures by OFSTED.
The inspections were carried out between March and May. Fifteen
of the 21, none of which are faith schools, were inspected at the
request of the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, after allegations
of infiltration by Islamic extremists (News, 25
Although the reports were not published by OFSTED until Monday
afternoon, Park View Education Trust, which manages three of the
schools placed in Special Measures, opted to publish OFSTED's
report on the secondary school at the heart of the media's coverage
- Park View - in the morning, alongside a statement denouncing
OFSTED rated Park View as "outstanding" in 2012, but has now
pronounced it to be "inadequate", the lowest grade. The school is
criticised for a failure to "raise students' awareness of the risks
of extremism" and for providing "few opportunities for students to
learn about different types of beliefs and cultures". Inspectors
report that "a significant number of staff" had told them that they
had "no confidence in either senior leaders of governors" and that
governors "involve themselves inappropriately in the running of the
academy". Some staff felt "intimidated" and were "fearful of
speaking out against changes".
The school's leadership has hit back at the claims, publishing
an eight-page statement in which it accuses OFSTED of falling prey
to "undue political influence", in addition to statements from both
the vice-chair and assistant principal, and a letter to the Prime
David Hughes, the vice-chair of Park View Educational Trust,
said: "The speed and the ferocity with which Park View School, in
particular, has been condemned, is truly shocking."
OFSTED inspectors had come "looking for extremism, looking for
segregation, looking for proof that our children have religion
forced upon them as part of an Islamic plot. The OFSTED reports
find absolutely no evidence of this, because this is categorically
not what is happening at our schools. Our schools do not tolerate
or promote extremism of any kind."
The problem was not extremism, he suggested, but "the knee-jerk
actions of some politicians" who had "put Muslim children from
these communities at substantial risk of not being accepted as
equal, legitimate and values members of British society".
Mr Hughes, who is a practising Anglican, was supported by Lee
Donaghy, assistant principal at Park View, who describes himself as
He described Park View as "a beacon of hope against a tide of
isolation, poverty, drugs, crime, and yes, potential extremism. . .
which achieves what many thought impossible - poor, inner-city,
Muslim children achieving as well as any children, anywhere."
Despite the fact that 72 per cent of students at Park View are
eligible for the Pupil Premium (eligible for free school meals or
in the care of the local authority), 75 per cent achieve five GCSEs
graded A*-C, well above the national average. The Trust has vowed
to challenge the OFSTED reports through legal channels.
Parallel to the OFSTED report, a review of the Trust was
conducted by the Educational Funding Agency (EFA), part of the
Department for Education. It notes that Sheikh Shady Al-Suleiman
was invited to speak at Park View, despite having previously
expressed extremist views. There was also "some" gender
segregation: in some classes boys sat at the front and girls around
the edges. Lessons in personal, social, health and economic
education (PHSE), biology, and sex and relationship education had
been "restricted to comply with conservative Islamic teaching".
OFSTED has also published reports on the two other schools in
the Park View Education Trust: Golden Hillock School and Nansen
Primary School. Findings included the discovery that, at the
latter, the governing body had removed some subjects, such as
music, from the timetable. Golden Hillock was rated as inadequate
across all four categories assessed by OFSTED. Some female teachers
felt "intimidated" by male members of the school community.
The other two schools placed in Special Measures by OFSTED are
Oldknow Academy and Saltley School and Specialist Science College.
Saltley, ranked inadequate across the board, was "in a state of
crisis". The governors had paid private investigators to
interrogate the emails of senior staff. A statement from the
governing body said that the report "was not written with due
respect for appropriate evidence".
At Oldknow, OFSTED reported that a small group of governors was
"endeavouring to promote a particular and narrow faith-based
ideology". Staff felt afraid to speak out. The achievement of
pupils and quality of teaching was, however, ranked outstanding.
The EFA's report on Oldknow suggested that pupils had been
encouraged to reply "no" to a teacher's assertion during a
Christmastime assembly that "We don't celebrate Christmas, do we?"
Staff reported that, during Friday assembly, words such as "white
prostitute" had been used.
On Monday, Mr Gove said that Sir Michael would be asked to
examine the possibility of introducing unannounced inspections on
The Prime Minister, David Cameron, was said to be "deeply
concerned" by the allegations.
The Muslim Council of Britain expressed concern about the OFSTED
reports. "No extremism has been found, but the slur of extremism
remains," a statement said. "This whole saga has also been
politicised, and we call on both the Department for Education and
OFSTED to look into why there have been a drip feed of leaks from
the investigation, resulting in further feverish speculation and
ultimately hostility against Muslims."