The ‘Trojan Horse’ schools panic
17th November 2015: Two teachers ‘left children vulnerable’
‘Two teachers from a school linked to the ‘Trojan horse’ scandal could be banned for life after a hearing found that they ‘fed pupils a diet of Islam’ which ‘stifled their development’. Inamulhaq Anwar and Akeel Ahmed exercised ‘undue religious influence’ on children at Park View Academy in Birmingham, a disciplinary panel ruled yesterday. Pupils were never taught sex or relationship education, according to officials, and were ‘immersed in orthodox Islamic doctrine’ – which could leave them vulnerable to being groomed by extremists…
Yesterday, a National College of Teaching and Leadership disciplinary panel chose to accept the evidence of a staff member that Anwar and Ahmed were central figure in Park View’s religious indoctrination programme. The panel said that pupils were ‘fed a diet of Islam’ which had in turn ‘stifled their development as normal teenagers’. It also found that the conduct of the two men tended to undermine tolerance and respect for the faith and belief of others… [Panel Chairman Mark Tweedle] said that the claims were ‘in no way concerned with extremism’, but added: ‘Pupils raised in a predominantly Muslim community and immersed in orthodox Islamic doctrine at school are more likely to feel isolated and inadequately prepared for the world as they grow up.’ click here.
22nd October 2015: Misconduct Panel Hearing, BBC report
‘Islamic assemblies were held without consultation at a Birmingham school involved in the “Trojan Horse” affair, a misconduct panel has heard. Razwan Faraz, former deputy head teacher at Nansen Primary, also, on one occasion, had girls sitting at the back and boys at the front, it was claimed. Mr Faraz and four other senior staff deny unacceptable professional conduct. The school was investigated amid claims of a Muslim hardliners’ plot to control several schools… In a separate hearing, in Birmingham, teacher Johirul Islam had an accusation of bringing undue religious influence into lessons dismissed. click here.
19th October 2015: Government’s One Nation Counter-Extremism Strategy
…There is evidence that our institutions are increasingly targeted by extremists, who look to use them to spread their ideology. In April 2014, Peter Clarke, a former senior police officer, was appointed by the Government to investigate allegations that extremists had gained control of several schools in Birmingham – the ‘Trojan Horse’ plot. His detailed report found evidence of “co-ordinated, deliberate and sustained action… to introduce an intolerant and aggressive Islamic ethos”. His report described extremists gaining positions on governing bodies and joining the staff, unequal treatment and segregation of boys and girls, extremist speakers making presentations to pupils, and bullying and intimidation of staff who refused to support extremist views. In total around 5,000 children were in institutions affected. Click here, Sections 21-22.
25th September 2015: ‘Statement of concern issued by Robin Richardson of Insted Consultancy on ‘School Governors and British Values’:
[…] One of the ‘fundamental British values’ which the governors are alleged to have undermined is the rule of law. Principles of the rule of law include natural justice: the ability of an accused to answer charges against them, which means knowing the precise nature of the charges, and of the evidence underlying the charges. The principles apply not just to criminal trials but to any proceedings, administrative or judicial, which could result in significant prejudice.
In the threatened action, and in the way the allegations against the governors are framed, the letter violates basic principles of the rule of law. The lack of precision as to what each individual governor is alleged to have done and the extent of their individual responsibility, and the reliance on anonymous hearsay evidential material, are causes for grave concern. There is an irony in the fact that the Department for Education is accusing people of conduct aimed at undermining fundamental British values but is itself guilty of such conduct, and more obviously so. click here.
7 September 2015: ‘A Muslim school governor at the heart of the Trojan horse controversy has been banned from having any involvement with schools after being accused of “undermining British values”. The Department for Education (DfE) issued the ban on Tahir Alam, former chair of governors at Park View Educational Trust in Birmingham – the first time an order of this kind has been used. Hardip Begol, director of assessment, curriculum, qualifications and accountability at DfE, said Alam had engaged in conduct “aimed at undermining the fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths or beliefs.” Alam, who passed the letter informing him of the ban to the Guardian, said he intended to appeal. “I have the dubious honour of being the first person to be issued with a ban of this kind by the [Department for Education] preventing me from taking part in the management of schools,” Alam said. “I did my job as a governor, as a volunteer, and I did it very well in collaboration with others. I helped transform these schools into successful schools and stand by my work there.” click here.
25 August 2015: Statement from Waheed Saleem, ‘I recently stepped down from chairing the board of one of the most challenging education trusts in the country: CORE, the sponsor of Park View and Nansen Schools. I fear that Whitehall is exerting too much centralised control, leaving parents and the community – especially those of the Muslim faith – unable to play their full role as governors.[…] My resignation came as a result of pressure from the EFA who asked for changes in leadership. The official line: ‘we want to see quicker progress’. However, ask anyone involved and they would say progress had been excellent in the circumstances. Any turnaround requires a period to lay the foundations and to ensure the transformation is sustainable for the long term.
Just last week, Park View was celebrating a significant improvement in GCSE results. The number of children achieving three or more A* or A grades in 2015 rose to 27 per cent, up six percentage points year-on-year. he number of students achieving A* or A in Additional Science rose from 14 per cent in 2014 to 35 per cent this year. A total of 54 per cent of Pupil Premium-eligible students achieved five or more GCSEs at grade A*-C: one per cent more than students from non-disadvantaged backgrounds. These two particular areas were highlighted in the last Ofsted monitoring report as being of concern resulting in a ‘not making enough progress’ judgment. The results prove this was far from the case and that the school, teachers and most importantly the pupils were making reasonable progress. I wonder if Ofsted will apologise for their inaccurate judgement and review the lead inspector. click here.
30 July 2015: The Department of Education is now in the process of barring Muslim school governors who were educational activists in Birmingham’s independent schools from holding such a position ever again ‘for life’. A unit at the DoE, the Due Diligence and Counter Extremism Group, has written to over a dozen individuals, including Tahir Alam, indicating they were engaged in activities ‘that undermined British values’. The notices cite Section 128 of the Education and Skills Act 2008. A legal challenge is expected.
26 July 2015: The new chair of governors at Park View, Waheed Saleem, who approved the reinstatements [0f Shakeel Akhtar, the assistant principal of Park View School, and Saqib Malik, director of student progress] denies there were any problems in Birmingham’s schools, stating that extremism “didn’t exist”. Mr Saleem likened media coverage of the plot to The Sun’s “lies” about Liverpool fans over Hillsborough. He called for a boycott of the Telegraph, which revealed many of the developments. Source: Daily Telegraph
McCarthyism reborn: Deploying section 128 of the Education and Skills Act 2008, the Department for Education is placing a life-time banning order on the Muslim education activist Tahir Alam from ever becoming a school governor. Birmingham Mail, 20 July 2015.
Tahir Alam presents his case in this Youtube Presentation: Impact of the Education of Muslim Children in Birmingham Schools Featuring Tahir Alam, Ex Chairman – Park View Educational Trust. click here
Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari, 21st March 2015 – ‘Will Heads Roll?’: Finally, we now have been given a balanced report of the so-called ‘Trojan Horse’ saga that created a mass hysteria in the first few months of 2014. This is a credit to the Education Committee, who rose above politics for the sake of the education of our children. According to Mary Bousted, the general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), this educational affair had led to “a national panic”. During the height of the one-sided debate, the Muslim community was demonised from many quarters and individuals were pilloried. Some Birmingham school governors and parents lost their normal life because of an unprecedented media attention on them. The school children there, most of whom are Muslims, felt they were victimised.
It was an open season for Muslims and Muslim educationalists.
Will any heads roll or will anyone now apologise for allowing this hysteria to continue for so long? The nation deserves an apology from the former Education Secretary, Michael Gove. As the education committee has raised questions about the “appropriateness of Ofsted’s framework and the reliability and robustness of its judgements”, will the Ofsted head explain why, as an educationalist, he failed to keep politics out of education? click here for more – from the blog head2heart.
The Trojan Horse affair epitomises many of the questions and concerns expressed elsewhere about the changing school landscape and the overlapping roles of the organisations responsible for oversight of schools. No evidence of extremism or radicalisation, apart from a single isolated incident, was found by any of the inquiries and there was no evidence of a sustained plot nor of a similar situation pertaining elsewhere in the country. Our report therefore covers the response of the Department for Education and Ofsted to the situation and wider lessons for the school system.
Report of the House of Commons Education Committee, click here
Reportage on MCB participation at educational conference (30th January 2015): The secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain has defended the “Trojan horse” schools in Birmingham, saying that their pupils were high achievers whose promising futures had been undermined and spoilt by the controversy. Shuja Shafi said that snap inspections of such schools had bred suspicion and paranoia. Addressing head teachers at a conference on British values at a school in east London, he also attacked attempts to root out radical views in nurseries.
Baroness Warsi’s remarks (24th January 2015): We needed to bring more people into the fold rather than increasingly adopt positions which pushed groups and individuals out to the fringe. We will all fight extremism better if we all feel like we are in the same team, where communities feel listened to, where answers are found collectively and where engagement with communities is broad and deep. To use an oft-quoted phrase, “we are all in this together”….Some progress was made in establishing some formal structures within which engagement could take place, for example, the cross-government anti-Muslim hatred working group. But apart from my friend Eric, not a single secretary of state engaged with it. Numerous requests were made to a number of secretaries of state, such as the then education secretary, Michael Gove, during the Birmingham schools “Trojan horse” row, but the requests for engagement were not agreed to, and letters were unanswered.
The BBC (17th January 2015) reported, ‘… [Queensbridge School head] Mr Boyes met a minister [at the Department for Education] twice in 2010 to discuss his concerns. … The meeting was held three years before a letter – now widely assumed to be a forgery – alleging a “Trojan Horse” plot was sent to Birmingham council… [Minister] Lord Hill left the second meeting before it ended. Mr Boyes said Elena Narozanski, a special adviser to Michael Gove at the time, then led the meeting. “She was the person who at the end of the meeting, in a one-to-one with me, said ‘The Secretary of State would be personally particularly interested; would I please bring a group to talk to him?’
The $64,000 question – who is now investigating this ‘widely assumed’ forgery? Will it point to sources within the DfE?
A seasonal reflection by leading educationalist Robin Richardson: 2014 was the year of the Trojan gift horse – equus donatus troianus – bestowed on (and gratefully received by) quite a wide range of people…click here
Insted Consultancy’s blog on Equality and British Values
There has been much talk in recent months about ‘fundamental British values’ – FBV for short. A substantial symposium on this topic traces the origins of FBV in highly dubious and controversial counter-terrorism policies and measures, and reviews the criticisms of it that have been made by practitioners and observers. Also, the symposium quotes some of the criticisms that have been made of the simplistic and damaging way Ofsted has been approaching FBV, and the muddled, confused and confusing ‘guidance’ that has been issued by the Department for Education.
The symposium has been compiled by Robin Richardson and Bill Bolloten and will be published in late January 2015 in the journal Race Equality Teaching (RET). A copy of the whole journal can be purchased at a much reduced price if ordered before 15 January. Details of this offer are at http://ioepress.co.uk/books/race-equality-teaching/ret-special-issue-323/
The editorial introduction to this issue of RET urges that the Department for Education should make itself compliant with its duty under the Equality Act 2010 to publish specific and measurable objectives. The DfE rightly declares the rule of law is a fundamental value underlying British society. But in relation to the Equality Act the DfE itself flagrantly ignores what the rule of law requires. Ofsted, at least, until recently observed the rule of law in relation to the Equality Act. But, as pointed out in a further editorial article in the new issue of RET, it no longer publishes guidance to inspectors about what the law requires and it is therefore no longer transparent. This is both unfair and unhelpful, and may be open to legal challenge. http://instedconsultancy.wordpress.com/, 17 December 2014
Quaker school headteacher’s riposte to the Department of Education’s recent SMSC (Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural) development of pupil guidelines:
My school, along with others, received notification one Friday recently of changes that were to come into force just three days later in the way we look after pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development. There had been a consultation over the summer holiday, but the sudden implementation left some of us feeling breathless. Governors must henceforth, we were told, ensure that schools “actively promote the fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs …”
The Friends School Council, which supports Quakers in education, had argued in the consultation that “British values” should be replaced by “human rights” or “international law”, but this view was seemingly not taken on board.
At a time when the UK government is sending bombers to the Middle East, we had a weekend to think what the “fundamental British values of democracy” might actually be. Are British values different from French or Swedish ones? How can governors really ascertain the level of our activity in promoting these values, whatever they might be? Can we look at values without seeing how these are translated into action? And should we really promote an unquestioning adherence to the rule of law?
As a Quaker, I tend to believe that we should at the very least question the rule of law, and indeed, on occasion, feel compelled to break it. The Quakers’ guide publication Advices And Queries says: “Respect the laws of the state but let your first loyalty be to God’s purposes. If you feel impelled by strong conviction to break the law, search your conscience deeply.” The Guardian, 11 November 2014 click here.
Essential reading in the wake of the Trojan Horse saga – the journal’s Spring 2014 issue presents some key statistics:
- Ethnic minority groups, especially Pakistanis, are grossly underrepresented in the teaching profession, in relation to pupil population.
- According to Birmingham City Council data from 2003, Pakistani staff made up 1.6 per cent of the school workforce, against a Pakistani pupil population of 19 per cent at the time. (From the article by Karamat Iqbal, Working out what to do with us immigrants – religion, belief and life-chances in a West Midlands city)
- The 2013 school census figures show that 28.5 of primary and 24.2% of secondary pupils are from ethnic minority background.
- … it is no longer possible to become a Specialist Leader of Education in either EAL or Minority Ethnic Achievement. At a time when numbers and needs are growing, this decision is bizarre (From the article by Sameena Choudhry, Watching and checking on progress – collecting and publishing essential information)
The reverberations of the Trojan Horse saga are being felt, months later. It has led to some policy announcements by Government, which seem to be entirely wrong-headed:
‘And I want to tell you about another change we intend to make. As part of the Government’s counter-terrorism strategy, Prevent has only ever been focused on the hard end of the extremism spectrum. So the Home Office will soon, for the first time, assume responsibility for a new counter-extremism strategy that goes beyond terrorism. This strategy will be devised and overseen by the Home Office, but its implementation will be the responsibility of the whole of government, the rest of the public sector, and wider civil society. It will aim to undermine and eliminate extremism in all its forms – neo-Nazism and other forms of extremism as well as Islamist extremism – and it will aim to build up society to identify extremism, confront it, challenge it and defeat it.
Here in the city of Birmingham, local people know the problem only too well. Because it was here that extremists infiltrated state schools and sought to impose a hardline curriculum on children. School pupils were told about the dangers of “white prostitutes”, the call to prayer was broadcast over loudspeakers, music was banned, boys and girls were segregated, trips to Saudi Arabia were arranged for Muslim-only children, and inspectors found a “culture of bullying and intimidation”.’ 30 September 2014, Extract from Home Secretary Theresa May’s speech at the Tory Conference 2014.
‘An extraordinary Cabinet row has broken out over plans by Ministers to force Muslim schools to teach pupils about Christianity. The move by Education Secretary Nicky Morgan is intended to stop Islamic extremists from ‘brainwashing’ children. But it has led to a clash at the top of Government, with Home Secretary Theresa May lining up with Mrs Morgan against Communities Secretary Eric Pickles.
Mrs Morgan drew up the proposals in the wake of the ‘Trojan Horse’ plot by radical Muslims to take over schools in Birmingham, which led to the Government rushing in new measures to compel schools to teach ‘British values’ of tolerance’. 21st September 2014 – click here.
This archive has six further sections:
For a comprehensive resume of developments see also
Robin Richardson’s website – ‘The Trojan Horse Affair in Birmingham – Competing and Overlapping Narratives’.
Islamic Commission on Human Rights’ website – ‘Operation Trojan Horse: What isn’t being said’
In April 2014, for reasons yet to be clarified, the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills, better known as OFSTED, decided to conduct spot inspections at schools in localities with high Muslim populations. The first school selected was the Saltley School in Bordersley Green, Birmingham.
From the Muslim community’s perspective, this was an attempt to disempower Muslim governors and other educational initiatives addressing issues of underachievement, lack of parental involvement in schools, lack of role models and the high rate of student exclusions. It was an indication that there were separate, discriminatory rules applicable to British Muslims because of a lack of appreciation of ‘British values’ and ‘secular culture’.
The svengali in this affair is the Education Secretary Michael Gove MP, who has a track record of hostility towards Muslims and the bogey of ‘the Islamists’, well documented in his polemic ‘Celsius 7/7 – How the West’s policy of appeasement has provoked yet more fundamentalist terror – and what has to be done now‘ – a title that summarises this former Times journalist’s ideology. He was an advisor of the Quilliam Foundation, the self-declared “world’s first counter-extremism think tank”, a signatory to the principles of the Henry Jackson Society, and former chairman of Policy Exchange – in other words, impeccably Neo-Con.
Sign up to this e-petitionREMOVE MICHAEL GOVE FROM OFFICE
OFSTED is unlikely to have acted without pressure from the Department of Education and Skills (DES) – links likely to be unraveled in Freedom of Information requests in the coming months.
1. How it all began
On 9 March 2014, Andrew Gilligan, a journalist with a penchant for Muslim scare stories, lived up to his reputation with an alarmist account of a Muslim ‘take-over’ of a school in Birmingham.
Gilligan’s article referred to a document from which the saga was to take its name:
” The leaked document, purportedly a letter from one Muslim extremist to another, called it ‘Trojan Horse’ – an operation by fundamentalists to ‘take over’ state schools in the city of Birmingham, undermine the headteachers and ensure they were ‘run on Islamic principles’.”
The article insinuated that this was leading to extremism and serving as a pathway to terrorism. Gilligan focussed on one Muslim educationalist, Tahir Alam:
“The chairman of governors at Park View, Tahir Alam, is a senior activist in the Muslim Council of Britain and vice-chair of the Association of Muslim Schools (AMS). His views, like the MCB’s, are hardline. In evidence for the MCB to the UN’s high commissioner for human rights in 2008, he said he would ‘caution against advocating that desegregation [in schools] should be actively pursued’ and stressed the ‘obligatory nature’ of the hijab for Muslim women and girls. Mr Alam is also a senior official of another organisation, the al-Hijrah Trust, which runs another successful state school in the city and trains teachers, many of whom have gone on to head other state schools in Birmingham.”
Tahir Alam response was as follows:
..As one of the people named in this anonymous document by a fictitious author, I wish to state that any reference to me is a malicious fabrication and completely untrue. I condemn the strategy outlined in this dodgy dossier, it goes against my values and the principles in campaigning and working for higher educational standards.
Some sections of the media followed Gilligan’s line, with headlines like:
Gove in war on Islamic takeover of schools (9 April, Sunday Times)
“MICHAEL GOVE is preparing to send hit squads of inspectors into dozens of state schools where conservative Islamic practices are allegedly damaging children’s education. The education secretary has ripped up the rule book for inspectors so that they can fail schools where ‘religious conservatism is getting in the way of learning and a balanced curriculum’.
On 26 April, Gilligan wrote a further piece in The Telegraph: ” The alleged ringleader of the Trojan Horse plot wrote a detailed blueprint for the radical ‘Islamisation’ of secular state schools which closely resembles what appears to be happening in Birmingham. Tahir Alam, chairman of governors at Park View school in the city, called for ‘girls [to] be covered except for their hands and faces’, advocated gender segregation in some school activities, and attacked a ‘multicultural approach’ to collective worship.” Gilligan quoted the Labour MP for Birmingham Perry Barr, Khalid Mahmood, “Mr Alam … has been planning this for 15 years. He goes around making these schools religious by manipulating governors, and bringing in certain teachers. He was able to hone the [tactics] in Birmingham that he drafted in this report.”
2. The OFSTED inspections
In April-May 2014 OFSTED inspected 21 schools in Birmingham and Luton. According to eye-witness reports, the inspectors were heavy-handed and arrogant. In some cases, the visiting team included Peter Clark, former national head of counter terrorism. Unreasonable and ambigious questions were put to staff, governors and students, for example:
To staff and governors: What is extremism? How do you prepare children for modern Britain?
To students: What would you do if the law was changed so you could not practice your religion in this country?
The inspections were less about gathering facts on academic achievement but more on adherence to the counter-terrorism PREVENT agenda.
Christine Quinn, the Executive Principal of Ninestiles Academy, as reported by the Guardian describes the experience as “somewhat harrowing, in that it was unlike any other inspection”. “They were trying to establish whether we had mechanisms in place to know if elements of radicalism or extremism were in our school, and whether we knew how to recognise it, and that we had extensive policies on citizenship, personal, social and health education the sort of things to counteract any such elements.”
For Mohammed Ashraf, a governor at Golden Hillock School, “Many of the questions seemed strange in comparison with a normal Ofsted. It became apparent during the interview, no matter what was said, the inspectors (had) already decided to condemn the school.”
An Ofsted inspection of a Muslim primary school in Luton was abandoned after children were questioned on their attitude to homosexuality. Pupils at the independent Olive Tree Primary School in Bury Park Road said they felt “bewildered and confused”, according to the school. BBC News 16 May
Ibrahim Hewitt, a veteran Muslim educationalist, noted “one school in Leicester with which I am associated is accused, for example, of gender segregation when, in fact, such segregation has never been a policy there.” Al Jazeera
3. More on OFSTED
For an OFSTED publication on ‘tackling radicalisation’ (November 2012) click here
Second Ruskin College letter to the Guardian – 29th July 2014
The new secretary of state for education, Nicky Morgan, makes various pledges following the “Trojan horse” reports on Birmingham schools. Several of her pledges are valuable. The basis for them, however, is unsound. Peter Clarke’s report is not “forensic”, as Nicky Morgan claims (Report, 22 July), but a biased mix of uncorroborated smear, anecdote, hoax and chatroom gossip.
It reflects neoconservative assumptions about the nature of extremism; ignores significant testimony and viewpoints; implies the essential problem in Birmingham is simply the influence of certain individuals; discusses governance but not curriculum; ignores the concerns and perceptions of parents and young people; and is unlikely to bear judicial scrutiny. The Trojan horse affair has done much damage in Birmingham, both to individuals and to community cohesion.
Political leaders have key roles in the urgent process of restoration and support for curriculum renewal. Alas, they will not be much helped by the official reports of Clarke, Ian Kershaw and Ofsted.
They will, though, be helped by the unique strength and goodwill of people in Birmingham itself.
Tim Brighouse, Gus John, Arun Kundnani, Sameena Choudry, Akram Khan-Cheema, Arzu Merali, Robin Richardson, Maurice Irfan Coles, Gill Cressey, Steph Green, Ashfaque Chowdhury, Ibrahim Hewitt, Baljeet Singh Gill, Arshad Ali, S Sayyid, Massoud Shadjareh, Abdool Karim Vakil and Tom Wylie
First Ruskin College letter to the Guardian – 3rd June 2014
Letter in The Guardian from Sir Tim Brighouse and other educationalists and Muslim leaders:
Several major Ofsted reports are due to be published about the so-called “Trojan Horse” schools in Birmingham which are alleged to be at the centre of a plot to “Islamise” schools (Six schools criticised in Trojan Horse inquiry, 2 June).
The reports will be a landmark in British educational history and the history of Britain as a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society, for better or for worse.
First-hand accounts of the Ofsted inspections that have emerged are disturbing. They suggest that inspectors were poorly prepared and had an agenda that calls into question Ofsted’s claim to be objective and professional in its appraisal of standards in schools serving predominantly Muslim pupils.
Numerous sensationalised leaks have reinforced the perception of a pre-set agenda. It is beyond belief that schools which were judged less than a year ago to be “outstanding” are now widely reported as “inadequate”, despite having the same curriculum, the same students, the same leadership team and the same governing body. In at least one instance, these conflicting judgments were made by the same lead inspector. This has damaged not only the reputation of the schools but the integrity of the inspections process.
This is uncharted territory, with Ofsted seemingly being guided by an ideology at odds with the traditional British values which schools are meant to espouse, particularly fairness, justice and respect for others. We, the undersigned, believe that such an approach compromises not only Ofsted’s impartiality but also the British education system itself.
Tim Brighouse, Robin Richardson Former director of the Runnymede Trust, Salma Yaqoob, Tom Wylie Former HMI, Ibrahim HewittEducation consultant, S Sayyid University of Leeds, Arzu Merali Islamic Human Rights Commission, Sameena Choudry Equitable Education,Baljeet Singh Gill Ruskin College, Massoud Shadjareh Islamic Human Rights Commission, Farooq Murad Muslim Council of Britain,Arshad Ali Institute of Education, University of London, Maurice Irfan Coles, Abdoolkarim Vakil King’s College London, Gill Cressey Muslim Youthwork Foundation, Steph Green Ruskin College, Mustafa Draper, Abbas Shah, Tasawar Bashir, MG Khan Ruskin College
Ofsted is deeply flawed. It has little to do with school improvement and much to do with passing judgement, often on the basis of unreliable data and expertise. Its reports are turgid, reflecting an obsession with controlling language and thought that bears comparison with newspeak. It employs the same dodgy subcontractors of state services as perform so well in other areas of public life.
Former Ofsted inspector, Walsall
5. Key interviews and debates (videos)
10th June: Salma Yaqoob tackles Khalid Mahmood MP click here
10th June: Myriam Francois-Cerrah on ‘British values, universal values? click here
17th June: Lee Donaghy, Vice Principal, Park View School, Birmingham – at the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee
10th July: Professor Tim Brighouse – Putting Birmingham school kids first click here
6. Further updates
20th August 2014DfE had received no complaints about ten of the Trojan Horse schools. Why, then, did Gove order inspections? – See more at: http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2014/08/dfe-had-received-no-complaints-about-ten-of-the-trojan-horse-schools-why-then-did-gove-order-inspections/#sthash.iz8xjPi2.dpuf
DfE had received no complaints about ten of the Trojan Horse schools. Why, then, did Gove order inspections?
Department for Education (DfE) response, 19 August 2014, to Freedom of Information request:
21 schools were inspected in April 2014 as part of the Trojan Horse investigations. Ofsted ordered six but the remaining fifteen were at the request of Michael Gove, then Education Secretary.
Four of these fifteen were named in the Trojan Horse letter but that left eleven which were not. So why were these eleven chosen? Had the DfE received complaints?
The DfE confirmed it received four complaints about Oldknow Academy but no complaints about the remaining ten. It says these were inspected because:
‘the [then] Secretary of State had a range of concerns regarding the other eleven schools. Internal investigations raised a number of potential issues, particularly in relation to leadership and governance and the safeguarding of children in these settings.’
It’s unclear, however, what sparked these ‘internal investigations’. Or what form these internal investigations took. There were, after all, no complaints.
I can only speculate but in some cases it appears staff changes may have triggered inspections. click here for Janet Downs’ full posting.
6th August 2014
Her (Baroness Warsi’s) dramatic departure, in which she warned the Prime Minister’s approach (condoning the Israeli offensive in Gaza) was “detrimental” to the national interest and risked radicalising young Muslims, won plaudits from several former Tory ministers. Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, also appeared to back her.(…) she has become increasingly frustrated at what she sees as the increasingly anti-Muslim rhetoric in parts of Government – in particular over the “Trojan Horse” affair. She is understood to have been concerned at the appointment of Peter Clarke, a former senior anti-terrorism policeman, to lead the inquiry into allegations hardline Islamists infiltrated Birmingham schools. She raised her worries with Mr Cameron but was overruled. click here
24th July 2014
The Muslim Council of Britain has warned education authorities “not to be sidetracked by culture wars initiated by divisive commentators”, as it rejected many of the findings of a government-commissioned report that found a co-ordinated effort by extreme Muslims to take over some Birmingham schools. The MCB said the report, written by Peter Clarke, the former Met counter-terror chief, was guilty of “conflating conservative Muslim practices to a supposed ideology and agenda to Islamise secular schools”. Patrick Wintour in the Guardian.
22nd July 2014
Salma Yaqoob: The residents of Birmingham ought to be able to sleep more easily tonight. Peter Clarke’s 129-page report into the city’s schools found no evidence of plots to indoctrinate, groom or recruit school pupils to an agenda of radicalisation, violent extremism or terrorism. This is also the key finding of the reports commissioned by Birmingham city council and Ofsted.[…]
Unfortunately, a great deal of damage has been done by politicians who whip up hostility towards migrants coming to this country or towards a Muslim community that is very much part of Britain. Viewing the problems of governance through the prism of “culture wars”, with Birmingham schools as the battlefield, was bound to leave many casualties. The reality on the ground is a huge increase in bullying – including in one case Muslim children having a dog set on them – and being taunted with accusations of learning to make bombs at school. The impact of this stigma on a whole generation of the city’s Muslim students when applying to universities and jobs cannot be overstated.
Attention has rightly been paid to social media exchanges in which individuals with educational responsibilities spout conspiracy theories and “anti-western, anti-American and anti-Israeli sentiment”. Such comments, some of which end with an antisemitic punchline, must be challenged whenever they emerge. But it is dangerous politics that blurs the difference between this and the legitimate wave of protest at Israel’s crimes in Gaza. The Guardian, 22 July 2014
22nd July 2004
Muhammad Amin: […] Do I object to anything in the reports?
All I know about the schools comes from the reports themselves plus what I have seen in the media since Trojan Horse first broke. However as I read each report, as a Briton of Muslim belief and Pakistani ethnicity, I inevitably asked myself if I had any bones to pick. There were some.
The law requires all schools to hold a Christian act of worship, unless they have a dispensation. Where the pupils are overwhelmingly Muslim, I would expect this dispensation to be given routinely. The Nansen primary school lists six governance failings, one of which is below:
“Currently, the academy has a weekly whole-school assembly, which is of an Islamic character. The governing body has not received permission from the Education Funding Agency for an exemption from providing a broadly Christian act of worship. This means that governing body fails to meet this aspect of their responsibilities.”
This failing is given parity with the others listed which appears to be nit-picking. If the Inspectors consider that failure to obtain a routine dispensation is symptomatic of a more serious underlying compliance failure, they should say so. Otherwise they risk being accused of chucking in the kitchen sink to ensure that they got a conviction. The same point applies to Oldknow Academy which had a 2008 dispensation which expired in January 2013 which was not renewed. I assume this arose from a failure to apply for a renewal, rather than from DfE turning down a renewal application […] Muhammad Amin’s website, click here.
22nd July 2004
Peter Clarke report
….5.1 This investigation has revealed a sustained and coordinated agenda to impose upon children in a number of Birmingham schools the segregationist attitudes and practices of a hardline and politicised strand of Sunni Islam. Left unchecked, it would confine school children within an intolerant, inward-looking monoculture that would severely inhibit their participation in the life of modern Britain.
5.2 In the context of schooling, it manifests itself as the imposition of an aggressively separatist and intolerant agenda, incompatible with full participation in a plural, secular democracy. Rejecting not only the secular and other religions, but also other strands of Islamic belief, it goes beyond the kind of social conservatism practised in some faith schools which may be consistent with universal human rights and respectful of other communities. It appears to be a deliberate attempt to convert secular state schools into exclusive faith schools in all but name.
5.3 This agenda, though not necessarily the tactics involved, appears to stem from an international movement to increase the role of Islam in education. It is supported by bodies such as the Association of Muslim Schools–UK (AMS-UK), the International Board of Educational Research and Resources (IBERR), the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) and the recently closed Muslim Parents Association (MPA). The movement provides practical advice and religious legitimisation to those who, in the words of the IBERR, seek to ‘Islamise the provision of educational services’. Some of the individuals who have featured in the investigation were associated with, or held positions in, these bodies.
…11.1 I neither specifically looked for, nor found, evidence of terrorism, radicalisation or violent extremism in the schools of concern in Birmingham. However, by reference to the definition of extremism in the Prevent strand of the Government’s counter terrorist strategy CONTEST, and the spectrum of extremism described by the Prime Minister in his Munich speech in February 2011, 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. ..Click here for report.
15th July 2014
Statement from Park View Educational Trust
Verbal statement given by PVET Chair Tahir Alam at Park View School on Tuesday 15 July
We are immensely proud of the role we have played with others in bringing about school improvements at Park View School. It is now one of the highest performing in the city.
We have also helped to significantly raise achievement at Golden Hillock and Nansen schools. We have no regrets, nor do we make any apology, for being part of a dedicated team of professionals who have substantially raised standards.
At the same time we have enabled all our students’ cultures, as well as their parental aspirations to be reflected in their education.
The last four months have seen a vicious and co-ordinated offensive against the Trust and its schools. The Department for Education, with Ofsted and the Education Funding Agency aided by some sections of the media have undermined the good work of these schools. They have also attempted to rubbish people’s hard-won reputations.
13th July 2014
England’s Chief Inspector of Schools is today accused of abandoning “objectivity and independence” in his handling of the Trojan Horse scandal and of “tarring” a generation of Muslim children with “the brush of extremism”. In a coordinated attack city leaders, officials and businessmen in Birmingham said Sir Michael Wilshaw’s “ill-advised and ill-informed” approach to “isolated” problems in the city had damaged community relations and led to a teacher recruitment crisis. click here
12th July 2014
Practising, evangelical Christians are the sources behind the crisis which has hit Birmingham over the past months. They are linked to a controversial Church called Riverside, located on Moseley Road Birmingham, near Queensbridge School. Sunday morning services for the Church are held at the school. Queensbridge School’s head teacher has been renting out to the Church at a massively discounted rate. A governor in Queensbridge School has confirmed that Riverside Church would use the venue at a rate of £3.75 per hour; others were not able to rent out the place because the rate is normally much higher.
The close relationship between the school and the Church has prompted concerns related to proselytising amongst the people in Birmingham. My sources in Birmingham have spoken directly with teenagers at Queensbridge School, who were raised Muslim but converted to Christianity due to the brainwashing of Riverside Church. click here
6th July 2014
Speaking on BBC1’s The Andrew Marr Show, Gove defended his decision to appoint the former Scotland Yard head of counter-terrorism to lead the investigation into the so-called ‘Trojan horse’ plot by Islamists to take over schools in Birmingham. “Islamism is a perversion of Islam in the same way that communism was a perversion of socialism and fascism is a perversion of nationalism,” he said. ‘If liberalism is to survive – and I believe liberalism is the way in which we approach these issues, liberal values are our best protector – we need to be robust’. Guardian
1st July 2014
Chris Allen, University of Birmingham:”One of the worrying trends to have emerged out of my research into Islamophobia over the past decade or so is that, even when stories about Muslims and Islam are proved to be incorrect or just untrue, many in wider society continue to believe them arguing that there is ‘no smoke without fire’. With Trojan Horse, the sheer scale of the response from central government would be seen to offer a semblance of evidence that resonates with this response. Factor into that the public and political discourses that have repeatedly focused on Muslim ‘hardliners’ and ‘extremists’ and, as one senior politician was alleged to have put it, the need to ‘drain the swamp’ in Birmingham and it is almost certain that levels of suspicion and mistrust shown towards Muslims will have increased….” Discover Society
1st July 2014
Shamim Miah, University of Hudderfield: “This short article is based upon a review of all the 21 Ofsted inspection reports linked with the Birmingham Trojan Horse. I will argue that the significance of the Ofsted reports lies not only in the redefining of extremism to equate with Muslim cultural conservatism, with the implicit assumption that Muslims have sole monopoly over cultural conservatism, but also in the ways in which a seemingly ‘independent’ body is used by the state to embed the governments counter terrorism programme of Preventing violent extremism at the heart of inner city schooling…” Discover Society
1st July 2014
Jacqueline Baxter, Open University: “The recent declarations by Gove on the future policing of British Values implies that Ofsted will be central in judging not only what these values actually are, but equally whether they are present or not within schools. This will leave Ofsted with a very tricky course to steer in terms of its politically impartial stance. There is already a cacophony of dissent on the internet from both governors and parents wondering who these so called British values will be designed to include and exclude from school governance, and to what extent this will represent another type of Trojan Horse- this time filled with the type of British Values which may be equally as destructive as the hard-line Muslim versions. In addition to this, the letter which sparked the inquiry is now believed to have been a hoax leading a number of papers, including the Financial Times, to brand the government’s handling of the whole affair as a fiasco….” Discover Society
25 June 2014
Letter to the Guardian
We are forming the Putting Birmingham School Kids First campaign (Comment, 24 June). It aims to, firstly, ensure any issues of governance within Birmingham schools are fixed, and fixed fast. Secondly, to challenge the false and divisive allegation that this is a problem of systematic radicalisation, extremism or terrorism. The central allegation, that there was an organised plot to radicalise schoolchildren in a handful of Birmingham schools, remains unproven. What the Ofsted reports show is some governance issues in some schools. Communities across Birmingham now believe that their children’s educational potential and wellbeing is being threatened by politicians, who wish to be seen as “tough” on Muslims. The sensationalist references to extremism and national security have been deeply hurtful and damaging. Most importantly, they could prevent us finding the solutions we need to help schoolchildren in Birmingham. We will work with anyone who is willing to put the interests of our children first.
The Muslim community is no different to any other faith community in having a spectrum of opinions, from liberal to conservative, on what is the correct balance between secular and religious values in the provision of education. Instead of debating these issues openly, the government has taken the completely inappropriate approach of linking this with the prevention of terrorism. Workable solutions will not appear overnight. Trust needs to be rebuilt between those who should be working together. Our role in the journey is to provide parents, staff, pupils and governors with a strong forum within which to voice their opinions and explore solutions in a safe and transparent space. We are proud that Birmingham is among the youngest and most multicultural cities in the world and stand by its people in all their diversity.
Shabana Mahmood MP, Tim Brighouse(former education commissioner), Father Oliver Cross, Rev Andi Smith, Salma Yaqoob, Christine Blower, General secretary, NUT,Shabina BanoOldknow Academy Parents Association, Joy WarmingtonBrap, Dr Chris AllenLecturer in social policy, University of Birmingham, Professor Richard HatcherSchool of Education, Birmingham City University, Imran AwanSenior Lecturer, Birmingham City University, Janet HoskynsProfessor emerita, Former head of school education, Birmingham City University
23 June 2014
New emergency powers will be introduced to close any school linked to extremism or child abuse in the wake of the Trojan Horse plot, it was announced today. Lord Nash, the Schools Minister, said the government would be able to apply to a magistrate to shut a school “where there are serious safeguarding concerns”. Schools can appeal but will not be able to operate while a legal challenge is being made. The tough new powers will be implemented as part of a crackdown on schools that are failing to prevent “vulnerable” pupils being groomed by extremist groups following an Ofsted investigation into 21 schools in Birmingham. For the first time, schools will also be required to meet new requirements to “actively promote” British values…Graeme Paton in the Telegraph.
22 June 2014
New York Times: “When the three government inspectors came to Park View School to look for evidence of a purported takeover by Islamists, one of them joked about the many “beards” among the teachers there. They looked at the loudspeakers, the ablution rooms and the prayer mats in the gym behind the volleyball net. And, according to accounts by school officials and students, the inspectors asked teenage girls in white hijabs:
“Is anyone forcing you to cover up?”
“Aren’t you hot in those long skirts?”
“What are you taught about menstrual cycles?”
Park View, a public high school in a heavily Muslim part of Birmingham that was once judged one of the worst in Britain, now sends nearly eight out of 10 of its students into higher education. It is many times oversubscribed, and as recently as March, inspectors told the school it had again received top marks.
But 10 days later, as headlines about the takeover plot of Birmingham schools spread, the inspectors were back again. This time, they came to a very different conclusion: The school was “inadequate,” they wrote in a report published this month. The children there were not prepared for life in multicultural Britain and were not protected from “extremism,” the report stated….”. click here
21 June 2014
Nicholas Watt: “Nick Clegg has written to the head of the Muslim Council of Britain to express his concern that the reporting of the alleged infiltration of Birmingham schools by extremists may have led to a ‘deeply regrettable’ increase in Islamophobia. The deputy prime minister told Shuja Shafi, the secretary general of the council, that Muslims are “patriotic citizens” who should not be held to a different standard to other citizens…It would be fundamentally wrong for British citizens who hold the Islamic faith to be held to a different, or indeed, higher standard from other citizens. Being Muslim does not contradict being British, nor is it in tension with it. A person can uphold their religious and cultural identity as well as British identity….”The Guardian
21st June 2014
Yorkshire Post: Yet, as the so-called Trojan Horse controversy in Birmingham has demonstrated, there do need to be safeguards in place to ensure that impressionable young people do not have the opportunity to be radicalised by extremists, and it is disappointing that the Muslim Council of Britain does not appear to understand – or accept – the need for this requirement. As Professor Sir Keith Burnett, the vice-chancellor of the University of Sheffield, set out so eloquently yesterday on these pages, the social conscience of Britons is one of this country’s greatest values and needs to be cherished by all. 21 June
20th June 2014
Hugh Muir: “….But what we have here is not measured policy. It is a hastily applied sticking plaster to the wound that was “Trojan horse”. There has been no widespread agreement about the values. Gove is imposing them. There is no agreement about what behaviours would constitute breach of them. The Muslim Council of Britain has already raised concerns, and it is right to do so. What would be the trigger for the ultimate sanction? No one would complain at the closing of a school led by a cadre of jihadists. But would a school with one or two governors devout in conservative theology also be at risk? Many might not care for their view of the world. But aren’t they entitled, as part of the legal framework Gove administers, to the same degree of religious observance in their schools as anyone else? And would there be any way for a school aggrieved to challenge him, save for through the courts?..Like so many dictators before him, Gove is challenged by his own contradictions and ineptitude. He preaches localism as he becomes more centralist. He sets sail with his ever shinier ocean-going school reforms, while at the same time – as is happening here – plugging the leaks. He preached a doctrine of returning schools to local communities, but it apparently never occurred to him that Britons other than those he might encounter at evensong might avail themselves of the opportunity. The contract was signed. Retrospectively, he adds the fine print. To claim wide powers in such hurried chaotic fashion smacks of weakness, not authority. Gove is for action, not consensus, but this time even Caesar needs to stop and think. A revolution without consent isn’t much of a revolution at all.The Guardian
19th June 2014
Community leaders have warned that some Muslims could be effectively barred from becoming trustees or governors of new academies and free schools under rules introduced by the education secretary, Michael Gove, in response to the “Trojan horse” controversy. The Department for Education has inserted new clauses into the model funding agreement for academies stipulating that its governors should demonstrate “fundamental British values”, and giving the secretary of state powers to close schools if they do not comply. The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) said that the new rule would make it very difficult to become a school governor if conservative Muslim beliefs were deemed to be incompatible with “British values”, and that it put too much power in the secretary of state’s hands to define those values. The Guardian
18th June 2014
Prof Gus John: “…So, how has the ‘Trojan Horse’ come to lead this packhorse of Cameron’s values into every school?
Why now? Why were those values not packaged and laid at the door of every school when Asians in Seven Kings, in Newham, in Manchester, Oldham, Bradford and elsewhere were having their homes firebombed by the National Front and other race hate-mongers ? Why were they not made compulsory in every school when Nick Griffin and the British National Party were seeking to convince the electorate that it would be in their interest to let them run our town halls and deal with the blacks, the dispossessed and the homosexuals?
…It would appear that the only way David Cameron and Michael Gove could understand and respond to the farcical situation in Birmingham is by distancing the government and the rest of the society from that alien race called ‘Muslims’, with all their foreign and un-British values, foreign and un-British ways, foreign languages, foreign belief systems and all the rest of it. Cameron appears to want to make the entire Muslim population in the UK responsible for ‘standing up’ to Muslim clerics who ‘inflame terrorism by denouncing free speech, equality and democracy’. As far as he is concerned, ‘the failure to stand up to such firebrands has allowed extremism – both the violent and non-violent kind – to flourish’.
Yet, the 2011 census revealed that there are some 3 million Muslims in the UK, or 5% of the population, with those numbers set to grow. It is estimated that 1 in 10 children aged 4 years and under is Muslim. Some 1600 mosques serve the Muslim population and 136 schools are Muslim, 125 of those in the private sector. The majority of Muslims attend those 1600 mosques and go about their business week by week without encountering any ‘firebrands’ preaching extremism and inflaming terrorism. That majority are as opposed to such ideologies and the destructive practices that are encouraged by them as are the rest of us. They run their schools in pretty much the same way that Roman Catholic, Church of England and Jewish schools are run, i.e., according to the beliefs and practices of the particular faith.
Despite that, however, Cameron and Gove make it their business to focus the entire nation on the activities of a minority of deviants and to make the entire Muslim population accountable for them. That process of ‘othering’, projecting ‘the other’ as not belonging to you or among you, e.g., their practices in our society, leads inexorably to an even more pernicious form of marginalisation and exclusion, i.e., essentialising, seeing the activities or beliefs of a few as being characteristic of the group or population as a whole. Hence, the police use of stop and search powers under the Terrorism Act results in 125,000 people being searched, although just about 1% of those led to an arrest….” 18th June
17th June 2014
Sir Tim Brighouse, “As the Trojan horse furore in Birmingham continues, and spreads, five issues emerge that require urgent national attention. First our system of school governance is broken and needs a total overhaul: its weaknesses contributed significantly to the real and imaginary problems in Birmingham. Second, the role and power of the education secretary needs to be reduced and his relationship with Ofsted clarified – neither can be trusted to act efficiently or fairly. Third, Ofsted itself needs to set out its working methods more openly if it is to retain the respect of those it inspects. Fourth, the place of religious bodies and their organised faiths in schools needs to be understood and reframed. Finally, there is an urgent need to provide help to the schools involved in the Trojan horse affair to avoid enormous damage to their pupils’ education and community cohesion. The Guardian
15th June 2014
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown: “…The crisis at some Birmingham schools must be dealt with fairly and robustly. Academies and free schools give parents and governors too much power, and this is the result. The fanatically ideological and thoroughly incompetent Michael Gove created this mess. But, as ever, when in trouble of their own making, British politicians either blame immigrants or evoke Britishness, as if it is a magic spell that will get voters to love them again….If getting drunk is a typically British thing to do, I want no part of it. Hating incomers seems to be a British pastime. Sorry, can’t join in. And don’t expect me to despise those on benefits either. The Empire was not glorious for the ruled, and you can’t make us celebrate such a complex history. Britain holds itself up as a beacon of human rights and freedoms, but duplicitously undercuts all our basic rights and freedoms. We surely cannot exult Magna Carta when we now have secret courts, the state spying on us all and withholding information from us.
In 2007, when we went through another episode of evangelical, revivalist Britishness, an establishment newspaper asked its readers for a single sentence that defined it. The winning entry was this: “No motto, please, we’re British”. And no enforced patriotism either…”The Independent
15th June 2014
Ted Jeory and Caroline Wheeler: ” The Sunday Express has identified two schools where well-known figures in Hizb ut-Tahrir were or are governors. Hizb ut-Tahrir (HuT) is a non- violent political body that campaigns for a worldwide Islamic state. In 2007 Mr Cameron, then Opposition leader, told MPs he regarded the group as ‘extremist’ and that it ‘tried to radicalise young people’. Last year the Prime Minister, who plans to use the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, 12 months from today, to reassert British values as a Magna Carta for modern Britain, again spoke out against the group but it remains a lawful organisation. However, there are new concerns about its influence on the school system in some parts of Britain. One school in Tower Hamlets, east London, Kobi Nazrul Primary School, has just been the subject of an urgent Ofsted inspection due to poor Sats results last year and a breakdown of relations between school governors and the local authority. Solicitor Mohammed Abdul Kuddus is a governor and a former chairman. He is also described by HuT as a senior member of its organisation. Senior Tower Hamlets council officials were aware of his links and it is understood these were relayed to Education Secretary Michael Gove’s department. There is no suggestion Mr Kuddus has used his position to influence teaching policy at the school, whose pupils are almost all from a Bangladeshi Muslim background. He did not respond to a request for comment…” Express
15th June 2014
“The alleged Islamic extremism seen in the ‘Trojan Horse’ scandal in schools in Birmingham is the same as that practised by Boko Haram, the Nigerian terrorist network, Tony Blair has said. The Trojan Horse ‘plot’ to bring hardline practices into Birmingham classrooms is part of a global extremist movement stretching from Britain to Africa to the Far East, the former Prime Minister claimed.” Matthew Holehouse in the Telegraph
13th June 2014
John Freeman, a former director of children’s services: “…Much of the debate has been about Park View Academy having an imposed Muslim character as a secular school. But a) it serves an almost exclusively Muslim population and b) if it were reconstituted as a faith school (like RC and CofE and Jewish schools) then these worries would (in theory) evaporate! All this is an indication that Michael Gove has no notion of an education system – all he seems to want is autonomous schools fighting for market share in a dog-eat-dog way. He has now discovered that he wants schools to be autonomous provided they do what he wants … governance, curriculum (no American books …). This is madness, and it represents a tearing up of the notion of the education service being a public service there for the public good. And it won’t and does not work.” click here
13th June 2014
Why shouldn’t schools use the freedom they’re given?
I have no axe to grind: I am not in Birmingham nor involved with any Muslim schools, but I am a retired inspector who was part of 300 Ofsted inspections over 13 years.
The government promoted academies and free schools by saying that they would be community-run and have the freedom to develop their own curriculum and ethos. Of course this is reflected in teaching and learning. With their extra freedom, academies are better placed to address underachievement by devising and teaching a curriculum that suits the range of abilities and interests of their pupils.
With community schools, greater continuity between a child’s home environment (socio-cultural or religious) and the school enhances learning – this is a strong educational argument for faith schools, for example. Similarly, single-sex classes in faith or other schools are not uncommon.
This is all that the Muslim-led schools appear to have done. However, Ofsted, not above political pressure, can quite easily judge curriculum, teaching and learning to be limiting and inadequate from a conventional standpoint as dictated by a generic inspection framework. This then negatively reflects on management and leadership (including the governors), and the schools end up in a failing category, including special measures.
For other schools, parental involvement is considered most desirable. Having inspected a number of schools in Birmingham, I know that many second- or third-generation parents just want the best for their children – more than the national curriculum. They understand that context is as important as content when it comes to teaching and is key in addressing underachievement. It is this that they wish to influence.
This seems to be the real concern for the authorities – a sort of fear of a “Muslim takeover” by a young generation who know the system well, including the government drive for community empowerment and involvement.
Husain Akhtar, Retired inspector of schools, Harrow writing to the Times Educational Supplement
13th June 2014
Remembering Honeyford: “…For him, a school existed to promote learning rather than cultural diversity. In what turned out to be the clearest and least inflammatory statement of his position, published in the Times Educational Supplement in 1982, he wrote that the “commitment [of immigrants] to a British education was implicit in their decision to become British citizens. Maintenance and transmission of the mother culture has nothing to do with the English secular school [but is] an entirely private decision to be implemented by the immigrant family and community out of school … There should be a welcome for the strangers in our midst, but no attempt by the education service to confer a privileged position on this sub-culture or that….The pity of it is that he fell in love with the idea of himself as a writer, and as a thinker on more general matters. He could never understand why his description of a parent as speaking English “like a Peter Sellers’ Indian doctor on an off-day” might be infuriating to the families of his pupils, or why attributing heroin addiction in English cities to migration from Pakistan was a slur on entire communities. Like someone else – could it be Michael Gove? – he developed the headline-grabbing instincts of a newspaper polemicist, to the detriment of the more careful qualities that his proper job demanded.” Ian Jack in the Guardian
11th June 2014
Sir Tim Brighouse’s questions to OFSTED:
1. What is the provenance of the Trojan Horse letter? Was it real or a hoax and is it pure co-incidence that it has the same title as a chapter of a book, Celsius 7/7, written by Michael Gove?2. Did that coincidence and his published views on Islam cause him to consider, as it should have done, stepping aside in this matter and handing over responsibility to his Schools Minister David Laws? (Just as Vince Cable did on the Murdoch issue earlier in the Parliament)3. If he had concerns about the behaviour of the governors of the academies in Birmingham, why didn’t Michael Gove send one or two of his officers to governing body meetings – as he had a duty so to do as holder of the private contract with the trust? And why did he so recently approve one academy’s sponsorship of two other of the schools now found by Ofsted to be inadequate? From a list of 20 questions
11th June 2014
Seamus Milne: “The harassment of minorities on the basis of forged documents has a grim history. So the official onslaught on mainly Muslim state schools in Birmingham, triggered by what has all the hallmarks of a fabricated letter outlining a supposed Islamist plot to take them over, should be cause for deep alarm…But the campaign to bring to heel Birmingham’s schools and humiliate the Muslim community in the process is a wider threat in a country where war-fuelled Islamophobia is already rampant. Dog-whistling to Ukip bigotry might seem a cute electoral trick. However, it risks driving Muslims from participation in public life, pushing Muslim pupils out of the state sector and boosting the extremism the government claims to be battling. Gove’s assault on Muslim schools in Birmingham isn’t about British values: it’s a poisonous campaign of discrimination and intimidation.” The Guardian
Myriam Francois-Cerrah: “Are there problems in some of the schools at the centre of the so-called “Trojan horse” debacle? Certainly there are. Having spoken at length with various members of the community in Birmingham, there are undeniable concerns among certain – yes, including Muslim – students and parents pertaining to a narrow interpretation of Islam being enforced within some schools. There are also allegations of mismanagement, nepotism and of the misuse of funds. The detail of these issues is likely to emerge in upcoming reports. But what the problem is not, is an issue of radicalisation. Rather, attempts to link the problems to radicalisation reflect an expansion of the counter-terrorism agenda to the policing of socially conservative views among some Muslims and the effects of this policy are likely to be disastrous….The narrative, despite denials to the contrary, has been that schools have been infiltrated by extremists who are at risk of radicalising Muslim children. The remedy? “Prevent” teaching, as recommended by Ofsted, in order to inoculate them. As if by virtue of being Muslim, children should be assessed as potential terrorists who require early intervention to stop them jumping on the conveyor belt of violence. There couldn’t be any more damning indictment of this government’s engagement with communities than its choice to identify individuals on the basis of a reified conception of their identity, rather than as multifaceted citizens...” New Statesman
Matthew Parris:…This ‘Trojan horse’ business is the new WMD; and I won’t let British neocons mislead me a second time. I admire Michael Gove tremendously as well as liking him personally, but I honestly think that something in his brain flips when Islamic extremism is mentioned.Spectator
10th June 2014
Simon Jenkins: …If Birmingham, what about London? The draconian regime of “dawn raids” to be enforced in some Midlands schools by Education Secretary Michael Gove assaults not just local control of schools but confuses the part faith should play, or should not play, in education. The present government regards it as fine for a state school to enforce a Christian education on its pupils, reserving desired places for those who assent. It does not do likewise for Muslims. In London, just 48 per cent of the population (and falling) is Christian, while 12 per cent (and rising) is Muslim. In boroughs such as Newham and Tower Hamlets the latter proportion may be double that….It is strangely hypocritical for the state to ordain that Christian schools bestow their beliefs on their pupils while Muslims must keep theirs to the home. We sing Onward Christian Soldiers but they may not recite the Koran. Evening Standard