Birmingham council investigates 'Muslim fundamentalist plot to take over local schools'
Hardline Muslims attempted to wrest control of Birmingham schools by pushing them to adopt academy status, writes Paul Gallagher
Paul Gallagher is a reporter for the Independent and Independent on Sunday having joined the group in 2012. He has previously worked for the European Voice, Daily Mirror and the Observer and been based in Brussels, Belfast, Tokyo and London.
Saturday 08 March 2014
Details of an extraordinary plot by Islamic fundamentalists to take control of several non-faith schools in Birmingham by "jihad" have come to light sparking a major investigation by police, the city council and the Department for Education.
Documents leaked to the Birmingham Mail describe the campaign, dubbed Operation Trojan, outlining a step-by-step guide on how to infiltrate school staff with hardline Muslim supporters who can push through plans to transfer the schools into academies, meaning they will not be subject to local authority rules and can be run independently - with the ultimate aim of imposing fundamental Islamic values.
Further plots by religious fundamentalists to infiltrate schools are likely to occur if more schools opt out of local council control, Labour’s children’s minister said on Friday. Birmingham Selly Oak MP Steve McCabe said the extraordinary Salafist plot was not the first time that such groups had tried to oust headteachers and replace them with extremist sympathisers.
Mr McCabe told the Independent: “This is not the first time this has happened. The difference here is the suggestion in the paper, and I know no different, that this is some sort of concerted organisation and strategy paper. I know heads that have been suspended or driven out because of the enormous pressure they are put under by certain groups or cliques trying to usurp them.
“If you continue down that road to have more schools opt out (of local council control) then the only checks and balances you have for those schools is Mr Gove. Local Education Authorities have an important role so it is possibly quite timely that this supposed plot has come to light to highlight that.”
The leaked letter, reportedly correspondence from one Birmingham fundamentalist to another in Bradford, outlines how the use of dirty tricks methods such as spreading lies about heads, forcing children to engage in Christian prayer, “teaching about homosexuals” and “corrupting children with sex education” can achieve the fundamentalists’ goals.
The letter advises that Salafi parents and staff – those with hardline Islamic views – should be identified within the community. It says: “They are always the most committed to the faith and are hardliners in that regard and once charged up they keep going for longer. When the parents have been identified, we start to turn them against the head teacher and leadership team.
“If you can get them to be very vocal in the playground as they drop off or pick up their children that will stir up other parents. The parents MUST be given direction and told not to discuss this with anyone. You only need a maximum of four parents to disrupt the whole school, to send in complaints to question their child’s education and to contact their MP and local authority.”
The author also claims: “We have caused a great amount of organised disruption in Birmingham and as a result we now have our own Academies and are on our way to getting rid of more headteachers and taking over their schools. Whilst sometimes the practices we use may not seem the correct way to do things you must remember this is a 'Jihad' and as such all means possible to win the war is acceptable.”
The author also discusses rolling out Operation Trojan to Bradford and Manchester. The Birmingham schools named in the letter are Regents Park Community Primary School, Saltley School and Specialist Science College, Adderley Primary School and Park View Academy.
Secular groups have expressed alarm at the alleged plot. Pavan Dhaliwal, from the British Humanist Association, said: “We are glad that this matter is being investigated and hope that any such behaviour is put a stop to. It is vitally important that no school discriminates against pupils or staff on the basis of faith, but instead that every school is equally welcome to all, regardless of religion or belief.”
One education source disagreed with Mr McCabe and said to suggest Academies are subject to less controls than state schools would be “fundamentally incorrect”. They added: “Only one of the schools named in Birmingham – Park View – is an academy, so it would be wrong to say any policy to increase the number of Academies would make our schools more susceptible to this kind of plot.”
A Birmingham City Council spokesperson said it had received the letters but could not comment because of the ongoing investigation. Chief Supt Alex Murray, Commander of Birmingham East police, said the details of the plot were not a matter for his force. He said: “The City Council has continued to keep us updated on their enquiry in the event that any findings either warrant police investigation or impact on our joint delivery of Prevent across the City.
“However, a separate complaint relating to an allegation of fraud from members of staff at a primary school was made to West Midlands Police in January 2013. This investigation has been re-opened by the Economic Crime Unit as a result of this letter coming to light.”
A DfE spokesman said: “We are aware of the serious allegations made in relation to some local authority schools and an academy in Birmingham, and are in close contact with a number of parties, including the police, the council and teaching unions. Birmingham City Council are investigating all these allegations and we are also looking specifically at the Park View academy.
“All schools are subject to a tough inspection framework and must meet the high standards and requirements rightly expected. We will not hesitate to take firm action if these are not being met – in particular where we become aware of issues of concern in an academy we will move quickly to resolve these. It would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage.”
The four schools that form Operation Trojan
Park View Academy
This week Ofsted inspectors launched a surprise inspection at Park View where it has previously been reported one staff member has complained non-Muslim employees are being discriminated against. It was also claimed the school was attempting to introduce Islamic studies to the curriculum.
According to the Birmingham Mail Lindsey Clark, Park View’s executive head, reportedly said faith classes were being organised, but for after-school lessons. She said it was a “safeguarding issue” for children allegedly being hit in local madrasahs.
Adderley Primary School
Since the Trojan documents came to light, West Midlands Police has re-opened a fraud investigation at the school. It is understood the investigation centers on allegations of "faked" resignation letters. One member of staff is also taking the school to the Employment Tribunal.
Satley School and Regents Park Community Primary School
Heads at both schools quit in the autumn after concerns over "lack of trust" between leadership and governors at Satley and allegations of cheating in SATs at Regents Park. The Trojan letter, which pre-dates Satley headmaster Balwant Bains’s resignation, says that he would “soon be sacked”. According to the Mail, the much-respected principal resigned last November after a damning Ofsted report criticised his “dysfunctional” relationship with governors.
An alleged plot to oust headteacher Tina Ireland at Regents Park by "planting the seed" of SATs cheating allegations is also detailed in the Trojan documents. The long-serving and respected teacher and her deputy, Michelle McCusker, resigned in October after education chiefs scrapped the primary school’s SATs results following the cheating allegations.
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