Islamist school scandal: Head teachers have fears religious leaders are influencing schools across country

Education Editor

Head teachers have voiced "serious concerns" over the way in which at least six Birmingham schools have been apparently been put under pressure by hardline Islamicists.

Leaders of the National Association of Head Teachers said heads were being put under pressure by "organised groups" taking over governing bodies and putting pressure on heads to change the character of schools to adopt Islamic practices.

In addition, they revealed, teachers and support staff were being appointed on the grounds of their faith rather than their teaching skills.

As a result, children were missing out on their entitlement to a broad school curriculum, with a question mark being put over whether all were receiving equal entitlement to dance, drama and PE lessons.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT, added that he did not believe the problem was confined just to Birmingham. "I think we're talking about a small number of schools throughout the country," he added.

The NAHT's intervention is the first time heads or teachers have indicated the extent of the problem, which was sparked off by a "Trojan Horse" letter alleging schools were being forced to adopt hardline Islamic practices such as segregating boys and girls for lessons, and that heads were put under pressure to go along with them.

In his speech to his annual conference in Birmingham on Sunday, Mr Hobby will add: "A tight network of religious leaders of the Islamic faith has made a concerted effort to get involved in the running of schools and to strengthen the power of governing bodies to have a dominant influence in shaping the character of local schools.

"It is not clear that they have done anything wrong just by doing this... however, in some instances, this influence has gradually crossed the boundaries of good governance and deprived some students of their entitlements in terms of knowledge and education. 

"It has also crossed the line in terms of employment law in order to exert this influence by getting people of the right religious views appointed."

Mr Hobby said the NAHT had offered support to 30 head teachers as a result of the allegations, and found itself involved in detailed casework to help heads in a dozen schools. In six cases, they had found "serious concerns".

He will add: "Schools should not be places for indoctrination in any creed or ideology, political or religious."

The NAHT said the schools concerned were a mixture of primary and secondary - and included both council-run schools and academies. In a statement, it added: "In a small number of cases, the association believes the actions [of governors] may have broken the principles of governance, contravened good employment practices and risk eroding the basic entitlement of children to a good education."

Under Education Secretary Michael Gove's reforms, Mr Hobby added, schools had lost some of the local monitoring and oversight of their performance, and strong boundaries had to be set determining what was permissible and what was not.

Mr Hobby said the NAHT believed the original letter was a "fake" designed to draw attention to the problem. "We don't believed these allegations are a source of panic but neither do we believe they are a source for comfort," he added.

At least four separate inquiries have been set up as a result of the allegations: Mr Gove has appointed former head of the Metropolitan Police's anti-terrorism unit Peter Clarke to hold an inquiry, education standards watchdog Ofsted has carried out inspections of 21 schools, the Education Funding Agency, responsible for school funding, has carried out an investigation, as has Birmingham City Council. West Midlands police are also investigating the affair.

Because of strict rules covering Government announcements during any election period, it is now thought unlikely that any of the reports will be published before the European elections on 22 May. Chief schools inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw has told inspectors they must carry out more work at some of the schools before the reports are published early in June.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Imperial College London: Safety Training Administrator

£25,880 – £28,610 per annum: Imperial College London: Imperial College London ...

University College London: Client Platform Support Officer

£26,976 - £31,614 per annum: University College London: UCL Information Servic...

Guru Careers: Instructional Designer / e-Learning Designer

£30 - 32k (DOE): Guru Careers: We are seeking an Instructional / e-Learning De...

Recruitment Genius: Schools Education & Careers Executive

£30500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Schools Education & Careers Executive ...

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing