Ofsted set to rate ‘Trojan Horse’ schools as failing
Series of reports due on claims of ‘Islamist plot’ to gain control of Birmingham schools
Richard Garner has been Education Editor of The Independent for 12 years and writing about the subject for 34 years. Before becoming a journalist, he worked as a disc jockey in London pubs and clubs and for a hospital radio station. His main hobbies are cricket (watching these days) and theatre. On his days off, he is most likelt to be found at Lord’s or the King’s Head Theatre Club.
Sunday 01 June 2014
Six schools in Birmingham are set to be placed in special measures by Ofsted inspectors this week following allegations of a so-called “Trojan Horse” takeover by Muslim hardliners.
The atmosphere in the city’s schools is getting “tenser and tenser” ahead of the publication of the findings of a major inquiry into the alleged plot, a headteachers’ leader warned last night.
Ofsted will publish reports this week on 21 schools which were subjected to emergency inspections following the allegations set out in an anonymous letter claiming they were being forced to adopt hardline Islamic practices.
Education insiders have voiced serious concerns over events in six of the schools – with a further six facing less serious allegations. One source said he expected six schools to be placed in “special measures” – Ofsted-speak for failing an inspection.
The schools concerned are a mixture of primaries and secondaries. Some are academies and others are council-run. The Education Secretary, Michael Gove, could use his powers to sack the schools’ governing bodies and install his own interim education boards to run the schools.
The Ofsted investigation is one of four being carried out following the “Trojan Horse” letter – widely thought not to be authentic, and drawn up by someone wanting to draw attention to the problem – and is the first to report publicly.
Mr Gove has appointed the former Metropolitan Police anti-terror chief Peter Clarke to conduct his own inquiry, which is scheduled to publish its findings in about a month’s time. An investigation by Birmingham City Council is set to report in July. West Midlands Police is also looking into the affair.
However, it has been several months since the allegations in the letter were published.
Russell Hobby, the general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), urged all those investigating the affair to report their findings as soon as possible.
He told The Independent: “I think the atmosphere in Birmingham is getting tenser and tenser. People are pretty nervous about the whole thing – especially the way the investigations have been drawn out.”
Last week Tim Boyes, the headteacher of Queensbridge School in Birmingham, said he had first raised the issue with Lord Hill, then the minister responsible for schools, four years ago. Ministers are aware of the need for urgency but equally do not want questions or concerns to be left unanswered.
Mr Hobby said he did not expect the inquiries to support claims of a widespread and well-organised plot to introduce hardline Islamic practices into dozens of schools across the city.
However, he conceded that the result of the inspections could have a “significant” effect on some of the schools.
Birmingham City Council’s chief executive, Mark Rogers, has warned headteachers to expect a “firestorm” as a result of the reports. He said the Ofsted reports would have “serious implications for all of us”, adding: “We’re not stupid – we know that this might provide a platform for the Secretary of State to put some further structural proposals on the city council.”
Ofsted is expected to offer advice to the Department for Education as a result of its inspections – and the Government is expected to make a statement to coincide with the publication of the reports.
The NAHT has said it has been told by its members about headteachers being put under pressure by “organised groups” who take over a school’s governing body and change its character to favour Islamic practices.
It also reports that teachers and support staff are being appointed on religious grounds rather than because of their teaching skills.
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