The investigation into an alleged plot by Islamic extremists to take over schools in Birmingham has widened after more than 200 complaints were received by the city council amid claims that religious hardliners threatened to overthrow secular head teachers.
25 schools are now being investigated in the city which has appointed a new chief advisor to handle growing levels of public anxiety in relation to allegations resulting from Operation Trojan Horse.
Council leader Sir Albert Bore said the authorities had been in touch with counterparts in Bradford, West Yorkshire, and Manchester which also have large Muslim populations to discuss the issue although no schools outside Birmingham have been identified as subject to threats so far.
Parallel inquiries are being conducted by the police and the Department for Education (DfE).
Sir Albert said the “two-tier system” which sees some schools under local authority control and others run as academies and ultimately governed from Whitehall made the situation more complex.
He said it was “frustrating in the extreme” that the council was expected to investigate potential wrong-doing at institutions where it had few powers to intervene.
“It's in the DfE's interest to settle some matters with us so we can move forward - it's unsatisfactory that you don't know who's on the governing body of academy schools,” he said.
A report from Birmingham containing recommendations for schools locally and nationally will be published in July
Operation Trojan Horse refers to a leaked anonymous letter – which some say is a hoax – claiming to be sent between fundamentalists seeking to persuade Salafi parents to force out senior staff in Birmingham and replace them with those sympathetic to their Islamic beliefs.
Education Secretary Michael Gove ordered inspectors from Ofsted to go into 15 schools in Birmingham to investigate in the immediate wake of the reports.
Among the claims by whistleblowers are that boys and girls are made to sit in segregated classrooms whilst sex education is banned.
It emerged yesterday that Bradford council had replaced the entire board of governors at Laisterdyke Business and Enterprise College, a secondary school with more than 1,000 pupils, amid reports of clashes between the head and Muslim governors. It is the third time that schools governors have been replaced in the city in recent months.
Bradford was cited in the Trojan Horse document as a possible place to influence education policy however the authority said there was no link with any of the incidents.
Michael Jameson, strategic director of children’s services at the authority, said the allegations contained in the letter were being looked into by Birmingham and the council was liaising with West Yorkshire Police over potential issues that may arise locally.
“No schools in Bradford are being specifically investigated in relation to the allegations made in the Trojan Horse letter,” he said.
A spokeswoman for Manchester City Council said there was no investigation in the city.
“We maintain close contact with our schools and were any similar issues to arise here we would work very closely with them to address any concerns as quickly as possible,” she said.
Ian Kershaw, managing director of Northern Education, will take up the chief adviser role in Birmingham.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg warned against schools becoming "silos of segregation”. He said: "I am very concerned whenever I hear allegations that schools, funded by the taxpayer, become vehicles for the propagation of particular ideologies which divide young children and pupils off from other people in society.”Reuse content