PM threatens snap Ofsted inspections over ‘Trojan Horse’ affair


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The Independent Online

State school teachers face the prospect of Ofsted coming in without warning to inspect their schools, in the wake of the so-called “Trojan Horse” affair.

With Ofsted’s report into alleged infiltration of Birmingham schools by hardline Muslims due to be published today, David Cameron has summoned an emergency meeting of the Extremism Taskforce and an impromptu ministerial meeting to discuss the affair.

He has also told the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, to consult the chief inspector of schools, Sir Michael Wilshaw, on the implications of subjecting schools to sudden, unscheduled Ofsted inspections.

Mr Cameron said: “Protecting our children is one of the first duties of government and that is why the issue of alleged Islamist extremism in Birmingham schools demands a robust response. The Education Secretary will now ask Sir Michael Wilshaw to look into allowing any school to be inspected at no notice, stopping schools having the opportunity to cover up activities which have no place in our society.”

When Ofsted previously proposed no-notice inspections, in 2013, the idea was met with hostility from head teachers, who argued that it could make it impossible for them to ensure they were present on the day of an inspection.

The report will also reveal that some schools being investigated by officials attempted to cover up their activities, putting on “hastily arranged shows of cultural inclusivity”, including in one case a religious education lesson on Christianity.

The “Trojan Horse” allegations were behind the damaging public row between Mr Gove and his Cabinet rival Theresa May, which has cost the Home Secretary a much trusted aide while the Education Secretary has had to write letters of apology.

Mrs May will also have to defend herself before the Commons Home Affairs committee, whose chairman, Keith Vaz, has written to her demanding a full explanation. Mr Vaz has also said there is a “strong case” for demanding an appearance before the committee by Mrs May’s former spin doctor, Fiona Cunningham, who resigned over the weekend after a letter was leaked last week appearing to blame Mr Gove for the failure to act on claims that Muslim hardliners were trying to take control of Birmingham schools.

Yesterday Labour accused the Home Secretary of breaking the ministerial code “by writing and then authorising the publication” of the letter.

Ofsted’s report covers 21 Birmingham schools, three of which are understood to have been given a clean bill of health, while others are expected to lose their previous “excellent” ratings.

According to yesterday’s Sunday Times, a separate investigation by the Education Funding Agency has found that a maths teacher at one school segregated the pupils in his classroom, with girls sitting at the back with their heads covered. It was alleged that the same school, Oldknow Academy primary school, had organised three trips to Saudi Arabia exclusively for Muslim pupils, in what was described as “an extravagant use of public funds”.

Talking to The Times early in the week, Mr Gove accused Mrs May and the head of the Home Office’s counter-terrorism division, Charles Farr, of being reluctant to confront the issue.

In retaliation, Ms Cunningham – who is in a relationship with Mr Farr – took the extraordinary step of publishing the letter.

Mr Cameron then asked the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Jeremy Heywood, to investigate. His findings have not been made public, but Downing Street insists that the “right action” has been taken in response.