Trojan Horse scandal: Birmingham accuses Ofsted head of smear campaign

Schools inspector trying to hide his department's failings, say city leaders

England's Chief Inspector of Schools is today accused of abandoning "objectivity and independence" in his handling of the Trojan Horse scandal and of "tarring" a generation of Muslim children with "the brush of extremism".

In a coordinated attack city leaders, officials and businessmen in Birmingham said Sir Michael Wilshaw's "ill-advised and ill-informed" approach to "isolated" problems in the city had damaged community relations and led to a teacher recruitment crisis.

They suggest the Chief Inspector is attempting to deflect attention from Ofsted's failure to identify problems in schools they previously judged "outstanding".

"While we have no intention of belittling the serious issues at play, Sir Michael has crossed the line from [giving] independent advice on the schools system to a full-on attack on the city of Birmingham," said Jerry Blackett, chief executive of Birmingham Chambers of Commerce. "The Chief Inspector of Schools should be motivated by overall improvement for the children of the city. His tirades appear to be motivated either by politics or self-publicity, or both."

He went on to accuse the Ofsted head of deliberately trying to damage Birmingham. "Sir Michael forgets that these public and high profile attacks go way beyond supporting the city in improving schools performance, safeguarding or governance. He entirely ignores the numerous success stories and positive examples from the area to focus on the negative experiences of a minority."

Toby Perkins on 'Daybreak' Toby Perkins on 'Daybreak' Until now, senior figures in Birmingham have remained diplomatic in their comments about Ofsted's Trojan Horse investigation, despite private misgivings about its remit, method of inspection, and findings.

Last week, however, Sir Michael used an appearance before MPs to lay the blame for problems found in five Birmingham schools squarely at the door of the city council. Now senior local government officials and politicians have accused Sir Michael of deliberately misrepresenting problems with governance in a small number of schools by associating them with a wider threat of Islamic extremism.

"We've had to deal with a national political agenda that has deliberately conflated religious conservatism with an extremist agenda that is all to do with radicalisation and violent extremism," said Mark Rogers, chief executive of Birmingham City Council. "It doesn't reflect the issues that are going on in our schools.

"Sir Michael appears to be unclear about the delineation between him as Her Majesty's Chief Inspector appointed by the Privy Council to provide independent assessment and getting involved in politics.

"He has not observed the distinction between that role and making quasi-political commentary."

Mr Rogers, a former head teacher himself, who only took the job in Birmingham after the scandal broke added: "I am seeing things which I have seen over 25 years of being in the business which are now being packaged as an extremist agenda as opposed to good old-fashioned bad governance and mismanagement."

Speaking before the Education Select Committee last week, Sir Michael said Ofsted had found evidence of a deliberate, orchestrated attempt by some governors to target schools in Birmingham that had resulted in the removal of head teachers and staff being threatened. This, he added, "made children vulnerable to extremism". He accused Birmingham City Council of being "pretty useless" and said there had been a "lack of confidence in Birmingham council to support head teachers" before the Trojan Horse claims.

But Mr Rogers pointed out that there was evidence head teachers were raising concerns at exactly the same time when Ofsted was judging a number of the schools concerned as outstanding. Mr Rogers added that four out of the five schools placed in special measures by Ofsted were academies – institutions over which the city had no legal right to inspect or intervene in, as they were entirely independent of local authority control and reported directly to the Department for Education.

And he said Ofsted's combative approach had set back community relations in the city. "Our communities take a very simple view of this: they hear that this is the behaviour of extremists and our Muslim communities feel themselves being tarred with the brush of extremism by big national figures. They are hugely concerned about that, feeling very defensive and, in some instances, are worried about whether there will be repercussions from other parts of the community who will believe a narrative that does not have any substance to it."

Brigid Jones, who is responsible for education on Birmingham City Council, said Ofsted's stance had hurt both children and teachers. "He's not talking about the Birmingham that I know," she said. "He says Birmingham schools are dysfunctional but when you look at our results, we are way above the national average. Our kids are really worried about what their schools will look like on their CV. They think people will think they've got a bomb in the backpack. We've also got real recruitment problems with teachers. We can't recruit governors either. We are really unrepresented with ethnic minority governors but no one wants to go anywhere near us now – especially Muslims – because they just feel under attack and under suspicion. Mr Wilshaw's comments are just going to make that worse."

An Ofsted spokesperson said: "Ofsted stands by the content and conduct of these inspections. The inspection team were highly experienced and carried out the inspections with integrity and professionalism. The findings and judgements went through a robust and thorough quality assurance process to ensure findings were supported by evidence."

Labour's business plan

The next Labour government will create a nationwide network of "enterprise governors" who would provide schoolchildren with the knowledge and skills needed to set up their own businesses, it emerged last night.

The idea, which has the backing of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), will involve entrepreneurs being assigned to individual schools to give careers advice and practical help. The governors would be aimed at those children who are not attracted to the academic route of A-Levels and university.

Labour-run Waltham Forest council already operates a network of enterprise governors for its local schools, with the help of the FSB. Earlier this month, the Labour peer Lord Adonis, in his report on economic growth, recommended fostering greater links between schools and businesses, with the idea of a "Teach Next" scheme, modelled on the highly successful Teach First project, to attract mathematicians, scientists and engineers from industry into teaching.

Toby Perkins, the Shadow Minister for Small Business, said yesterday: "We need to see more people starting, leading and working in business. And a key part of fostering an entrepreneurial culture is by strengthening links between schools and local firms.

"Waltham Forest's scheme has made a fantastic contribution, showing what a difference a trailblazing Labour council can make. The next Labour government will make it easier for local authorities to take forward similar plans."

A Labour government would not force schools to adopt enterprise governors but it would encourage councils to use FSB-backed entrepreneurs to help get pupils interested in running their own businesses.

The FSB is working with the national charity School Governors One Stop Shop to encourage members onto schools' governing bodies.

The proposed enterprise governors would work alongside parent and teacher governors.

Figures show that many children are leaving school without any financial education or awareness of the world of business. The new national curriculum is introducing financial education for the first time in England from this September.

Jane Merrick

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
News
i100
News
Prince Harry is clearing enjoying the Commonwealth Games judging by this photo
people(a real one this time)
Sport
Lionel Messi looks on at the end of the final
football
Extras
indybest
News
Richard Norris in GQ
mediaGQ features photo shoot with man who underwent full face transplant
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Nursery Nurse

£6 - £8 per hour: Randstad Education Newcastle: Level 3 Nursery Nurse - Newcas...

Cover Supervisor

£45 - £60 per day: Randstad Education Chester: Job Opportunities for Welsh Spe...

Cover Supervisor

£45 - £60 per day: Randstad Education Chester: Job Opportunities for Welsh Spe...

Cover Supervisor

£45 - £60 per day: Randstad Education Chester: Job Opportunities for Welsh Spe...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on