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

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
News
Stacey Dooley was the only woman to be nominated in last month’s Grierson awards
mediaClare Balding and Davina McCall among those overlooked for Grierson awards
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Voices
Joseph Kynaston Reeves arguing with Russell Brand outside the RBS’s London offices on Friday
voicesDJ Taylor: The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a worker's rant to Russell Brand
News
Twitchers see things differently, depending on their gender
scienceNew study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
News
Xander van der Burgt, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
scienceA Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
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

Opilio Recruitment: Product Owner

£40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We are currently recruit...

Opilio Recruitment: Product Development Manager

£40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We are currently recruit...

Recruitment Genius: Qualified Nursery Practitioner - Sevenoaks

£15000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently have an opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Room Leader - Nursery

£17000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently have an opportunit...

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick