'Trojan Horse': Campaign to impose 'faith-based' ideology

Aerial view of Park View School Park View School was one of five schools rated inadequate by Ofsted and put into special measures

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Head teachers claim there was an organised campaign to impose a "narrow, faith-based ideology" at some schools in Birmingham, Ofsted has said.

The watchdog has placed five of the city's schools in special measures after "deeply worrying" findings.

It inspected 21 schools after an anonymous letter alleging a Muslim takeover plot was circulated.

Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw said a number of schools inspected were "doing well" to promote social awareness.

Inspectors carried out monitoring visits at 16 schools, and full inspections at the five schools branded inadequate.

Governors 'too involved'

These included Park View School, Golden Hillock School and Nansen Primary, run by the Park View Educational Trust.

Oldknow Academy, in Small Heath, and Saltley School were also put into special measures.

Reports found music lessons had been removed from the timetable at Nansen, where Muslim pupils exhibited "limited knowledge" of other religions.

Governance and leadership was particularly criticised at all five schools rated inadequate.

David Hughes, Park View Education Trust: ''The speed and the ferocity with which the school had been condemned was truly shocking''

Sir Michael said teachers at some of the schools inspected had reported being unfairly treated due to their faith and gender.

He said inspectors had "uncovered evidence of unfair and opaque recruitment practices, including examples of relatives being appointed to unadvertised senior posts".

"Although exam results are often good, the curriculum has become too narrow, reflecting the personal views of a small number of governors, rather than the wider community in Birmingham and beyond," he said.

Sir Michael also criticised Birmingham City Council for its "failure to support schools in their efforts to keep pupils safe from the risk of extremism".

"There's been a lack of urgency in the council's response to persistent complaints from head teachers about the conduct of certain governors," he said.

Ofsted's key findings at five inadequate schools

  • Nansen Primary was criticised for the leadership of the school as well as pupils' behaviour. Ofsted said: "The governing body has removed some subjects, such as music, from the timetable." It added that the school "does not prepare pupils adequately for life in modern Britain".
  • Inspectors recommended Oldknow Academy was put in special measures despite being rated outstanding in some categories. The report said a small group of governors was "making significant changes to the ethos and culture of the academy without full consultation". "They are endeavouring to promote a particular and narrow faith-based ideology in what is a maintained and non-faith academy," it said.
  • Saltley School, previously rated good, was criticised in every area, including governance, teaching standards, pupils' achievement, safety and leadership. Inspectors also criticised financial management at the school and relationships between senior staff and governors.
  • Ofsted found Park View School did not do enough to alert students to the risks of extremism. It said speakers invited to the school were not vetted and pupils were not taught about the safe use of the internet. Pupils are not given adequate preparation for living in a multi-cultural society, it said.
  • At Golden Hillock, inspectors concluded leaders and governors were "not doing enough to mitigate against cultural isolation". Ofsted concluded it "could leave students vulnerable to the risk of marginalisation from wider British society".

Park View Educational Trust said it "wholeheartedly disputed" the watchdog's findings and would mount a legal challenge to them.

Vice chair of Park View Educational Trust Dave Hughes accused inspectors of operating in a "climate of suspicion".

"Ofsted inspectors came to our school looking for extremism, looking for segregation, looking for proof that our children have religion forced upon them as part of a religious plot," he said.

"The Ofsted reports find no evidence of this, because this is categorically not what is happening at our schools.

"Our schools do not tolerate extremism of any kind," he added.

Map of 21 schools

The trust said Golden Hillock was "categorically not an inadequate school" and had only been part of the trust for five months when it was inspected.

"A number of the judgments are based on data and information that pre‐date the trust's involvement," it said.

In a statement, Saltley School said Ofsted had "found not the slightest shred of evidence" of an extremist influence at the school.

"Parents and the wider community can be wholly confident that students here are safe and well looked after," it said.

Sir Albert Bore: "There has been a failure of governance and we are party to that along with the Department for Education"

Head of Birmingham City Council Sir Albert Bore said the authority was "reassured that no evidence of a plot or conspiracy have been found by Ofsted".

"It is clear from Ofsted's inspection findings and Sir Michael Wilshaw's report that some governors do not fulfil their roles and responsibilities and have interfered improperly in the ethos, policies and day-to-day running of certain schools," he said.

Head of the National Association of Head Teachers Russell Hobby said he believed the original "Trojan Horse" letter was a hoax but had elements of truth within it.

"It's a mixture of the true and the false. The root of this is not a true document in its entirety," he said.

Arshad Malik Parent Arshad Malik said he felt inspectors had been biased in their approach

Mr Hobby was speaking at a press conference attended by the head teachers of schools involved in the Trojan Horse probe.

Bhupinder Kondal, principal of Oldknow Academy, said she was removed from her post in January against her will.

Anderson Park head Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson said "none of the contents of the Trojan Horse letter came as a shock".

Another head teacher, speaking anonymously, told the BBC they had been "bullied" into employing a senior member of staff with no experience.

Arshad Malik, whose son, Imran, attends Park View School, said he believed people were "trying to use this school to push their own agendas".

"‎Inspectors came with loaded questions...This issue is a political football," he said.

Gaafar Tariq, a taxi driver and father-of-five, has two children who attend Nansen Primary School.

The 47-year-old said: "I don't think there's any concern about extremism in this area and these reports prove it. I don't see any problem with this school."

line
The 21 schools inspected
  • Adderley Primary School
  • Alston Primary School
  • Chillwell Croft Academy
  • Golden Hillock School - A Park View Academy
  • Gracelands Nursery School
  • Heathfield Primary School
  • Highfield Junior and Infant School
  • Ladypool Primary School
  • Marlborough Junior School
  • Montgomery Primary Academy
  • Nansen Primary School - A Park View Academy
  • Ninestiles School - An Academy
  • Oldknow Academy
  • Park View School Academy of Mathematics and Science
  • Regents Park Community Primary School
  • Saltley School and Specialist Science College
  • Shaw Primary School
  • Small Heath School
  • Washwood Heath Academy
  • Waverley School
  • Welford Primary School

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