Birmingham Trojan Horse letter 'no hoax'
A letter outlining a plot by some Muslims to take over schools in Birmingham was "no hoax", according to the city's education commissioner Sir Mike Tomlinson.
The anonymous Trojan Horse letter, discovered in 2013, included advice on installing school governors.
It has been the subject of four major inquiries.
Sir Mike said he believed many details in the letter "were happening [in schools], without a shadow of doubt".
The letter outlined a plan to bring in new school governors, undermine head teachers and ultimately introduce changes sympathetic to the group of conservative Muslims.
"Whatever anybody says, it was no hoax," Sir Mike said.
He said evidence uncovered in inquiries by the Department for Education (DfE) and Ofsted "mirrored what was said in the letter".
Sir Mike's comments add to a volume of opposing views on the origins of, and claims contained in, the letter.
The former Ofsted chief, appointed by the government in September, is tasked with overseeing improvements in Birmingham in the wake of the controversy.
The Trojan Horse 'plot'
A letter, anonymously written, was passed on to Birmingham City Council by a "concerned citizen" in November 2013 and came to light the following March.
It purports to be advice to a contact in Bradford with instructions on how to install new governors with the aim of taking over schools and introducing Islam-friendly changes.
The letter reads: "I have detailed the plan we have in Birmingham and how well it has worked and you will see how easy the whole process is to get the head teacher out and your own person in."
Almost exactly a year ago, a government inquiry led by former counter-terrorism chief Peter Clarke found "sustained action carried out by a number of associated individuals to introduce an intolerant and aggressive Islamist ethos into a few schools in Birmingham".
Birmingham City Council said while there were problems with governance in some schools, there was no evidence of a plot.
It has since introduced new rules for appointing governors.
Tahir Alam, the former head of governors for Park View Education Trust and named directly in the Trojan Horse letter, said he had always argued its claims were nothing more than "a myth".
He was forced to resign last July and now faces the possibility of being permanently banned from involvement in education.
Trojan Horse inquiries
- 9 June 2014: Investigations by Ofsted lead to five schools being placed in special measures. The same month Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw says there is evidence of an "organised campaign to target certain schools".
- 10 June 2014: An Education Funding Agency investigation prompts warnings to academies they could lose funding.
- 17 June 2014: Parts of Peter Clarke's report for the DfE are leaked to The Guardian newspaper. Mr Clarke says he has found "clear evidence" of people in positions of influence in schools who "espouse, sympathise with or fail to challenge extremist views".
- 18 June 2014: Birmingham City Council publishes key findings from its independent inquiry, led by Ian Kershaw. It finds "no evidence of a conspiracy to promote an anti-British agenda, violent extremism or radicalisation in schools".
- 17 March 2015: A report for the Education Select Committee concludes there was evidence of only one incident of extremism or radicalisation and "no evidence of a sustained plot".
- 27 June 2015: The DfE criticises the select committee for "downplaying" the seriousness of events in Birmingham and "undermining" efforts to tackle extremism.
Sir Mike said there had been "significant changes" over the past year since the report by Peter Clarke.
"One of the most important things right now is that we have much improved governance in schools, we have much-improved safeguarding, helped by the creation of a multi-agency hub," he said.
However, Sir Mike said work remained to improve "community cohesion".
Progress in Birmingham was also highlighted by Sir Michael Wilshaw on Tuesday.
In a letter to Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, he said the picture was "improving slowly", although problems remained at the schools placed in special measures last year.
Anderton Park Primary was not part of the official inquiries, but its head Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson said she had experienced similar pressures to those highlighted by the Trojan Horse letter, including intimidation from governors and opposition from the local community over issues such as sex education classes.
She said while measures recently introduced, such as new rules for governors, had improved matters, issues raised by the official inquiries had "not gone away".
Sir Mike Tomlinson's full interview with BBC Midlands Today is on BBC One in the West Midlands from 18:30 BST on 16 July.