'No extremism,' says Birmingham school

By Sean Coughlan
BBC News education correspondent

  • Published
Park View SchoolImage source, PA
Image caption,
Park View School has been under scrutiny over the Trojan Horse allegations
Media caption,
Park View school governor Tahir Alam: Allegations "blown out of proportion"

A Birmingham school at the centre of the "Trojan Horse" allegations has no religious extremism of any kind, says the chair of governors.

Tahir Alam from Park View School told BBC Radio 4's Today programme there was no segregation of boys and girls or assemblies supporting Al-Qaeda.

"We're shocked by so many false allegations," said Mr Alam.

But local MP Khalid Mahmood said schools had changed their practices because of so much scrutiny.

"They realise they are being focused on and significantly changed their attitudes, changing the way they hold assemblies," said Mr Mahmood.

'No segregation'

The MP for Perry Barr said that the conflict had arisen because there had been efforts to turn a non-faith school into a "religious school".

Mr Mahmood told BBC WM he had received complaints that in some schools, where there had been allegations of extremism, children were learning radical views that conflicted with their parents.

"The real issue here is how you start to groom these young people away from the philosophy of their parents and towards the philosophy that some teachers had - so that when these children went home, slowly they would start to say this or that is wrong because our teachers tell us it is wrong."

Image caption,
MP Khalid Mahmood says schools have changed because of the scrutiny

But Mr Alam, chair of a school that had been in the spotlight over claims of hardline Muslim take-overs of schools in Birmingham, categorically denied that there had been any inappropriate behaviour.

He blamed "media hysteria" for the claims about extremism in schools which has prompted four official investigations.

He said that the school had an intake that was 99% Muslim, but that it had to cater for children of all faiths and backgrounds.

The school's policies on areas such as collective prayer, headscarves and halal meat were "within the legal parameters", he said.

"No child has to wear a headscarf or go to prayer... We don't have a policy of segregating pupils in the classroom," he said.

And Mr Alam denied claims there had been assemblies with speakers sympathetic to Al-Qaeda.

Swimming in Ramadan

Pressed on whether he believed pupils should be able to swim in the month of Ramadan, he said there were concerns that swallowing water would mean breaking a fast.

A pupil at Park View School, Tahira Mohammed, who is about to take her GCSEs, told BBC WM that the dispute was creating unwanted pressure during the exam season.

"To be honest, it's added pressure and unwanted pressure to me and my fellow pupils. I just feel that all of this going on is completely unnecessary, it's extra stress and we've got exams - it could affect our future."

The investigations into extremism in Birmingham schools had been sparked by an anonymous and unverified letter claiming that there was a "Trojan Horse" conspiracy by a group wanting to impose a more hardline Muslim agenda on schools in the city.

This included claims that head teachers were being replaced with staff who were more likely to be sympathetic to these religious beliefs.

The authenticity of the letter has been disputed, but the National Association of Head Teachers says there seemed to have been "concerted efforts" to take over six schools in Birmingham.

The education watchdog for England, Ofsted, is to publish inspection reports next month into schools where there have been allegations.

The Department for Education has commissioned an investigation headed by former counter-terror chief, Peter Clarke.