July 18, 2013
The findings of two reports into the “Trojan Horse” allegations of an attempted takeover of some Birmingham schools have been published. Peter Clarke’s report, ordered by the government and leaked to The Guardian, found there was a “co-ordinated effort” to impose an “Islamist ethos” in some schools. A council-commissioned report by Ian Kershaw found “no evidence” of a conspiracy.
Russell Hobby, general secretary, National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) said the NAHT could not “fully support the conclusions” of the city council’s report because it has used “too narrow a definition of extremism” and limited its process and terms of reference “in a way which excludes critical evidence. We entirely understand the pressures faced by the council but do not feel that their conclusions reflect the full reality in schools,” he said.
Ruby Kundi, head of Highfield School, one of the 25 investigated in Ian Kershaw’s probe, said she thought the differing accounts could create more confusion.
Khalid Mahmood, Labour MP for Perry Barr, Birmingham said he agreed with Mr Kershaw’s finding that identified the issue as a “minority problem” caused by a handful of disruptive governors, but said there was “still more to look at” and called for Birmingham City Council to be held to account.
Shabina Bano, chair of Oldknow Academy Parents’ Association and has two daughters at Oldknow Academy, one of five schools placed into special measures by education watchdog Ofsted. “First they were out to isolate us, now they are out to divide us by talking about different forms of Islam,” she said. “The Birmingham city council report totally contradicts what Peter Clarke is saying.” It’s all going to end with no apology; it’s all going to end with children paying the price.”
The National Association of Head Teachers says it has serious concerns over schools at the centre of the alleged Islamic plot in Birmingham, with the union’s general secretary warning that Islamic groups wanted “a dominant influence” over schools in the city.
Russell Hobby, the NAHT’s general secretary, was speaking before the union’s conference in Birmingham this weekend, where he is to tell delegates: “A tight network of religious leaders of the Islamic faith has made a concerted effort to get involved in the running of schools and to strengthen the power of governing bodies to have a dominant influence in shaping the character of local schools.”
Hobby said that while his union was convinced the “Trojan Horse” letter – which described an alleged plot to undermine schools in the city – was fake, it had triggered warnings about school governance, abuse of employment laws and interference with children’s education.
Hobby said: “We don’t believe that these allegations are a cause for panic. But neither do we believe that they are a source of comfort either, there have been things going on inside our schools which would make some of us feel uncomfortable.”
Hobby said the NAHT and its members had identified three main areas of concern:
“The first is contravening what we understand to be the principles of good governance and putting pressure on the paid school leaders within schools to adopt certain philosophies and approaches.”
“The second we believe is breaching good employment practice and indeed employment law in order to further this influence, and putting pressure on individual staff members heading into territory which we understand to be constructive dismissal and making sure people are appointed to schools on the basis of their beliefs and not necessarily their skills.”
The third issue, which Hobby said was “more serious but also more speculative”, was whether the entitlement of children to a rounded education had been contravened.
Ofsted said all 21 inspection reports will be published together with a letter from the chief inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, to the Department of Education at the beginning of June.