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Saturday 30 August 2014

'Muslim plot' to takeover schools leads to sanctions

Alison Kershaw, Richard Vernalls and Matt Cooper

Published 10/06/2014 | 02:30

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Education Secretary Michael Gove speaks in the House of Commons, London, after Ofsted placed five Birmingham schools into special measures in the wake of the 'Trojan Horse' allegations, as it issued a damning verdict on the running of a number of the city's schools. PA
Education Secretary Michael Gove speaks in the House of Commons, London, after Ofsted placed five Birmingham schools into special measures in the wake of the 'Trojan Horse' allegations, as it issued a damning verdict on the running of a number of the city's schools. PA

Five Birmingham schools have been placed under special measures in the wake of the so-called "Trojan Horse" allegations.

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The plot, dubbed Operation Trojan Horse, allegedly involved a move by hardline Muslims to seize control of the governing boards of several Birmingham schools by forcing out uncooperative headteachers and installing friendly governors.

Yesterday the British education watchdog Ofsted issued a damning verdict on the running of a number of the city's schools.

In one incident, controlling school governors insisted on vetting a nativity play script then banned the use of a doll as baby Jesus, according to inspectors.

Inspections conducted following claims of a takeover plot by the hardline Muslims found that a "culture of fear and intimidation" had developed in some schools and, in several, governors exerted "inappropriate influence" over how they were being run.

It was also noted at the school, in Saltley, there were "no effective strategies that develop pupils' awareness of the risks of extremism or radicalisation".

The report found pupils risked "cultural isolation" and had a "limited knowledge of religious beliefs other than Islam".

Ofsted also found that pupils' understanding of UK traditions, culture and beliefs were not being properly developed and children were not being adequately prepared for life in modern Britain. Inspectors were also critical of the "over-controlling" governors interfering in the daily running of the school.

"For example, when teachers wanted pupils to take part in a nativity play, governors insisted on vetting a copy of the script for its suitability and told staff they must not use a doll as the baby Jesus," the report stated.

At Park View School in Alum Rock, which was previously rated outstanding, Ofsted found "the academy's work to raise students' awareness of the risks of extremism is inadequate", but rated teaching and pupils' achievement as "good".

Inspectors said only some year groups and teachers had taken part in the government's anti-terror awareness programme Prevent.

Warned

In an advice note to the UK's education secretary Michael Gove outlining the findings, Ofsted chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw also warned that Birmingham City Council had failed to support a number of schools in the area in their efforts to protect pupils from the "risks of radicalisation and extremism".

Some headteachers told inspectors that there had been an organised campaign to target certain schools in the city to change their "character and ethos", he said.

Ofsted published the findings of its visits to 21 schools, all inspected after a letter – now widely believed to be a hoax – came to light, which referred to an alleged plot to seize control of a number of school governing boards in Birmingham.

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