More on The Trojan Horse Affair

Posted: August 3, 2014 in Islamism

Schools face new curbs on extremism after Birmingham Trojan horse affair
Education secretary Nicky Morgan announces reforms after Peter Clarke’s damning report on Muslim extremist infiltration
Patrick Wintour, Political editor
The Guardian | 22 July 2014

A raft of reforms to school accountability, including an education commissioner for Birmingham, inspections of city academy chains and new oversight of school governors, were announced on Tuesday by the education secretary in response to a damning report into extremist infiltration of schools.

Nicky Morgan said that in the future teachers would be sacked without appeal if it was proven that they have failed to protect pupils or promote British values by exposing children to extremist speakers.

The moves followed the publication on Tuesday of a report showing there had been a co-ordinated attempt to take over a small group of Birmingham schools by a group of politicised Sunni Muslim extremists.

The report, written by Peter Clarke, the former head of counter-terrorism at the Met, was leaked to the Guardian last week. It calls for a review of the way in which schools become academies or academy trusts, a proposal not taken up by Morgan.

Clarke said he found an "intolerant and aggressive" Islamist ethos in some Birmingham schools brought about by governors intent on promoting an ultra-conservative version of their faith. That ethos included homophobia, sexism, antipathy to other forms of Islam and in one case denial that Private Lee Rigby had been killed by Islamic extremists.

The new schools commissioner for Birmingham will oversee reforms to the way school governors are selected and operate, as well as ensure that all children are properly prepared for life in the modern world. The appointment has been welcomed by Birmingham council.

Morgan also announced that the outgoing head of the home civil service, Sir Bob Kershaw, will conduct a review of Birmingham council’s corporate culture.

The council is now Labour controlled, but was run by an alliance of Tories and Liberal Democrats until March 2012. The new council’s political leadership has admitted, in hindsight, it put community cohesion before rooting out the problems in some schools, including systematic bullying of teachers resisting attempts to narrow the culture and curriculum of state schools.

The current Birmingham chief executive has been fiercely critical of the former education secretary Michael Gove and the Ofsted chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw.

Morgan said: "What Peter Clarke found is disturbing. His report sets out compelling evidence of a determined effort by people with a shared ideology to gain control of the governing bodies of a small number of schools in Birmingham. Teachers have said they fear children are learning to be intolerant of difference and diversity. Instead of enjoying a broadening and enriching experience in school, young people are having their horizons narrowed and are being denied the opportunity to flourish in a modern multicultural Britain."

One of the schools at the centre of the row, Oldknow Academy, was told it will have its funding agreement terminated by the Department for Education. In a letter to the academy trust’s board, the schools minister, Lord Nash, said Oldknow had failed to show it had taken adequate steps to improve. A further letter from the minister states the DfE will revisit the school in October, to scrutinise its action plan.

Clarke also criticised unnamed professional bodies – believed to be a reference to the National Union of Teachers and the NASUWT – for putting to one side consideration of "the systematic problems" their Birmingham members faced in their relationships with school governors.

He also said the two unions, unlike the National Association of Head Teachers, had refused to assist his inquiry proactively. These professional bodies, he said, "have been active in securing compromise agreements for their members where professional agreements have broken down, but consideration of the more systematic problems affecting their members appear to have been put to one side". Both unions, in statements, strongly condemned intolerance, but continued to claim the criticisms of the schools had been exaggerated.

In the Commons, Les Lawrence, the former lead education councillor in Birmingham, a Conservative, was one of four people named under parliamentary privilege by Khalid Mahmood, the Labour MP for Birmingham Perry Barr, who accused them of colluding "with this huge tragedy of keeping these schools in a position they should not have been in", and failing to listen to parents, governors and teachers.

In her statement, Morgan made two policy announcements that might have not been made by her predecessor Gove, and one notable shift in tone.

Shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt said her appointment of a school commissioner for Birmingham was a welcome shift and broadly in line with proposals he had made jointly with the former education secretary David Blunkett for a localised tier of accountability responsible for driving up school standards. Hunt has been concerned that the proliferation of academies has left the Department for Education in charge of thousands of schools.

Gove had already created eight regional school commissioners, including one for the West Midlands.

Morgan said that below these eight commissioners, appointed by the Department for Education, will be elected headteacher boards, which will consist of outstanding headteachers. She said she hoped these bodies would be the places unhappy teachers could turn in the future if they have complaints about local school governors or the response of the local council. Morgan also for the first time said her department needed to look at Ofsted being empowered to inspect academy chains, a power Wilshaw has sought.

Morgan also spurned an opportunity to follow Gove in his rhetorical demands for tougher action to deal with Islamist extremism. She was asked by a Tory backbencher Rob Wilson: "What approach does she favour in attempting to combat extremism – simply beating back the crocodiles that come too close to the boat, or draining the swamp?" Morgan said simply: "I believe in looking forward and learning lessons." Liam Byrne, the Birmingham MP for Hodge Hill, was one of many Labour MPs to blame the former education secretary for making longstanding problems in some local schools worse. He said: "Over the last six months, I’ve been appalled by the way some in government decided to use this as a political football, a pawn in their culture wars, and a chance to attack our city’s proud Muslim community. That’s why I’m so glad Michael Gove is no longer education secretary.

In Birmingham, governors representing three academies run by Park View Educational Trust resigned en masse last week, claiming to be victims of a Department for Education witch-hunt.

Key findings

• There was a coordinated, deliberate and sustained action to introduce an intolerant and aggressive Islamic ethos into a few schools in Birmingham.

• There was no terrorism, radicalisation or violent extremism in the schools of concern, but there was clear evidence of a number of people, associated with each other and in positions of influence in schools and governing bodies, who espouse, endorse or fail to challenge extremist views.

• Birmingham city council was aware of the practices and behaviour that were outlined in the Trojan horse letter long before the letter surfaced.

• People who have been either teachers or governors at Park View school appear to be involved in behaviours at other schools that have destabilised headteachers, sometimes leading to their resignation or removal.

• The tactics used are too similar, the individuals concerned too closely linked, and the behaviour of a few parents and governors too orchestrated for there not to be a degree of coordination and organisation behind what has happened.

• An all-male group discussion called the Park View Brotherhood, initiated by the acting principal of Park View school, contained messages that displayed explicit homophobia; highly offensive comments about British service personnel; a stated ambition to increase segregation in the school; disparagement of strands of Islam; scepticism about the truth of reports of the murder of Lee Rigby and the Boston bombings; and a constant undercurrent of anti-western, anti-US and anti-Israeli sentiment.

• Teachers in the city fear children at some of the schools of concern are learning to be intolerant of difference and diversity. There is evidence that this is the case both inside and outside school, such as on school trips.

• Young people, instead of enjoying a broadening and enriching experience in school, are having their horizons narrowed and are not being equipped to flourish in the diverse environments of further education, the workplace or any environment outside predominantly Muslim communities.

• The very clear evidence that young people are being encouraged to accept unquestioningly a particular hardline strand of Sunni Islam raises concerns about their vulnerability to radicalisation in the future.

• The council has not supported headteachers faced with aggressive and inappropriate behaviour by governors.

• The sheer number and diversity of people who made allegations about the schools disproves the idea that those claiming to witness extreme behaviours were simply disaffected teachers and headteachers.

• Parents do not have the confidence to argue against the articulate and forceful activists who seek to impose their views, for fear of being branded as disloyal to their faith or their community.

Rowena Mason

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/jul/22/schools-face-curbs-extremism-birmingham-trojan-horse-affair

 

Leaked report reveals ‘aggressive Islamist agenda’ in Birmingham schools
Exclusive: Draft report from ‘Trojan horse’ inquiry uncovers evidence of coordinated plan to impose hardline Sunni Islam
Patrick Wintour, political editor
The Guardian | 17 July 2014

A damning report into extremist infiltration of Birmingham schools has uncovered evidence of "coordinated, deliberate and sustained action to introduce an intolerant and aggressive Islamist ethos into some schools in the city".

The conclusion emerges from a leaked draft of a report, commissioned by the former education secretary Michael Gove and written by Peter Clarke, the former head of the Metropolitan police’s counterterrorism command, which is due to be published in the next 24 hours.

Clarke said there was a "sustained and coordinated agenda to impose upon children in a number of Birmingham schools the segregationist attitudes and practices of a hardline and politicised strain of Sunni Islam".

The draft, marked as sensitive, added that: "Left unchecked, it would confine schoolchildren within an intolerant, inward-looking monoculture that would severely inhibit their participation in the life of modern Britain".

The uncompromising report may deepen community tensions in England’s second city and provoke a fierce debate on whether Britain has been sufficiently muscular in efforts to expose and uproot Islamism. It will also make uncomfortable reading for Birmingham city council as it accuses local politicians and officials of ignoring evidence of extremism for years, repeatedly failing to support bullied headteachers and putting the need to soothe community tensions ahead of all else.

The report represents an explosive parting gift from Gove to the new education secretary Nicky Morgan in only her second full day in post. Touching on one of Gove’s flagship reforms, Clarke calls for the Department for Education "to review the process by which schools are able to convert to academy status and become multi-academy trusts".

The former police chief said there were potentially serious problems in some academies raised by the Birmingham "Trojan horse" crisis. The draft states: "In theory, academies are accountable to the secretary of state, but in practice the accountability can almost amount to benign neglect where educational and financial performance seems to indicate everything is fine."

Ofsted has already published a report into the quality of Birmingham education after snap inspections at 21 schools revealed serious problems, leading to five schools being placed in special measures. Senior staff at Park View Educational Trust, who were identified in the Clarke report as central to the agenda, have also resigned.

In response to the Ofsted report, Birmingham local government officials and politicians accused Sir Michael Wilshaw, the chief inspector of schools, of deliberately misrepresenting problems of governance in a small number of schools by associating them with a wider threat of Islamist extremism.

Last week Mark Rogers, the chief executive of Birmingham city council, said: "We’ve had to deal with a national political agenda that has deliberately conflated religious conservatism with an extremist agenda that is all to do with radicalisation and violent extremism."

On Friday, Birmingham is due to publish Clarke’s final report, in conjunction with its own inquiry, conducted by Ian Kershaw.

The crisis in Birmingham schools erupted in February when an anonymous letter claimed there was a "Trojan horse" conspiracy in which conservative Muslims aimed to infiltrate Birmingham schools. Although the letter is thought to be a hoax as regards the specific allegation, the broad notion of infiltration was felt to merit further investigation.

Lambasting the council, Clarke says: "There was never a serious attempt to see if there was a pattern to what was happening in school governing bodies. The council’s approach has been variously described to me as appeasement and a failure in their duty of care towards their employees."

With access to internal council correspondence, he said there was "incontrovertible evidence" that senior officials and elected members of Birmingham city council were aware of the practices set out in the Trojan Horse letter as early as 2012.

Clarke’s report is backed up by graphic evidence, including social media exchanges between senior staff, and disagrees with the council’s previously expressed view, saying the offending ideology "manifests itself as the imposition of an aggressively separatist and intolerant agenda incompatible with full participation in a plural secular democracy".

"Rejecting not only the secular and other religions, but also other strains of Islamic belief, it goes beyond the kind of social conservatism practiced in some faith schools which may be consistent with universal human rights and respectful of other communities. It appears to be a deliberate attempt to convert secular state schools into exclusive faith schools in all but name."

Clarke said that he neither sought nor found evidence of terrorism, but there was "very clear evidence that young people are being encouraged to accept unquestionably a particular hardline strand of Sunni Islam that raises concerns about their vulnerability to radicalisation in the future".

"Essentially the ideology revealed by this investigation is an intolerant and politicised form of extreme social conservatism that claims to represent and ultimately seeks to control all Muslims. In its separatist assertions and attempts to subvert normal processes it amounts to what is often described as Islamism."

Clarke’s investigation gained him access to transcripts of discussions on social media between senior figures at Park View Academy, one of the schools at the heart of the row. Heasserts: "The all-male group discussions include explicit homophobia, highly offensive comments about British service personnel, a stated ambition to increase segregation at the school, disparagement of Muslims in sectors other than their own, scepticism about the truth of reports on the murder of [soldier] Lee Rigby and the Boston bombings, and a constant undercurrent of anti-western, anti-America and anti-Israel sentiment."

A Birmingham council source said: "The performance of Birmingham in raising school attainment has recently been lauded despite the level of deprivation seen in the city."

He added: "Time and again people who have either been teachers or governors at Park View appear to be involved in behaviour at other schools that have destabilised headteachers, sometimes leading to their resignation or removal. The tactics that have been used are too similar, the individuals concerned are too closely linked and the behaviour of a few parents and governors too orchestrated for there not to be a degree of coordination behind what has happened."

Tahir Alam, the chair of governors of the Park View Trust, who is the subject of special criticism in the report, resigned earlier this week after claiming there had been a "vicious and coordinated offensive" against the trust. His fellow trustees also resigned en masse.

Timeline

December 2013 Birmingham council passes a letter to West Midlands counter-terrorism unit outlining a plot called "Operation Trojan horse", to oust headteachers and replace them with people who will run their schools on "strict Islamic principles".

7 March 2014 Counter-terrorism unit confirms it is looking into the alleged plot as details become public.

13 March Police reveal they are investigating whether the letter was a hoax connected to an employment tribunal involving a school named in the plot.

14 April The leader of Birmingham council says 25 schools in the city are under investigation following 200 complaints it has received in relation to allegations of Islamist "takeovers". Sir Albert Bore also announces that Ian Kershaw, a former headteacher with experience of leading independent inquiries, has been given a six-month contract by the council to "analyse further all Trojan horse material to enable us to see the whole picture".

15 April Michael Gove, the education secretary, appoints Peter Clarke, who served as head of the Met’s counter-terrorism unit and led the investigation into the 7/7 London bombings in 2005, to examine the claims.

9 June Five of 21 schools inspected by Ofsted are judged to be inadequate and placed in special measures: Park View, Golden Hillock, Saltley, Oldknow and Nansen. Ofsted’s chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw says "a culture of fear and intimidation" exists within the schools under investigation.

20 June The governors of Saltley resign in protest at the way their school has been treated.

15 July Trustees at Park View educational trust announce that they have quit in protest at a "coordinated and vicious" offensive led by Gove.

Haroon Siddique

http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/jul/17/leaked-report-aggressive-islamist-agenda-birmingham-schools

 

Report Cites ‘Aggressive’ Islamic Push in British City’s Schools
KATRIN BENNHOLD
NYT | JULY 22, 2014

LONDON — First there was an anonymous letter outlining an Islamic takeover of British schools in Muslim neighborhoods ominously called Operation Trojan Horse. Then the letter was found to be riddled with inaccuracies and widely deemed to be a hoax.

Now a report by a former antiterrorism chief suggests that some of the concerns raised by the letter — fake or not — may in fact be real, the latest twist in a tortured debate about how to reconcile Islam and Britishness in a country that has one of Western Europe’s largest Muslim communities.

According to the report by Peter Clarke, the former head of Scotland Yard’s counterterrorism command, there was “coordinated, deliberate and sustained action to introduce an intolerant and aggressive Islamic ethos into a few schools in Birmingham.”

Mr. Clarke said there was no evidence of actual radicalization, violence or encouragement of terrorism. But he told the BBC that “there’s clearly been a wish to introduce what has been described as a conservative religious agenda into those schools.”

Islamic hard-liners had gained influence on school boards, he said, “installing sympathetic head teachers or senior members of staff, appointing like-minded people to key positions, and seeking to remove head teachers who they do not feel to be sufficiently compliant with their agenda.”

Among the concerns highlighted in the report were calls to Friday Prayer broadcast over loudspeakers that were apparently stopped during a school inspection and complaints that female members of staff were not treated equally.

Britain’s new education secretary, Nicky Morgan, reporting the results of the investigation to Parliament on Tuesday, called the findings “disturbing.” She said some teachers were likely to face disciplinary action and some might even be barred from the profession.

In Birmingham, a city in the English heartland where more than one in five inhabitants are Muslim, some current and former staff members at some of the handful of schools in question do not dispute that the teaching staff and leadership in majority-Muslim neighborhoods had become more diversified. But they said that what had been characterized as meddling by extremists was mostly Muslims advocating to improve their children’s educational performance.

One public high school at the heart of the Trojan Horse controversy, Park View Academy, was ranked as one of the worst schools in Birmingham in the 1990s, with most students failing their final exams. But by 2012 it had received top marks from school inspectors, and nearly four in every five of its students now go on to university.

Last week, members of the trust running Park View resigned collectively in protest at what they called a coordinated and vicious offensive. The chairman of the trust, Tahir Alam, said he and his colleagues were proud of the work they had done to turn around schools like Park View at a time when “no one much cared about the young people of east Birmingham, when their schools were failing them for decades.”

Reacting to Tuesday’s report, Mr. Alam said meeting the religious needs of students had been an important part of tackling “issues of low expectations and systemic failure” and there had indeed been “very stiff resistance from many heads in Birmingham schools.” He accused the previous education secretary, Michael Gove, who had commissioned the report but was removed from his post in a cabinet reshuffle last week, of being the driving force behind months of scrutiny that he said had brought the school’s reputation “to the point of destruction.” Early in the process, Mr. Gove had angered Muslims when he vowed to “drain the swamp” of extremism.

One teacher in Birmingham, a non-Muslim who declined to be identified for fear of losing his job, said Tuesday, “Clarke wrote the report that Gove wanted him to write.”

Some opposition lawmakers urged Ms. Morgan to win back the trust of parents. “We need ministers who drop the divisive rhetoric which Mr. Gove has used in the past,” Liam Byrne, a Labour lawmaker, told the BBC. “At times in east Birmingham we have felt like we are just a football in Michael Gove’s culture wars.”

Tensions have been notably on the rise since the killing last year of a white soldier on a London street by two British-born Muslims, and there has been growing concern about a steady stream of Britons heading to fight as jihadists in Syria. Hate crimes against Muslims have been rising, too.

But Ms. Morgan suggested that fear of being accused of racism and anti-Islamic views had allowed a “small number of people with a shared ideology” to take over schools.

These people had “a restricted and narrow interpretation of their faith,” and had failed to promote fundamental British values and to challenge the extremist views of others, she said.

Particularly shocking, she said, was evidence of a social media group, called the “Park View Brotherhood,” used by some staff members of Park View. According to Mr. Clarke’s report, the group’s online chats included explicit homophobia; offensive comments about British soldiers; a stated ambition to increase gender segregation in the school; and a constant undercurrent of anti-Western, anti-American and anti-Israeli sentiment. Untangling religiousness from extremism has proved especially tricky in a country that has never drawn a clear line between state and religion: The queen is both head of state and head of the Anglican Church. Public schools, while nondenominational, do not just tolerate the opportunity for collective worship, but require it.

That worship is to be “wholly or mainly” Christian in character, official guidelines say. But in schools where the overwhelming majority of students are Muslims, head teachers can request special dispensation to hold Islamic assemblies instead.

Some educational experts say the only long-term solution to the question of how much religion is too much is to end all worship in state schools.

The requirement has “led the community quite naturally to think that religion, apart from the agreed syllabus, had legitimate wider influence on the curriculum. It does not,” Tim Brighouse, a former chief education officer of Birmingham and schools commissioner for London, wrote in The Guardian.

“Legislation is now needed to replace the act of worship clause with the need to promote pluralism and respect for those with different faiths and none, while making sure that schools stand for those values that underpin a peaceful and civilized society.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/23/world/europe/report-cites-aggressive-islamic-push-in-british-citys-schools.html

 

Trojan horse inquiry: ‘A coordinated agenda to impose hardline Sunni Islam’
Investigation finds Islamist plan would have confined pupils in Birmingham schools to ‘intolerant monoculture’ if left unchecked
Patrick Wintour, political editor
The Guardian | 17 July 2014

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Nansen primary was one of four Birmingham academies where teachers were told not to use images showing ‘even the slightest intimacy between the sexes’. Photograph: Joe Giddens/PA

An investigation ordered by the government has found a "sustained, coordinated agenda to impose segregationist attitudes and practices of a hardline, politicised strain of Sunni Islam" on children in a number of Birmingham schools.

A draft of the report, marked as sensitive, states: "Left unchecked, it would confine schoolchildren within an intolerant, inward-looking monoculture that would severely inhibit their participation in the life of modern Britain."

The inquiry, conducted by the former counterterrorism chief Peter Clarke, was ordered by the former education secretary Michael Gove and began in April. Clarke gathered 2,000 documents and generated 2,000 pages of interview transcripts from 50 witnesses, including former headteachers, teachers, council staff and school governors. He did not interview parents or pupils. "The level of distress and anxiety felt by the witnesses cannot be overstated," he says.

Clarke denies the report is Islamophobic, saying the evidence shows a group of governors and senior teachers represented a form of Muslim extremism rejected by most Muslims in east Birmingham.

He argues it was likely that most parents did not approve of the culture imposed in the schools, but they "did not have the confidence to argue against the articulate, forceful activists who seek to impose their views, for fear of being branded as disloyal to their faith or community".

He claims the offending ideology "manifests itself as the imposition of an aggressively separatist and intolerant agenda incompatible with full participation in a plural secular democracy".

It rejects not only the secular and other religions, but other strains of Islamic belief: "It goes beyond the social conservatism practised in some faith schools which may be consistent with universal human rights and respectful of other communities. It appears to be a deliberate attempt to convert secular state schools into exclusive faith schools in all but name."

He says there is "very clear evidence that young people are being encouraged to accept unquestionably a particular hardline strand of Sunni Islam that raises concerns about their vulnerability to radicalisation in the future. Essentially the ideology revealed by this investigation is an intolerant and politicised form of extreme social conservatism that ultimately seeks to control all Muslims. In its separatist assertions and attempts to subvert normal processes it amounts to what is often described as Islamism.

"The agenda, but not the tactics, involved stem from an international movement to increase the role of Islam in education." Two organisations identified by Clarke as being behind the movement are the Muslim Council of Britain and the Association of Muslim Schools – UK.

In the 90-page interim report Clarke attempts to answer questions about some of the incendiary issues prompted by the "Trojan horse" letter, an anonymous message sent to Birmingham council in November last year, claiming there was a hardline Islam-inspired plot to take over named schools in the city.

It was passed on to the Department for Education and the West Midlands police. In February, it was leaked to the press, prompting what quickly became a national outcry over Islamic influence in education, polarising the local community and many education experts, and also raising questions about whether it was a hoax.

"I found clear evidence there are a number of people associated with each other and in positions of influence in schools and governing bodies who espouse, sympathise with or fail to challenge extremist views," Clarke says.

Manifestations of extremism in the schools outlined in the report include:

• Anti-western rhetoric, particularly anti-US and anti-Israel.

• Segregationism – dividing the world into us and them, with them to include all non-Muslims and Muslims who disagree.

• Perception of a worldwide conspiracy against Muslims.

• Attempts to impose its views and practices upon others.

• Intolerance of difference, whether the secular, other religions or other Muslims.

Clarke says: "Time and again people who have either been teachers or governors at Park View [Academy] appear to be involved in behaviour at other schools that have destabilised headteachers, sometimes leading to their resignation or removal. The tactics that have been used are too similar, the individuals concerned are too closely linked and the behaviour of a few parents and governors too orchestrated for there not to be a degree of coordination behind what has happened.

"There has been a coordinated, deliberate and sustained action carried out by a number of associated individuals to introduce an intolerant and aggressive Islamist ethos into a few schools in Birmingham. This has been gained by achieving influence on governing bodies, installing sympathetic headteachers or senior members of staff, appointing like-minded people to key positions and seeking to remove headteachers they do not feel to be sufficiently compliant with their agenda. Whether the motivation reflects a political agenda, a deeply held religious conviction, personal gain or achieving influence within the communities, the effect has been to limit the life chances of the young people in their care and to render them vulnerable to more pernicious influences in the future."

Criticism of individuals and organisations

Tahir Alam

"He has exerted influence at Park View school for many years, and has been a governor since the 1990s. He promoted the concept that schools can be changed to accommodate the faith needs of Muslim pupils by increasing Muslim representation on governing bodies and insisting on changes to faith ethos. Many of the governors who have caused most difficulty on governing bodies have connections to Mr Alam and Park View school."

Birmingham city council

"A consistent theme that has emerged throughout the investigation is that for many years there has been a perception that Birmingham city council has been insufficiently supportive of headteachers – and indeed of governors when problems arise with the conduct of some member of governing bodies. There was never a serious attempt to see if there was a pattern to what was happening in school governing bodies. The council’s approach has been variously described to me as appeasement and a failure in their duty of care towards their employees."

Clarke adds that, on the basis of emails and correspondence he has seen: "There is incontrovertible evidence that both senior officials and elected members of Birmingham council were aware of activities that bear a striking resemblance to those described in the Trojan horse letter many months before it surfaced."

He concludes the practices referred to in the letter were known by senior officials as early as the end of 2012 and discussions took place between officials and elected members as early as July 2013, six months before the letter was received by the leader of the council. "Eight weeks after the letter was received there was no systematic attempt to deal with the issue."

Clarke discloses that "officers have conceded that it did not consider carefully enough, nor soon enough, whether there was a pattern in what was happening in a number of schools." The focus of the council was on the potential of the community cohesion aspects, he concludes.

Criticism of Department for Education

Clarke makes it clear he is not making a judgment on academies, and that some of the schools investigated were traditional schools overseen by the council.

He calls for reform to "the process by which single schools are able to convert to academy status and acquire a multi-academy sponsor status to ensure appropriate checks are conducted on the group and key individuals, and there is an accurate assessment of the trust’s capability and capacity. This happened too quickly and without a suitable system for holding the new academies accountable for financial and management issues."

The independence of academies is welcome, he says, but "it can make them vulnerable to those without good intentions. In theory, academies are accountable to the secretary of state, but in practice the accountability can amount to benign neglect where educational and financial performance seems to indicate everything is fine. This inquiry has highlighted there are potentially serious problems in some academies." He suggests: "The department’s systems need to be more sensitive to detecting changes in governance to make academies more effective in responding to warning signs to ensure they deliver the provision for which they are contracted for."

He says the DfE and the Education Funding Agency should not rely on whistleblowers to highlight problems. "The Department for Education should consider its response to whistleblowers and complaints regarding academies and use its powers to investigate more quickly and effectively where allegations about governance are made."

Specific evidence of extremism in the schools

Clarke says he "took possession of the contents of a social media discussion between a group of teachers at Park View that for much of 2013 was called the Park View Brotherhood.

"The evidence from 3,000 messages spread over 130 pages of transcripts shows this group either promoted, or failed to challenge, views that are grossly intolerant of beliefs and practices other than their own. The all-male group discussions include explicit homophobia, highly offensive comments about British service personnel, a stated ambition to increase segregation at the school, disparagement of Muslims in sectors other than their own, scepticism about the truth of reports of the murder of Lee Rigby and the Boston bombings and a constant under current of anti-western, anti-America and anti-Israel sentiment."

The report gives examples of this social media chat, and adds: "The endorsements of links to extremists speakers betray a collective mindset that can fairly be described as an Islamist approach that denied the validity of alternative belief".

He says that, based on their comments, some members of Park View staff seemed to believe the Rigby murder was a staged event or hoax and "exhorted their colleagues to spread videos promulgating this view ‘to all your contacts’ ".

The headteacher claimed the discussions were designed to consider items to be raised at school assemblies, and pointed out that one message stated Rigby murder had no place in Islam. Clarke says: "The total lack of challenge, however intolerant or obnoxious unless they are critical of other Muslims, is telling."

Detailed findings inside the schools

1. Improper employment practices

This concerns both the recruitment and promotion of staff.

2. Impact on headteachers

Citing bullying and intimidation of headteachers, the report says there is "a pattern in the process where people described to the inquiry as having an Islamist mindset join the governing body and sometimes volunteer to bring other governors with them. In time, the headteacher makes a decision the new governors dislike, for instance, refusing to alter a scheme of work, [refusing] to separate boys from girls, [refusing] to ban Christmas celebration, refusing to appoint an applicant related to a governor. In one case the fact that a fire alarm was not working was a pretext for suspending a teacher. The pattern then continues, with the headteacher being subjected to harassment and bullying which has included governors leading protests at the school gate or on social media. Eventually the headteacher is so worn down and distressed that he or she feel the only way to restore their mental and physical health is to resign."

3. Changes to the curriculum and education plans, including increasing the faith component

The choice of modern language teaching has been restricted to the study of Arabic or Urdu at several schools. "At PVET [Park View educational trust] academies – Park View, Golden Hollick and Nansen – and at Oldknow academy, teachers have been told they must not use images in any subject which show even slight intimacy between sexes. Terms such as condom, the pill and so forth have been banned."

4. The role of governors

"At Park View and other schools, governors have overstepped their responsibilities by restricting schemes of work and insisting on an Islamic approach to subjects, such as PSHE [personal, social and health education], science, religious education, and sex and relationships education.

Governors in several schools pay lip service to the Prevent strategy, while continuing to restrict topics, such as forced marriage and female genital mutilation."

5. Teaching belief as fact

"Staff have said creationism has been taught as science lessons at both Park View and Golden Hillock and also in assemblies. One child said she had been taught that she was made of clay because there is no evolution."

6. Secular status of schools

"In Park View, Oldknow and some other schools, Islamic slogans and instructions are openly displayed in many classrooms, including instructions to say short prayers before and after lessons. Friday prayers have been introduced at a number of schools. Their part in the central life of the school is growing, as is the pressure on students and staff to attend. The Christmas fair was stopped, drama lessons removed from the timetable, children banned from playing instruments and art curriculum changed to remove full faces or immodest images, such as paintings by Gustav Klimt."

7. Intolerance

Student ambassadors, known as "religious police" by some staff, are appointed at Park View to report "the names of staff or students who exhibit behaviours deemed unacceptable by conservative Muslims". There is witness evidence from several schools of intolerance to those who are lesbian, bisexual or transsexua. Park View governors and staff have displayed openly homophobic behaviour. Senior staff have been shouted at in governing body meetings when they attempted to discuss the LGBT agenda.

8. Racism

At Anderton Park school incidents of racism were reported. A three-year-old in a nursery said his family were poor because all the Jews and Zionists had all the money. When the school enrolled a white child, a Muslim parent told staff to "get a white chair and white desk and put the white kid in a white corner with a white teacher and keep him away from the others. If that fails get rid of the white kid."

9 Financial transparency

Clarke says he "recently became aware of invoices at Oldknow for large sums of money, £4,000 or £5,000, paid out for crisis management training to an organisation that is not a registered company and appears to have no track record in training". The report says: "While academies may rightly spend money for the benefits of schools, they have also a responsibility to the public purse to use their resources carefully."

Recommendations

• Birmingham council must consider intervention in all cases and it must review its training and appointment of school governors.

• The Department for Education should review its guidance to governors so there is a clear difference between strategy setting and running the school. A governor should only be a governor at a maximum of two schools at a time.

• The secretary of state should be able to take clearer powers to consider banning individuals from being involved in the management of schools and whether action should be taken against some individual teachers.

• The DfE should review the process by which schools support individuals to gain and award qualified teacher status.

• The DfE should review "the process by which schools are able to convert to academy status and become multi-academy trusts to ensure appropriate checks are conducted on the group and key individuals, and that there is an accurate assessment of the trust’s capability. It should also consider urgently how best to capture local concerns during the conversion process and review the system through which schools are matched with sponsors."

• The government should consider "whether other areas of country are similarly vulnerable and respond effectively and promptly if concerns are raised, ensuring there are resources to do so".

• The Ofsted inspection framework needs to be more sensitive to changes in governance and its impact on the school.

http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/jul/17/birmingham-schools-inquiry-hardline-sunni-islam-trojan-horse

 

Rift Deepens in Britain Over Claims of School Infiltration Plot by Islamic Extremists
STEPHEN CASTLE and KIMIKO DE FREYTAS-TAMURA
NYT |JUNE 8, 2014

A dispute over how to combat the threat of homegrown Islamic extremism in British schools has provoked a political crisis, prompting the personal intervention of Prime Minister David Cameron, a public apology from one senior minister and the resignation of an adviser to another.

The rift followed allegations that Islamic fundamentalists had plotted to infiltrate and take over schools in Birmingham, home to a significant Muslim population. The claims are as yet unproved, but they have divided ministers on whether they should concentrate on tracking suspects thought most likely to commit acts of terrorism or wage a broader cultural battle at the community level against the spread of fundamentalist theology.

The disagreement within government underlines the sensitivity of the issue in a country in which Muslims radicalized in British cities have committed acts of terrorism, including the murder last year of a soldier, Lee Rigby, on a street in south London.

Like many European nations, Britain has debated how to assimilate minorities while maintaining freedom of religion. One issue is the extent to which schools should tolerate symbols and clothing associated with religious beliefs, such as Muslim head scarves. In British schools, much discretion remains with head teachers.

Last year, the Birmingham City Council received an anonymous document outlining a plan called Operation Trojan Horse, in which fundamentalist parents would raise concerns about the staff and curriculum — particularly over issues like sex education — infiltrate the governing bodies of the school and then promote a leadership sympathetic to their views. It is unclear what steps schools took in response to the document, and several government bodies are looking into the case. In all, 21 schools are being investigated over claims that male and female pupils were segregated, that sex education was banned and that, in one case, a cleric linked to Al Qaeda was praised in a school assembly.

While one leaked report from school inspectors appears to have flagged concerns, evidence of a conspiracy is scarce. According to news reports, the leaked report from the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills, or Ofsted, detailed several criticisms of one school, Park View, and said it had done too little to warn pupils about the dangers of extremism.

The issue spilled over into Mr. Cameron’s cabinet last week in a briefing published in The Times of London, which the prime minister’s office now acknowledges came from the secretary of state for education, Michael Gove, suggesting that the department of the home secretary, Theresa May, had been too tolerant of the efforts by hard-liners to infiltrate the Birmingham schools for fear of being seen as Islamophobic.

The briefing suggested that the Home Office was not confronting extremism until it developed into terrorism, and had failed to “drain the swamp” in which it bred. It was also critical of Ms. May’s counterterrorism adviser, Charles Farr. In response, the Home Office released a letter that Ms. May had written to Mr. Gove, accusing his department of inaction when related concerns about Birmingham schools were brought to his attention in 2010.

Adding to the combustibility of the issue is a political rivalry between the ministers. Ms. May is seen as a potential successor to Mr. Cameron, should he lose next year’s general election and stand down as leader of the governing Conservative Party. Mr. Gove is regarded as a supporter of a possible rival leadership contender, George Osborne, the chancellor of the Exchequer.

After days of semipublic sniping between Mr. Gove and Ms. May, Mr. Cameron stepped in to enforce discipline late on Saturday. After Mr. Cameron’s intervention, Mr. Gove apologized for briefing the newspaper, and one of Ms. May’s close advisers, Fiona Cunningham, resigned for orchestrating counter-briefings published in The Times of London. Mr. Cameron’s office issued a statement seeking to end the dispute, saying that “the secretary of state for education has written separately to Charles Farr and the prime minister apologizing for the original comments made to The Times newspaper.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/09/world/europe/rift-deepens-over-claims-of-infiltration-by-islamic-extremists-in-british-schools.html

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