The real issues around the Trojan Horse allegations

A Birmingham View's picture
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The author of this post works in education governance and has years of experience as a Birmingham school governor.

Issues arising from the 21 inspections and monitoring visits of Birmingham Schools in response to the Trojan Horse Allegations



The press has been full of allegations of extremism in a group of Birmingham schools. This has distracted from the real issues in five Birmingham schools, of failures of governance - which include one school paying for governors to go to Saudi Arabia and one head teacher’s brother being appointed to a management position in another school which he was not qualified for. However the reports do not highlight extremism in the schools. Ultimately responsibility lies with Mr Gove and his failures of policy and leadership for allowing this to happen.

The evidence points to very serious failures of governance and the introduction of a conservative Islam which is not representative of the local community, Muslim or otherwise. These schools are now in special measures so the most important question is how were they allowed to get into this position and what needs to be done to prevent similar problems arising elsewhere.

There are a range of issues which emerge from the 21 Ofsted documents and the EFA report on the Park View Trust. The first is that although there were very serious issues highlighted in five of the schools there are also implications for the 16 schools which were not graded inadequate. These 16 schools have been drawn into this controversy and in many cases it is difficult to see why. In 11 of the 16 cases the leadership and management has now been judged on an Ofsted monitoring visit to require improvement (RI), primarily because they have not engaged in the Prevent Strategy. This includes a nursery school.

Other recent Ofsted reports in the same area make no reference to engaging in the Protect Strategy as a requirement[1]. It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the requirement to engage with the strategy is political rather than educational. In some of the 11 schools now graded RI for leadership and management there is a reference to the need to training staff in looking for signs of forced marriage or FGM. Both of these are serious issues but again there is no reference to them in other recently inspected schools serving similar communities.

Ofsted has a problem because it did not spot serious problems in the governance of the five schools now grade inadequate. The recent reports claim that the problem have arisen since the previous inspections, however, it is clear from Tim Boyes, head teacher of Queensbridge School’s evidence to Lord Hill, Education Minister in 2010, that the concerns about governance and practices in some of these schools existed. It is clear that they need to look at their practices and train their staff to judge governance just as they judge other areas of school life. Assessment of governance is generally based on a one hour meeting. The Ofsted view is that if the school is outstanding then the governance will be outstanding, if the school is good then the governance will be good. If the school requires improvement then the governance will require improvement etc. However those within the education community know this is not always the case. An outstanding school may be outstanding despite a weak governing body. The danger then comes with the lack of sustainability. If what is often a strong head and senior management team leave then a weak governing body may then be exposed and a school goes into decline.

The scale of the problem in Birmingham stems directly from Mr Gove and the policies he led at DfE. There are several messages for Mr Gove from this sad tale of where central government has failed children and their families. Firstly there is a failure of leadership. Mr Gove made it very clear that he wanted to cut the size his department drastically and equally clear that there were only two priorities in DfE: these were the establishment of free schools and academies.

In 2010 Tim Boyes, head teacher of Queensbridge School in Birmingham, met Lord Hill, Education Minister and DfE officials. He explained to them that he and neighbouring heads were worried about what was happening in certain inner city Birmingham schools. His concerns have been highlighted by the BBC and then distorted in various newspapers. He expressed concern about conservative Muslims gaining disproportionate power in Park View School and Golden Hillock School being under heavy pressure. In the last few months Mr Gove has been very concerned about the suggestion of a conservative Muslim takeover of schools so the question has to be: why wasn’t it taken further in 2010 when many of the problems could have been nipped in the bud?

The reason comes down to what can only be described as bad leadership at the top of DfE. In a situation where the Secretary of State is so clear that the only way forward is academisation and when many civil servants were losing their jobs why would you highlight a major failing in a school which was one of the first to convert to an academy? This was not going to be what the ministers wanted to hear so it wouldn’t be what senior civil servants wanted to hear. In a position where individuals feel vulnerable about keeping their jobs and where the ideological approach is so clear how many people would stick their heads above the parapet  and say “ I have just learnt about a major problem with the lack of external scrutiny that comes with academisation”. The atmosphere in DfE was not one which encouraged this kind of bravery. Think of the tweets and blogs being sent out by Mr Gove’s SPADs and the identification of those who opposed academisation as “the blob”. It would take a brave or rash civil servant to take this one much further! Civil servants are not trained to be brave or rash which becomes a significant problem when faced with a minister with such a strong ideological approach.

Of course the key problem is the academy programme and the freedoms given to schools which can be abused by governors. Although Ofsted went into 13 LEA schools in Birmingham only one was in serious difficulties, Saltley School. Academisation has had an effect on all state schools. In academies there is a serious lack of scrutiny. In academies there is no constant external scrutiny. Ofsted will scrutinise, but as highlighted above they do not focus on governance, and they may not come in for five or six years to a school previously judged to be outstanding. The Education Funding Agency does not have sufficient staff. Tim Brighouse highlighted in The Guardian[2] that the Secretary State himself may send two civil servants to a governing body meeting but even when the DfE was fully staffed they would not have been sent to academy governing bodies. Now they don’t have the staff to visit governing bodies around the country.

Some large multi-academy trusts do have a development and support team but these are very varied in quality and in a trust like Park View which only has three schools  they do not have the expertise, and as can been seen in the Ofsted and EFA reports, their problems existed in all three trust schools.

Before academies in most LEAs had strong improvement teams who kept their ears and eyes to the ground and watched for areas of concern. Parents knew who to go to if they had concerns which were not being dealt with by the head teacher or the governing body. They could approach their local councillor, as I once did about concerns about my children’s primary school. Advisors would go into schools on a regular basis and get a feel for the school. It wasn’t perfect and not every advisor was outstanding but in general it worked.

No replacement has been set up by the DfE despite various academy failures even before this.  Furthermore the result of the conversion of around 50% of secondary schools and 11% of primary schools to academy status, tempted by additional funding and freedoms, is that maintained schools do not have this scrutiny and support either. As each academy that converts becomes independent of their LEA and gains control of a disproportionate amount of funding which had gone to the LEA. As a result schools like Saltley in Birmingham, one of the schools in now graded inadequate, has little support from Birmingham LEA, as LEA staff and the broad range of services they used to provide, have been cut.

Discussion around practices at the five schools expose the strange situation we have in the UK around religion and schools. A faith school can teach about their own faith and no other if they choose to do so. We see this in religious schools across the country whether Christian, Jewish, Muslim or Sikh or Hindu. All maintained schools including academies are legally obliged to have a daily act of collective worship of a mainly Christian character, unless they have a determination which allows them to have a daily act of worship which is not Christian. In reality few schools actually have a daily act of worship of any kind.  Finally, there are a significant number of religious schools and academies which choose to adopt a conservative interpretation of their faith. the academy programme has enabled  the teaching of conservative religious education in any faith academy or free school. It is only now that this is being raised as a concern. Because DfE do not have a framework for dealing with this issue Mr Gove and Mr Cameron are inventing a new requirement, to teach “British Values”.

The events in Birmingham and the lack of timely response by DfE has exposed the dangers of academisation and the damage being done to other schools because of the collapse of local education authorities. Education is vital to us all for our families and for our communities. This is not an area for experiments and a lack of scrutiny. Our children deserve better, Mr Gove needs to stop playing politics with our education system. Ofsted needs to take governance in schools seriously not assume that the governance grade follows the overall grade and indeed the grade for the paid leaders. All schools need a combination of support and scrutiny on an ongoing basis through an LEA which has democratic accountability through elected councillors. Finally, Mr Gove needs to learn leadership skills so that his civil servants can tell him all the news not just the news that supports academies.

CORRECTION: The article originally said Tim Boyes met with schools minister Lord Nash. This was a typo. It should have been Lord Hill. This has been corrected. Thanks to Barry Wise for pointing out the error.

 

[1] English Martyrs' Catholic Primary School Ofsted Report, Inspection dates 11–12 December 2013; Requires improvement: monitoring inspection visit to Chandos Primary School, 6th February 2014; Special measures monitoring inspection of Al-Furqan Primary School, 14th March 2014; Chilcote Primary School

Chilcote Close, 27–28 March 2014; Special measures monitoring inspection of Wyndcliffe Primary School 28th March 2014

[2] Tim Brighouse, The Trojan Horse Affair, The Guardian, 17th June 2014
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Comments

rogertitcombe's picture
Wed, 25/06/2014 - 07:48

This is a brilliantly balanced and perceptive assessment from someone who obviously has both the expertise and direct experience to pass an judgement,

The following is especially important.

"The Ofsted view is that if the school is outstanding then the governance will be outstanding, if the school is good then the governance will be good. If the school requires improvement then the governance will require improvement etc."

I would add that the awarding of outstanding status by Ofsted does not just make unjustified assumptions about governance but also about curriculum and teaching methods, as I have argued in previous posts.

It is very hard to avoid the conclusion that 'outstanding' status is decided before the inspection based on flawed data. This includes judgements of progress over time based on SATs. The team then appears to take the dangerous view that as the school is outstanding in terms of its results then everything else must be outstanding as well. The inspectors just poke about a bit looking for stuff to pad out their reports ignoring anything that doesn't fit the outstanding judgement already made. It appears that this may also include ignoring (or 'triangulating') poor pupil behaviour and iffy lessons.

http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2014/04/pupil-behaviour-worse-than...

The converse also applies. If Ofsted judges a school to be inadequate or requires improvement on the same flawed basis then the inspectors become blind to anything of quality they find in the school.

This was not the case in the past system of long and much more thorough inspections in which judgements were made collectively by a large team of confident, assertive subject and other experts, at the end of the inspection, in a proper , structured, professional way taking due regard of all the evidence and the judgements of each member of the team.

It is hard to avoid the conclusion that Ofsted has become degraded, partly as a result of using private sector contractors, and is being used as a political tool for the forced Academisation ideology of the secretary of state. The author of this thread very clearly sets out the disastrous consequences for the Trojan horse schools in Birmingham. He/she is also right that the implications go much further and deeper.

It is arguable that something similar happened in the early days of the Care Quality Commission (CQC) when small teams of non-expert clinicians made what have since turned out to be disastrously optimistic judgements of hospitals that were in the process of applying for Foundation Trust status. There is a direct parallel here with Academisation.

However there also is an important difference. To his great credit Jeremy Hunt, the Secretary of State for Health reformed the CQC to make it truly independent of the Department of Health and therefore capable of rigorous and trustworthy investigations and inspections.

The same needs to happen with Ofsted. Until it does all of its judgements will be suspect, especially those resulting in outstanding and inadequate status in schools that are deeply significant to the prevailing Academisation and Free School ideology.

Barry Wise's picture
Wed, 25/06/2014 - 11:58

In 2010 Tim Boyes, head teacher of Queensbridge School in Birmingham, met Lord Nash, Education Minister and DfE officials.

This must be a mistake. Lord Nash did not become a minister until January 2013.

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 25/06/2014 - 12:26

Thanks, Barry. It was Lord Hill not Lord Nash. The error's been put right.


Andy V's picture
Wed, 25/06/2014 - 18:24

For the record the criteria for 'outstanding' L&M (including governance) embraces the following:

"Note: These descriptors should not be used as a checklist. They must be applied adopting a ‘best fit’ approach which relies on the professional judgement of the inspection team.

Outstanding

The pursuit of excellence in all of the school’s activities is demonstrated by an uncompromising and highly successful drive to strongly improve, or maintain, the highest levels of achievement and personal development for all pupils over a sustained period of time.
All leaders and managers, including those responsible for governance, are highly ambitious for the pupils and lead by example. They base their actions on a deep and accurate understanding of the school’s performance, and of staff and pupils’ skills and attributes.
Governors, or those with a similar responsibility, stringently hold senior leaders to account for all aspects of the school’s performance.
There are excellent policies underpinning practice that ensures that pupils have high levels of literacy, or pupils are making excellent progress in literacy.
Leaders focus relentlessly on improving teaching and learning and provide focused professional development for all staff, especially those that are newly qualified and at an early stage of their careers. This is underpinned by searching performance management that encourages, challenges and supports teachers’ improvement. As a result, teaching is outstanding, or at least consistently good and improving.
The school’s curriculum promotes and sustains a thirst for knowledge and a love of learning. It covers a wide range of subjects and provides opportunities for academic, technical and sporting excellence. It has a very positive impact on all pupils’ behaviour and safety, and contributes very well to pupils’ academic achievement, their physical wellbeing, and their spiritual, moral, social and cultural development.
The school’s actions have secured improvement in achievement for those supported by the pupil premium, which is rising rapidly, including in English and mathematics.
The school has highly successful strategies for engaging with parents to the benefit of pupils, including those who find working with the school difficult.
Senior leaders in the school work to promote improvement across the wider system.
The school’s arrangements for safeguarding pupils meet statutory requirements.
Staff model professional standards in all of their work and demonstrate high levels of respect and courtesy for pupils and others.
Through highly effective, rigorous planning and controls, governors ensure financial stability, including the effective and efficient management of financial resources such as the pupil premium funding. This leads to the excellent deployment of staff and resources to the benefit of all groups of pupils."

See S5 Handbook revised April 2014.

It is possible then that L&M can hold an otherwise outstanding school back and culminate in grade 2. It is also possible that a relatively new L&M team can judged grade 1 but the impact not yet be fully evident elsewhere in the school and the overall grade be 2.

rogertitcombe's picture
Wed, 25/06/2014 - 18:43

All this being the case, how can ANY school go from Ofsted 'outstanding' to 'inadequate' in a relatively short time with largely the same senior managers, governors and staff? Some sort of epic scale disconnect between theory and practice appears to be indicated.


Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 26/06/2014 - 07:08

Andy - thanks for providing the criteria for leadership and management. I noticed the heavy emphasis on "performance" (or improvement on performance). This was mentioned at least 5 times. And governors should be "uncompromising" who must "stringently hold senior leaders to account for all aspects of the school's performance". This raises the question about when being "uncompromising" morphs into unreasonable demands (eg "We expect 90% to achieve Level 5 - it's no excuse to say 10 pupils in year 6 are newly arrived from Eastern Europe") and bullying (eg "We're uncompromising in our belief that the head will be dismissed if the school doesn't meet our exacting standards).


Andy V's picture
Wed, 25/06/2014 - 21:44

"All this being the case, how can ANY school go from Ofsted ‘outstanding’ to ‘inadequate’ in a relatively short time with largely the same senior managers, governors and staff?". How many of the 5 schools had a change of headteacher between their last inspection and the section 8 inspections in April and published in June 2014? Answer, 4. Research indicates that there were overlapping issues between the head teachers and elements on the governing body.

The following may help focus attention away from alleged weaknesses and/or competencies of Ofsted and onto the schools themselves and may also give insights into how schools can tumble:

“Lindsey Clark, the respected executive head of Park View, one of the Birmingham schools targeted in the alleged "Trojan Horse" plot by Muslim radicals, has confirmed that she is to retire. She becomes the fifth non-Muslim headteacher to leave one of the schools linked to the plot over the last six months. The others are Balwant Bains (Saltley), Tina Ireland (Regent's Park), Bhupinder Kondal (Oldknow), and Peter Slough (Small Heath). A sixth head, Golden Hillock's Matthew Scarrott, left a little earlier.
Mrs Clark's retirement, first revealed by me three weeks ago, was confirmed in the school’s spring term newsletter, published online yesterday. As I have described, the replacement of secular, non-Muslim heads has been a key goal of the radicals leading the campaign.
Mrs Clark, who was awarded the OBE last year for her work in taking Park View to the highest Ofsted ranking, “outstanding,” in 2012, told Ofsted inspectors probing her school last month that she had been marginalised by Tahir Alam, the hardline chair of governors at Park View, and the school’s principal, effectively its number two, Mohammed “Moz” Hussain. The school’s leadership and management have now been dropped to “inadequate” by Ofsted in a report expected soon.
As we reported on Sunday, a former department head at Park View, Nigel Sloan, says he witnessed Mr Hussain giving “mind-blowing anti-Western propaganda” assemblies to pupils at the school, including claims that the Americans were “the evil in the world” and “the cause of all famine.” Mr Hussain is now a candidate to replace Mrs Clark.

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/andrewgilligan/100266975/outstanding-h...

Golden Hillock

Section 8 – 2 Apr 14
“Its former headteacher Matthew Scarrott resigned in 2012 following a protest from mum and dads, including parent governors, after a drop in GCSE results.
Sources have told the Mail that Mr Scarrott had also faced false ‘rumours’ before he left.
One said: “He was a successful headteacher over many years who was liked and respected by most staff, pupils and parents. But in the end he was forced to walk away because he could not even make a decision as he was being micro-managed so closely.’’

http://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/park-view-school--ofsted-6858379

Previous Ofsted reports unavailable (i.e. prior to academy conversion and before section 8 although there may well not have been a section 5 or other inspection between conversion and Apr 14)

Nansen Primary
Headteacher changed after last inspection and before the section 8 inspection.

Previous Ofsted reports unavailable (i.e. prior to academy conversion and before section 8 although there may well not have been a section 5 or other inspection between conversion and Apr 14)


Park View
April 14 - Section 8. There was a change of head teacher between the last inspection and the section 8 inspection (see Birmingham Mail article link above). Additionally, the previous head, Mrs Clarke, cited issues with her “hardline chair of governors”


OldKnow

April 14 - Section 5: Achievement of Pupils and T&L graded 1 / Behaviour & Safety and L&M graded 4

Summary of key findings

“ Leadership and management are inadequate. The chair and other governors exert too much control over operational matters in the academy.
Governors do not meet their statutory responsibilities to safeguard pupils because they have not taken steps to protect them from the risks of radicalisation and extremism.
A small group of governors is making significant changes to the ethos and culture of the academy without full consultation. They are endeavouring to promote a particular and narrow faith-based ideology in what is a maintained and non-faith academy.
Many members of staff are afraid to speak out against the changes taking place in the academy.
Recruitment arrangements are inadequate. There is lack of clarity about how appointments have been made.
The academy is not adequately ensuring that pupils have opportunities to learn about faith in a way that promotes tolerance and harmony between different cultural and religious traditions.
Behaviour and safety are inadequate because pupils and staff are not equipped well enough to deal with the risk of extreme or intolerant views.
Academy leaders and governors have not made sure that pupils are always safe on trips.”

16 Jan 13 - Section 5: All categories graded 1

http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/inspection-reports/find-inspection-report/provi...


Saltley

Apr 14 – Section 5: All categories graded 4 (5 x HMIs). Headteacher had changed
7 Nov 13 – Section 8: Breakdown between Headteacher and Governing Body
May 13 – Section 5: All categories graded 2

http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/inspection-reports/find-inspection-report/provi...

Andy V's picture
Wed, 25/06/2014 - 21:48

"The Operation Trojan Horse plot may well be a hoax, invented by nefarious schemers for their own personal gain. But experienced headteachers in Birmingham say they recognised the tactics outlined in the document as having been used by Islamic hardliners to try to gain influence in the city's schools for over a decade.

Sir Dexter Hutt, a headteacher in Birmingham who retired three years ago after 40 years teaching in the city, said: "I have no idea if it is a forgery or not, but from my experience, I am not surprised by the gist of it."

Christine Quinn, currently executive head of Ninestiles secondary, an academy deemed "outstanding" by Ofsted, said many of the strategies outlined in the document "echo what people have been saying for many years".

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Quinn and Hutt say they had a series of "battles" with ultra-conservative Muslims when they were sent by the local authority in 2002 to raise standards at Waverley, then a failing school in Small Heath, a predominantly Muslim area of the city."

http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/mar/13/invention-tactics-alleged...

Andy V's picture
Thu, 26/06/2014 - 13:45

It is my understanding that in terms of Ofsted, and irrespective of the grades awarded for any other categories, if a school fails to meet / fulfill the statutory requirements for safeguarding it will be graded 4. A similar situation pertains to L&M. The difference between grade 4 Serious Weaknesses and Special Measures is that in the former case it is judged that the Leadership team (including governors) have the potential to bring about improvement.

I do not believe that inspection outcomes are prejudged/predetermined. In the case of the Trojan Horse schools all S8 inspections were undertaken by HMIs and the S5 inspections were led and supported by more than 1 HMI. Indeed, Saltley's team was entirely HMIs.

"All this being the case, how can ANY school go from Ofsted ‘outstanding’ to ‘inadequate’ in a relatively short time with largely the same senior managers, governors and staff? Some sort of epic scale disconnect between theory and practice appears to be indicated." I agree. All the evidence points toward a disconnect between theory and practice of governance and moves to replace non-Muslim HTs with Muslims.

See my reply to Janet @ 1.40 today relating to the impact of this across a school including "largely the same senior, managers and staff". Heavy and misguided governance can not only break a HT but also break the effectiveness and trust of the wider school team.

Andy V's picture
Thu, 26/06/2014 - 13:52

Janet, Please bear in mind that the criteria are those for 'Outstanding' and are not a checklist that requires 100% achievement. The preceding pages in the handbook give more details. You must also remember that the achievement of pupils is based on the point they entered the school e.g. new pupils with little or no English will not be expected to achieve L5s. Not achieving grade 1 for L&M or any other category is simply not a sackable scenario.

It is, however, a moot but interesting point that if a governing body brings the L&M and Safeguarding (or any other area) down to a grade 4 then should the LA or Chain appoint an IEB?

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 26/06/2014 - 07:39

Andy - thanks to the link to the Guardian article which shows governors were trying to influence the direction of some schools in the early 2000s.

The two schools mentioned saw off this challenge - in 2003 Ofsted said Waverley had federated with Ninestiles and the school had dramatically improved (except for music provision hampered by staffing problems). Oddly, Ofsted still judged governance to be unsatisfactory because it wasn't ensuring the school had a daily act of collective worship (surely this was an anachronism even then?).

The LA had taken action at Washwood Heath after Ofsted found major failings with governance at the school in 2002. Washwood's head, Jim Collins, had left in 2001 allegedly because relationships with the governing body had broken down. After the 2002 Ofsted, B'ham LA replaced the governors with an IEB. In 2003, Ofsted returned and said the IEB fully supported the head, Mr G B McHugh.

It appears, then, that in these two cases B'ham LA acted appropriately. But has their ability to do so been undermined by the academies programme - by removing its stewardship from schools which become academies and reducing the amount of money the LA receives to do its job?






Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 26/06/2014 - 07:58

Andy - Ofsted reports for predecessor schools are usually available on Ofsted's website. Just type in the name of the school and click on "All providers". This brings up any school (closed or open Open) with that name. For example, the reports for Nansen Primary School are here.

http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/inspection-reports/find-inspection-report/provi...

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 26/06/2014 - 08:11

Here's an odd thing, Andy. A Telegraph article dated 20 April said "hard evidence" made those who criticised sending in a former counter-terrorism chief to B'ham look a "bit silly".

This assertion was based on leaked Ofsted reports which weren't published officially until 9 June. But some of the quotes given by DT did NOT appear in the final reports. For example, DT said GCSE RE pupils at Golden Hillock "had to teach themselves". This wasn't in the final report.

This shows not only the danger of quoting from draft Ofsted reports but the greater danger of whipping-up a story before the facts are known. As it was, the official Ofsted reports found serious governance problems at 5 of the schools but little evidence of a coordinated plot as discussed here:


Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 26/06/2014 - 15:16

Andy - sometimes the Ofsted reports for the predecessor schools are missing from Ofsted's site (I think they will only be available for a limited time in any case). However, it is possible to ask Ofsted to send you a copy of an earlier report or more. I've done this on a couple of occasions. It's not instant, of course, and by the time you receive them the need for them may have gone.


Andy V's picture
Thu, 26/06/2014 - 13:22

Thanks Janet. Sadly, even following your advice I'm still not able to locate the pre-academy reports. Try, try and try against must be my guiding mantra :-)


Andy V's picture
Thu, 26/06/2014 - 13:40

Janet, It strikes me that the message within the Trojan Horse letter (irrespective of it being a hoax or genuine) is that it outlined a blueprint or template on how to remove a HT and/or their SLT. This is not the same as deliberately coordinated plot with a person or small group organising it.

Looking at the the 5 named schools who were graded 4 and placed in special measures there are some shared similarities e.g.:

Undermining of and/or removal of non-Muslim HTs
Replacement HTs being of the Muslim faith
Undermining / weakening of safeguarding
Discontent among colleagues regarding the changes to their schools ethos and/or curriculum and/or attitudes to staff leading to low morale

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 26/06/2014 - 15:32

There's an interesting response to the Trojan Horse affair from across the pond. An opinion piece in the New York Times points out the contradiction between government policies which encourage diversity among schools on the one hand (eg more faith schools) and which encourage community cohesion on the other.

The author criticises the B'ham schools where governance was found wanting. But he also criticises the official response which appeared to condemn the schools for not engaging with the anti-terrorism strategy, Prevent.

He writes:

"But why should they [engage with Prevent] — unless all Muslim children are considered potential terrorists? The report’s conclusions seem framed by a political agenda rather than certain schools’ need for better governance."


Andy V's picture
Thu, 26/06/2014 - 17:07

Yes, interesting but also perhaps a hint of misunderstanding. It seems to me that Contest is the anti-terrorist strategy. While Prevent is a multi-agency approach aimed at preventing radicalisation and extremism that all to often precedes / leads to terrorism. Prevent straddles the sensitive and hugely delicate area of child protection in all it hues (e.g. protecting/safeguarding youngsters from radicalised / extreme views that carry dangers for them and wider society). Prevent also embraces community cohesion in all its diverse strands and has subtle cross overs with school communities and how they both reflect, contribute to and prepare their children for life in a diverse multi-cultural community.

Viewed this way I believe that an understanding or portrayal of prevent as an anti-terrorism strategy is exaggerated and displays a misapprehension regarding Prevent.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 27/06/2014 - 10:11

Andy - I should have put "anti-terrorism" (the exact word in the article was "counterterrorism") in quotation marks. You're right: Prevent covers more than combating terrorism.

But the updated Prevent decoupled community cohesion from the Prevent strategy. This appears to be a mistake. Leicester City, for example, delivers Prevent strategies with efforts to encourage community cohesion. And Leicester is well-known for its inter-faith harmony going back many years.

And many schools, of course, deliver lessons which encourage community cohesion but they might not label these as "Prevent". So it's quite possible that schools could be delivering strategies recommended by Prevent but still be censured because they didn't stick a "Prevent" label on them. This appears to be what has happened in some of the B'Ham schools.

Andy V's picture
Sun, 29/06/2014 - 19:57

"So it’s quite possible that schools could be delivering strategies" but Janet this is bordering on media style speculation. Using your position it is possible to suggest that the 16 schools that got through the safeguarding didn't label anything Prevent and still got through because they met the Handbook criteria relating to safeguarding and extremism.


Ben Taylor's picture
Thu, 26/06/2014 - 22:23

Still ignoring the main issue?


agov's picture
Fri, 27/06/2014 - 05:46

Give us a clue?


Richard Hatcher's picture
Fri, 27/06/2014 - 09:03

500 at the Putting Birmingham School Kids First campaign launch rally

The Putting Birmingham School Kids First campaign was launched last night with a huge public rally of at least 500 people (according to ITN News). In the two and a half hour meeting the main speakers included NUT deputy general secretary Kevin Courtney, Birmingham Labour MP Shabana Mahmood, Shabina Bano of the Oldknow parents campaign, Tim Brighouse, former Chief Education Officer for Birmingham (on video), and Salma Yaqoob, ex-Respect leader and former Birmingham councillor. It is Salma who has played the leading role in creating this broad and inclusive campaign. There followed a series of short speeches from the platform including from community activists, Labour councillors (and one LibDem), and Birmingham NUT.

Speakers were united in rejecting the Trojan Horse allegations of a Muslim extremist plot and Gove’s exploitation of them to attack the Muslim community in Birmingham with biased Ofsted inspections. There was a strong sense of Birmingham’s identity as a multicultural city built by successive waves of immigration and determined to resist racist divisions. The campaign recognises that there are some governance problems in some schools, but those should be dealt with by the community in Birmingham, not by a politically-motivated assault by government.

In my short contribution I made two points. The first was about the policy tools which Gove has used to put his Islamophobic attack into practice. There are three. First, his unprecedented dictatorial powers as secretary of state. Second, his use of Ofsted as an arm of government policy, not an independent and supportive evaluator of schools. Third, creating a situation in which governors are unaccountable to the local community through a combination of the academies policy and the disempowering of local authorities. These are policies which the Labour leadership should commit itself to reversing - but so far has given no sign of doing so.

My second point concerned the next steps for the campaign. The huge attendance at the meeting makes clear that there is the desire and the opportunity to seize the initiative from Gove and create our own shared vision of what a high quality socially just education would be, through an ongoing dialogue between parents, teachers and the local community. Not stigmatised schools in a stigmatised community but a model which other schools and communities across the city and beyond (where problems of unaccountable governance can also occur) can learn from.

The local authority should be part of this new partnership, but they have to change. The city council has set up its own inquiry into the Trojan Horse allegation, due to report in a month, but the Review members don’t include any representatives of parents, or of the local community, or of teachers and other school workers and their unions. The council needs to follow up the Review by creating an open, inclusive and democratic forum within which the dialogue the community wants can take place over the coming months, generating plans for action. Will the council be prepared to do this? (I asked the councillor responsible for ‘social cohesion’ last night but he had no answer.) If the council won’t take a lead the Putting Birmingham School Kids First campaign will need to do it itself.

These are the sorts of practical and political issues that the campaign will need to discuss now that the initial launch has demonstrated that it has mass support.

There is one other step that needs to be taken: to turn Gove’s attack on Birmingham into an attack at the national level on Gove’s education policies which have enabled it: dictatorial central control, an inspection system that urgently needs reform, a system of school governance that, in Tim Brighouse’s words, is broken, the abuse of academy freedom, the disempowering and in some cases virtual incapacity of local authorities (taking up the call by the Local Government Association for their restoration), and the place of religion in schools. There is a proposal that the NUT could take the lead in organising a conference on that basis in the autumn.


Here is the launch statement of the campaign:

PUTTING BIRMINGHAM SCHOOL KIDS FIRST

The central allegation, that there was an organized plot to radicalise school children in a handful of Birmingham schools, remains unproven. What the OFSTED reports show is some governance issues in some schools.

In order to fix these problems we need greater clarity about the issues these investigations have revealed. This needs to be done without the sensationalist references to extremism and national security that we have seen so far which have caused confusion and concern across the city and country. Many people now believe that their children's educational potential, achievement and well-being is being threatened by politicians, who wish to be seen as 'tough' on Muslims.

This approach has been deeply unhelpful, hurtful and insulting, and most importantly could prevent us finding the solutions we need to help school children in Birmingham.

The Putting Birmingham School Kids First campaign aims to:

1. Make sure that any issues of governance within Birmingham schools are fixed and fixed fast.

2. Challenge the false and divisive allegation that this is a problem of systematic radicalization, extremism or terrorism.

We will work with anyone who is willing to put the interests of our children first. But the starting point has to be a true understanding of the problem. Many people have serious concerns about the impartiality of OFSTED and feel there was a climate of fear surrounding their investigations. But even their 21 investigations did not reveal a link to radicalisation. We share the view of West Midlands Chief Constable that the appointment of a counter-terrorism expert to investigate our schools was a provocative and unhelpful move.

The Muslim community is no different to any other faith community in having a spectrum of opinions, from liberal to conservative, on what is the correct balance between secular and religious values in the provision of education. Instead of debating these issues openly, the government has taken the completely inappropriate approach of linking this with the prevention of terrorism.

Workable solutions will not appear overnight. Trust has broken down between those who should be working together. Our role in the journey is to provide parents, staff, pupils and governors a strong forum within which to voice their opinions about the issues raised over the last few months and to give their views about whether proposed solutions will work - in a safe and transparent space.

We want solutions that ensure our school children receive a top quality education that prepares them to be engaged and active citizens. There are already many cases of outstanding practice in Birmingham, these need to be acknowledged and adopted more widely. We are proud that Birmingham is among the youngest and most multi-cultural cities in the world and stand by its people in all their diversity.

Signed: Tim Brighouse (Former Education Commissioner), Shabana Mahmood MP, Christine Blower (NUT General Secretary), Salma Yaqoob (Convenor), Dr Chris Allen (Birmingham University), Revd Ray Gaston, (Anglican Priest), Father Oliver Coss, and many others....

Andy V's picture
Fri, 27/06/2014 - 10:48

"huge turn out", estimated 500. Population of Birmingham in 2011 estimated at 1.07 million. The 500 figure does even seem that large vis-a-vis the pupil or parent role at the 5 schools graded 4.

I have no doubts about the issue raising concern. It has potentially serious under currents. But not all the issues raised can be swept up under governance e.g. Staff and safeguarding. Equally, the loss of 4 out of 5 head teachers replaced by Muslims' raises questions. Why did some schools move restrict the curricular offer e.g. Nansen drop music? Why did previously best practice in safer recruitment get marginalised? Why were external speakers at assemblies not vetted? Why did previous sex and relationship teaching fall into unacceptable levels of coverage?

All 21 inspections were led and predominantly comprised HMIs, which also raises questions regarding some elements of the lobby group and speakers using the opportunity to grandstand and make political gain and perpetuate some of the populist views about Ofsted.

Andy V's picture
Fri, 27/06/2014 - 11:40

Additionally, the BBC carried the following item on 10 Jun 14:

Bradford school governors 'promoted Islamic agenda'

"However, the BBC has seen documents which may suggest an attempt to bring an Islamic agenda into the classroom at Carlton Bolling, a state secondary school with a largely Muslim governing body.

Continue reading the main story

Start Quote

An excellent head teacher has been driven out by a governing body because she would not give in to their agenda of making it [the school] reflect the culture and traditions of the Muslim students”

Nick Weller
Bradford Partnership
The documents, which comprise minutes of governing body meetings and correspondence between governors and staff, show:

Governors regularly asked questions about the religious character of the school and whether a broad religious agenda was meeting the spiritual needs of the overwhelmingly Muslim students
Attempts to alter the teaching of sex and relationship education (SRE) for Muslim pupils and segregate boys and girls in these classes
Boys and girls were segregated in after-school workshops
There were boys-only school trips

Senior staff and governors visited Park View Academy in Birmingham, a school which has been placed in special measures by Ofsted because of attempts by governors there to push an Islamic agenda

"The chairman of the governors at Carlton Bolling College, Faisal Khan - an independent local councillor formerly of the Respect party - said his aim was to improve academic standards and meet the needs of the communities the school served.

"At the end of the day we have a school that has 90-95% Muslim children, we meet their needs - whether it is halal food, whether it is prayer within school [or] wearing the hijab.

"We don't want children - irrespective of their background - to compromise on their faith."

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-27779832

Does any of this resonate with Birmingham. How do the chair of governors statements meet the requirements of community cohesion and preparing children for life in a diverse multi-cultural nation. For me his statements are all about promoting Islam and segregating children from the wider local, regional, national and international communities they live in. A curriculum and school ethos driven solely on the needs of the immediate Muslim community is contrary to all Educations (2006, 2010 etc) and entirely blinkered to the point of 'indoctrination'.

rogertitcombe's picture
Fri, 27/06/2014 - 16:19

Richard - I have some problems with this and the language in which it is expressed.

I don't think it is right to reject criticisms, from whatever source, of the attempts of some governors even with the support of hundreds of parents, to promote an agenda of religious piety, as racist or Islamophobic.

It must be possible for any religion including Islam or aspects of it, like anything else in a free society, to be debated or criticised without the automatic generation of 'hate crime' language.

Neither are such criticisms properly construed as 'an attack on Birmingham schools'.

Corporal punishment and the imposition of sectarian religious practices that exclude some pupils may have lots of parental support, but this does not mean they should be allowed in secular state comprehensive schools regardless of intake demographics. As Tim Brighouse asserts, such religious issues are long overdue for being properly addressed.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 27/06/2014 - 11:58

Andy - although 21 schools were inspected, Ofsted found serious breaches of governance at 5 and critical of governance at a further 3.

Ofsted said safeguarding met requirements at 16 of the 21 schools.

Of course there are questions round governance at the 5 schools where full inspections found serious problems (and also the 3 where governance was criticised). Governance, as you've pointed out elsewhere, includes ensuring schools have a broad, balanced curriculum so acknowledging there were problems with governance at some of the schools doesn't necessarily mean concerns about curriculum are being "swept" away by the Putting Birmingham School Kids First campaign. Similarly, governance includes safeguarding.

You accuse "some elements of the lobby group" as using the issue to spread "populist" views about Ofsted. The same accusation could be levelled at certain politicians and sections of the media whose(over) reactions have been incontinent and increased distrust of all Muslims.

This was a situation which required cool, level-headed statesmanship. What we got was Gove sending in an ex-counter terrorism chief, a high-profile spat between him and the Home Secretary and Gove talking about draining "swamps".

It also required a less hysterical reaction from the media - the evidence for the "plot" is thin but by the time the evidence came to light it had been prejudiced by speculation and the publication of comments from leaked draft reports (comments which didn't appear in the published reports).

Added to that we had Ofsted asking questions about Prevent which don't appear to have been asked of any other schools in Birmingham or elsewhere (if I find any, I will say so).

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 27/06/2014 - 12:28

Andy - it's been reported that Ofsted is visiting Carlton Bolling. If this is true then it would be wise to wait until Ofsted has completed its investigation instead of judging the school guilty until proven innocent.

Ofsted's also reportedly visited Laisterdyke Business and Information College in Bradford. A monitoring visit in April found serious problems with governance and noted Bradford was putting in place an Interim Executive Board (IEB).

The Mail reported that Laisterdyke pupils who turned up for GCSE revision were turned away because Ofsted inspectors were present. They had to revise on the pavement, the Mail said. The Mail alleged the pupils were prevented from talking to Ofsted and provided photos. One showed one girl sitting on the floor surrounded by papers; one showed another girl "revising" with her mobile on her lab - it looked as it she were about to eat a jelly baby; and the third showed pupils walking into the school.

But what the Mail didn't say was that the Councillor who spoke to the paper and who claimed he was just popping in to deliver papers to Ofsted was Faisal Khan, the chair who'd been sacked by the Council.


rogertitcombe's picture
Sun, 29/06/2014 - 21:00

Absolutely right Andy. Schools have to be about integration and opening minds. If it would be unreasonable for a school without a majority of pupils with Moslem parents (like Dawkins I do not accept the concept of a Muslim school pupil), to prescribe or allow girls to hide their faces behind the hijab (and it would be) than changes in demography should make no difference to what is or is not reasonable in a British school.


rogertitcombe's picture
Sun, 29/06/2014 - 21:11

It is not the place of any school to 'meet the spiritual needs' that religious parents believe should apply to their children. On the contrary it is the job of the school specifically not to do this. All schools must promote knowledge, respect and tolerance of the human right to freedom of religion and not allow followers of any particular religion to deny such knowledge to any pupils of the school and certainly not to introduce any measures that promote exclusivity of any kind.


Andy V's picture
Fri, 27/06/2014 - 12:10

Janet, I am left quizzical and questioning regarding the post made by Richard @ 9.03 today, which lacks balance by dint of side stepping and diminishing issues raised and lumping it all under governance and Ofsted. See my post @ 11.40 re Carlton Bolling which has self evident overlaps and alleged direct links to Park View Academy.

Purely in relation to the replacement of 4 of the 5 head teachers I am wrestling with the question: Irrespective of the alleged reason for the outgoing head teacher's departure should the replacement be recruited on the basis of the best person for the role or the best Muslim applicant for the role? When considering this I am doing so in the context of a non-denominational / non-faith school.

Andy V's picture
Fri, 27/06/2014 - 12:45

"If this is true then it would be wise to wait until Ofsted has completed its investigation instead of judging the school guilty until proven innocent." Janet, I was unaware that I judged the school. Rather I provided quotes from the BBC and the weblink. I did pose questions and did reference quotes from the chair of governors and commented on these quotes. I did not and have not "judged" the school. Indeed, I was unaware of any proposed / leaked Ofsted intention to visit nor of what reportedly happened at Laisterdyke.

During my employment in schools (DHT) I have been involved in being inspected by Ofsted and a DfES pre-academisation visit involving lesson observations and meetings that coincided with the run up to and actual examinations and the inspection teams went out of their way to ensure that the revision and examinations were not disrupted or interrupted in any way.

Andy V's picture
Sun, 29/06/2014 - 19:29

Janet, You say, “[I} accuse "some elements of the lobby group" as using the issue to spread "populist" views about Ofsted. The same accusation could be levelled at certain politicians and sections of the media whose(over) reactions have been incontinent and increased distrust of all Muslims.” Are you suggesting that 2 wrongs make a right? For me the irresponsibility of media responses are simply not comparable to the formal reports from Ofsted about their findings. For me, the approach taken by the speakers at the ‘Putting Kids First’ meeting are more comparable to the media than responsible balanced responses.

You also say, “Added to that we had Ofsted asking questions about Prevent which don't appear to have been asked of any other schools in Birmingham or elsewhere”. I must disagree with you on this topic. My perception is that the mentioning of ‘Prevent’ has developed and (red herring like) life of its own. The issue of Safeguarding and Inspections being sensitive to extremist/extremism has been woven into the S5 Handbook for some time and the fact that it isn’t explicitly labelled ‘Prevent’ doesn’t mean that the issues raised do not form part of the inspection process:

Section 5 Inspection Handbook September 2012

SMSC – Page 24/25

102.Evidence of pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development can be found, for example, where pupils: (see bullet points)

Overall quality of education – Page 26/7

Grade 1
•the school’s thoughtful and wide-ranging promotion of pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development enables them to thrive in a supportive, highly cohesive learning community.

Grade 2
•deliberate and effective action is taken to create a cohesive learning community through the promotion of pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development. There is a positive climate for learning.

Grade 4
•there are serious weaknesses in the overall promotion of pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development.


Behaviour and Safety of Pupils – Page 38

Para 118
•the extent to which pupils are able to understand and respond to risk, for example risks associated with extremism
•the school’s response to any extremist behaviour shown by pupils

L&M – Page 43

Para 122
•how well the school’s strategies and procedures, including the provision of appropriate guidance, help pupils to prepare for life in modern democratic Britain and a global society, and to prevent extremist behaviour

Page 44

Grade 1
•The school’s curriculum provides highly positive experiences and rich opportunities for high quality learning. It has a very positive impact on all pupils’ behaviour and safety, and contributes very well to pupils’ academic achievement and their spiritual, moral, social and cultural development.
•The school’s arrangements for safeguarding pupils meet statutory requirements.

Grade 2
•The school’s curriculum provides well-organised and effective opportunities for learning for all groups of pupils, including disabled pupils and those with special educational needs. It promotes positive behaviour and a good understanding of safety matters and provides a broad range of experiences that contribute well to the pupils’ achievement and to their spiritual, moral, social and cultural development.
•The school’s arrangements for safeguarding pupils meet statutory requirements.

Grade 4
•The curriculum fails to meet the needs of pupils or particular groups of pupils, or pupils are entered for public examinations inappropriately early, and pupils’ achievement and enjoyment of learning are significantly impaired.
•The school’s arrangements for safeguarding pupils do not meet statutory requirements and give serious cause for concern.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 27/06/2014 - 15:20

Andy - sorry if I gave the impression I was saying you were judging the school. But the whole "Trojan Horse" affair has been mired in media reports which suggested the "plot" was proven before the evidence was published and had spread to other towns with a large Muslim population. As it is, the evidence of a widespread plot is thin.

We don't know, of course, whether Ofsted inspectors were at Laisterdyke. We've just got an allegation that Ofsted inspectors were present when the sacked Governor arrived. It's unclear what he was doing at the school as he would have had no business to be there.

Barry Wise's picture
Fri, 27/06/2014 - 16:41

Janet - how do you know the evidence for a plot is thin? Ofsted weren't asked to investigate the plot. Shouldn't we wait for the report from the ex-head of counterterrorism, Peter Clarke, who, as I understand it, was asked to look into that question. He hasn't published yet, has he? If he has....I'm horribly confused by the sheer number of enquiries.


Andy V's picture
Fri, 27/06/2014 - 21:58

Thanks for clearing that up Janet.

I agree with you that the media need to restrain themselves - some hope - and await the evidence as it becomes available. With regard to the BBC report I quoted it is based on evidence they claim has been passed to them.

Andy V's picture
Fri, 27/06/2014 - 22:04

Barry, I'm with you on that. The Ofsted reports (6 triggered by concerns relating to Safeguarding and 15 at the direction of the SoS Educ) are as you say focused on educational issues (including governance), whereas the core issues were handed to Mr Clarke and will be reported on separately. This separateness is a cause of misunderstanding amongst interested sections of the national community.


Richard Hatcher's picture
Sat, 28/06/2014 - 07:00

Roger, you say ‘I don’t think it is right to reject criticisms, from whatever source, of the attempts of some governors … to promote an agenda of religious piety, as racist or Islamophobic.’

The point at issue here is ‘from whatever source’. These criticisms have a completely different meaning when they come from Michael Gove than when they are voiced within the Putting Birmingham School Kids First campaign. Gove has seized on the Trojan Horse allegations as an opportunity to launch a carefully engineered racist political offensive designed to associate Muslims with religious extremism and terrorism, for which Gove knew he could rely on a relentless tide of Islamophobia from the Tory press. It enables him to attempt to recover lost electoral ground by out-bidding UKIP on racism and to bolster his support on the Tory Right. It should be seen in the wider context of the rise of racism in Europe and the government’s attempt to exploit it in England – blame immigrants for the crisis, not bankers.

The author of ‘A Birmingham view’ provides a good analysis but it is wrong to reduce what has happened to Gove’s ‘failures of policy and leadership’ at the level of education policy, missing out the underlying racist dimension that pervades all of this government’s agenda.

When criticisms of negative manifestations of Islamic religious conservatism are voiced within the Putting Birmingham School Kids First campaign – and they are – the motivation is not to demonise a section of the Muslim community, and its effect is not to isolate and stigmatise them, as is the case with Gove’s attack. It has a very different meaning: to seek through dialogue a vision of a high quality socially just education which the majority of the Muslim community can support. This is a long-term conversation which Gove’s attack has given new impetus to, and which the PBSKF campaign will foster while rejecting Gove’s intervention.

Andy V's picture
Sat, 28/06/2014 - 08:08

To be candidly honest my perception of these comments are that they are lack credibility and have a wholly unsavoury edge to them. The claim is that Mr Gove and the media are demonising the Muslim community but it seems to me that the reverse is true in that you are demonising Gove and the media. Goodness knows the media deserve criticism for some of their cavalier attitudes.

It was not Gove who orchestrated 9/11 or 7/7. It was not Gove who orchestrated British Muslims to go and train with organised Islamist quasi-military groups in Pakistan or the Yemen or Afghanistan. It was was not Gove who orchestrated the radicalisation of Muslim prisoners in British jails. It was not Gove that orchestrated young British Muslims to go to Syria and Iraq to fight.

But Gove has approved Muslim Free Schools which doesn't seem to me to be the actions of a "racist".

I am somewhat surprised to note that the Blairite attitude of labelling anyone or any group that puts forward taking back control of immigration from the EU and introducing tighter controls as being "racist". A quick review of countries that do exercise control and rigour in immigration criteria includes Canada, USA, New Zealand, Australia, and Saudi Arabia and by your implication that makes them racist. What absolute and abject nonsense.

Indeed, from my viewpoint, what you have posted here makes the government approach seem moderate and rational, which doesn't say a lot in favour of your views.

rogertitcombe's picture
Sat, 28/06/2014 - 09:19

Richard - It is completely wrong and irrational to judge any argument on the basis of who is saying it. I regret that this is a common failing of many on the left. Gove is not incapable of making correct interpretations of phenomena in all areas, just because his educational ideology and his politics are (in our view) flawed. I do not believe he is either a racist or an Islamophobe. In fact his error in this regard was in encouraging Moslem Academies and Free Schools because his educational ideology was blind to the necessity for effective regulation. This attitude has infected some LA comprehensive schools and their parents and governors.

For example Gove was entirely right to end the vocational scam, which blighted the educational opportunities of children that live in working class areas by depriving them of a proper, intellectually challenging curriculum that can develop their abilities, and in many Ofsted 'outstanding schools' continues to do so.

They were/are also useless for getting a job.

If we were to delete the achievements of great scientists and Nobel prize winners on the basis of their politics the world would be in a far worse state.

Also those on the left whose views are generally (in my view) sound are quite capable of coming out with hopeless drivel.

Brian's picture
Sat, 28/06/2014 - 08:43

'It was not Gove who orchestrated 9/11 or 7/7.'

True, but using Schopenhauer's 24th stratagem is a favourite of politicians and the press, even if only by implication.

'The 7/7 attacks were carried out by terrorists. The terrorists were Muslim. Therefore Muslims are terrorists.'

Andy V's picture
Sat, 28/06/2014 - 09:23

But Gove has not used that in his comments.

One might also refer to the philosophical position that 'one persons terrorist is another persons freedom fighter', although that would be even more out of context.

Not matter what anyone thinks of Gove I believe it to be an outrageous and indefensible position to accuse him of being racist and to have premeditatedly engineered an Islamophobic racist attack designed to demonise Muslims and ergo Islam.

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 28/06/2014 - 09:48

The clue to Gove’s attitude might be found in his book “Celsius 7/7”. I admit I haven’t read it so I’ve deliberately chosen a favourable DT review (dated 2006):

“Celsius 7/7 is a ferocious philippic directed against Islamists and their Western appeasers. As listeners to The Moral Maze will be aware, Gove does not take prisoners. Despite the range of opinions implied by his self-description, his worldview is essentially Manichean.”

Gove’s “black-and-white” approach “serves him well”, the reviewer says, but it’s also his weakness.

“Celsius 7/7 is built around the proposition that the war on terror is a war against the "totalitarian ideology" of global Islamism. This Cold War analogy works in one respect…For the most part, however, Gove's comparison is misleading, and even dangerous.”


Andy V's picture
Sat, 28/06/2014 - 10:32

Janet, It might also be a significant and much overlooked point that Gove's book focused on "Islamism / Islamists" not Islam per se or the majority moderate Muslims'. There is a huge difference between the two. Islamists include the Taliban and the like that are also fighting for a worldwide caliphate.

Neither was the Trojan Horse issue Govian. It involved Theresa May and the cabinet. Hoax letter or not an alleged movement to subvert state funded schools and exert overt religious domination needed investigation.

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 28/06/2014 - 10:09

Barry - (no reply button). I, too, am confused by the number of inquiries: Ofsted, EFA, B'ham City Council, police, ex counter-terrorism chief...

You say Ofsted didn't investigate the alleged plot because it's confined to educational issues. That may be true but that, unfortunately, isn't how the Ofsted inspection has been reported. For example, the Mail said Ofsted was being sent in because "Schools are at centre of alleged Islamist plot to take over state institutions."

Inspectors asked most of the schools how they engaged with Prevent, the counter-terrorism strategy. This is a question which doesn't appear to have been asked in other inspections in B'ham or elsewhere. And not engaging with Prevent seems to be the only reason some schools were damned for the leadership and management when safeguarding had been judged to meet requirements.

Richard Hatcher's picture
Sat, 28/06/2014 - 11:33

In reply to Roger: how do we judge an argument? Certainly one criterion is the validity – ie the truthfulness – of what the Ofsted and EFA reports say. We don’t accept uncritically what the government reports say. But neither do we reject all they contain out of hand because of where they come from. We make a critical judgement as best we can on the available evidence from the reports and independent evidence from teachers and parents. The conclusion of the Birmingham campaign, which I agree with, is that there is some truth in them and where there are problems they must be put right.

But truth claims are not the only criteria by which to judge political discourse. Political discourse is primarily a form of practical argumentation in which particular representations serve the function of making proposed lines of action prevail in specific social-political contexts. (See Fairclough and Fairclough, Political Discourse Analysis). That is why I say that the meaning of Gove’s statements is not reducible to their texts, it encompasses purposes and consequences. He has promoted a narrative, knowingly relying on the Tory press to broadcast it, which contains some elements of truth about events in some Birmingham schools but which trades on, and has the effect of reinforcing, Islamophobia by basing itself on claims of religious extremism with a potential affinity to terrorism, for which in practice Ofsted was unable to find any evidence. The consequence has been to reinforce racism, that consequence was entirely predictable, and that it why I say Gove’s actions are racist. (That is not the same as saying that Gove is a racist.) And that is not an isolated act, it is yet another instance of the racial discrimination and xenophobia which characterises Tory policy, and is also exemplified by Gove’s discourse of ‘British values’.

The most positive thing about this whole affair is the emergence of a mass popular campaign within the local community, supported by teachers, determined both to reject Gove’s and the right-wing press’s attempt to stigmatise it and to seize the opportunity to create a new partnership to shape the future of education in their schools, including tackling any undue influence of religious conservatism. It’s an approach other schools and communities could learn from, where unaccountable governance may also be a problem. It's surprising that commentators on this thread don’t seem to have thought this an important development worth welcoming.

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 28/06/2014 - 13:23

Andy - (no reply button). The chapter in Gove's "Celsius 7/7" entitled "The Trojan Horse" says:

"Nowhere has moral clarity been more lacking in British state policy over the last ten to fifteen years than in our approach to the Islamist threat".

He wasm't just talking about the Taliban. He describes how "a sizeable minority" of Britain's 1.8 million Muslims hold "rejectionist Islamist views" which he compares to the threat posed by Nazism and Communism. Then he says there's a "conveyor belt" leading from conservative (small 'c') religious views to terrorism.

That's from The Guardian.

And of course the allegations needed investigating. I've said that all along. What I have resisted is making assertions before the evidence was in the public domain.

I hope Ofsted will be as robust in investigating the curriculum at the private schools offering Accelerated Christian Education (see the end of my thread here).


rogertitcombe's picture
Sat, 28/06/2014 - 15:21

What if Gove is right? Just because his is a very uncomfortable assertion does not mean that it must be wrong by definition.

My worry about the 'moderate' Islamic community in the UK is the apparent lack of clarity from its religious and community leaders on issues like 'apostasy', forced marriage and FGM.

It is this lack of clarity and conviction on such basic mainstream issues that is for me far more important than notions of 'radicalisation' and the encouragement of jihadism. However I can see that the former can be construed as leading to the latter.

So the question I ask Richard is this. Is it likely that 'the Birmingham community' that he states should be allowed to address all such problems, actually be prepared to openly condemn unacceptable attitudes to apostasy, forced marriage and FGM, let alone the many other unacceptable practices mentioned by Andy that have revealed to be taking place in at some schools?

Or have I been misled by the racist, Islamophobic British media and the Conservative Party into seeing issues that do not exist?

Andy V's picture
Sat, 28/06/2014 - 18:30

Janet, We are saying the same thing - I think ...

"He wasm’t just talking about the Taliban. He describes how “a sizeable minority” of Britain’s 1.8 million Muslims hold “rejectionist Islamist views” which he compares to the threat posed by Nazism and Communism. Then he says there’s a “conveyor belt” leading from conservative (small ‘c’) religious views to terrorism." This is what I referred to when I said, "Islamists include the Taliban and the like that are also fighting for a worldwide caliphate."

To reiterate my point, in his book Gove is not taking issue with "Islam per se" or the majority moderate Muslims. Rather he focuses on the hardline Islamist / Jihadists'.

I do not then believe that his book is any pointer to him being an Islamophobe or holding Islamophobic views.

Brian's picture
Sat, 28/06/2014 - 17:02

I don't think you've been misled at all Roger. These issues clearly exist in the Muslim community and, although I have heard Muslim leaders condemn FGM, forced marriage and other practices it certainly isn't (or isn't presented in the media as such) a strong, coherent and consistent message.

My problem with the whole issue is that Gove, in flailing about trying to impose a school structural solution to educational problems doesn't understand has made the situation much worse. Free schools and academies are free to ... well what are they free to do? What might happen when a Christian fundamentalist group 'takes over' a school governing body and begins to exert pressure on the head. Another 'Trojan Horse' swoop on schools. I suspect not.

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