Trojan Horse – was there a city-wide, orchestrated plot to infiltrate Birmingham schools?

Janet Downs's picture
The evidence is thin. Ofsted visited 21 mainstream Birmingham schools: 15 of these were monitoring inspections, 6 were full. And although Ofsted found worrying levels of interference in five of the schools which had full inspections, they found no evidence of a co-ordinated plot. Rather it was the influence of a group of zealous governors overstepping their responsibilities in an unacceptable way.

That said, Ofsted’s findings from five fully-inspected schools: three academies run by Park View Education Trust (PVET), Oldknow Academy and Saltley School and Specialist Science College, and the Education Funding Agency’s (EFA) reports into PVET and Oldknow Academy, are damning. Investigators found*:

1Inappropriate interference by governors some of whom were promoting “a narrow faith-based ideology” (Oldknow) or “taking the Islamic focus too far” (Park View);

2Academies in breach of the Academies Financial Handbook;

3Inadequate safeguarding;

4Staff being afraid to speak out or having no confidence in leaders or governing bodies;

5In the one non-academy, Saltley, the interim executive headteacher only visited one day a week, governors undermined senior leaders and spent the budget “unwisely”. This dodgy expenditure included hiring private eyes to snoop on senior staff’s emails (illegal, surely?).

The sixth school subjected to a full inspection, St Clement’s CofE Academy, was judged Good. Inspectors wrote: “All cultures mix happily together in a lively and colourful environment.”

But what of the 15 schools which received monitoring visits? 9 were given positive comments about community cohesion such as “Respect is at the heart of the school’s ethos” (Small Heath School).

Inspectors noted pupils of different cultures and faiths played together in two of the remaining schools but police were investigating serious allegations by former staff members at one (Adderley Primary) and the other (Regents Park Community Primary School) had its Key Stage 2 Sats annulled following concerns about the validity of results. Inspectors didn’t have much to say about inclusion at Montgomery Primary Academy – they noted leaders hadn’t told staff about government guidelines on the prevention of extremism.

Inspectors were critical of the remaining three. Governors at Highfield Junior and Infant Schools didn’t fully support the school’s values despite the head’s determination to provide an education which prepares pupils for life in contemporary Britain. The governors didn’t act pro-actively when parents (yes, parents) “sought to undermine the headteacher’s resolve to promote the school’s values.” A “sizeable group of staff” at Ladypool Primary School were concerned some traditions and beliefs (unspecified) were being promoted more than others. There was “mistrust and lack of unity” among staff at Heathfield Primary School where an emphasis on basic skills had narrowed the curriculum.

This, then, is the publicised evidence so far. It’s not uncontested – Park View, which was judged Inadequate overall but with Good achievement and teaching, will be challenging the reports for PVET academies.

Chief HMI, Sir Michael Wilshaw, has written to Education Secretary, Michael Gove, summarising the findings but he has an irritating habit of writing “some” and “several” where it’s possible to give exact numbers instead of using vague phraseology which can be misinterpreted. Nevertheless, Sir Michael has listed nine recommendations.

CORRECTION 12 June 2014: I included St Clement's CoE Academy in the list of 21 schools. Although the Ofsted report for St Clement's was published on 9 June it was not one of the 21 included in the so-called Trojan Plot. I omitted Gracelands Nursery School monitoring report. Of the 21 schools inspected as part of the Trojan Horse inquiry, 5 received full inspections. All five were judged Inadequate: 4 academies and one LA maintained school. The remaining 16 schools received monitoring reports. The full list of 21 schools with links to the reports is here.

NOTES Ofsted reports released on 9 June 2014 for Birmingham schools can be downloaded here.

*I have combined Ofsted and EFA reports

ADDENDUM The thread has been amended to remove the last sentence which said I would discuss Sir Michael's recommendations in a later thread. I shall only be mentioning them in passing in future threads where relevant and won't devote a whole thread to them. Sir Michael's recommendations can be read by downloading his letter to Michael Gove here.
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Dom Peck's picture
Tue, 10/06/2014 - 15:11

HMCI bothered to talk personally to present and past heads. He was therefore able to find out exactly what had been going on. All the rest is commentary.

Phil Taylor's picture
Tue, 10/06/2014 - 15:36

Oh, that's O.K. then. Nothing to worry about.

Dom Peck's picture
Tue, 10/06/2014 - 15:41

Plenty to worry about.
It's the 'evidence is thin' brigade who want to pretend there's nothing to see here, move along please.
That's appeasement.

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 10/06/2014 - 15:58

Dom - the evidence is thin about a city-wide conspiracy. But I made it clear the reports into five of the schools which had full inspections was "damning". However, they did not show a synchronized plot to infiltrate schools. What they showed was inappropriate and excessive interference by some governing bodies of individual schools (and in one small multi-academy trust) who tried to promote their own narrow religious views.

It does not follow that in saying the evidence proving a city-wide takeover of Birmingham schools is thin that I am saying "there's nothing to see". There is - you can read about it in the thread above or read the Ofsted and EFA reports. The links are in the thread.

Andy V's picture
Tue, 10/06/2014 - 16:40

A flavour of the issues at the schools include:

1. Narrowing the curriculum (e.g. Music and Dance/Drama) (in line with hard line Islam beliefs).
2. Inadequate Sexual Relationship coverage (inline with Islam beliefs)
3. Poor coverage of Citizenship
4. Inadequate preparation for life in multicultural society
5. Female staff reporting their feelings of being intimidated in the way they were spoken with
6. High turnover of staff holding pupils back

There is evidence that these points are linked to the cultural changes wrought by muslim governors and teachers. This is not an exhaustive list and the full reports can be found here:

There also appears to be a repetitive thread relating to failings in relation to Safeguarding and Safer Recruitment, which alone can place a school in grade 4.

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 10/06/2014 - 18:05

Andy - some of the evidence heard was disturbing, as you say. The list I provided was a mere summary. The EFA reports, in particular, went into more detail than Ofsted's. For example, EFA was told that pupils heard language, such as "white prostitute, inappropriate for young children at a weekly Islamic assembly; that one teacher asked an assembled group of children, "We don't celebrate Christmas, do we?" and expected the answer No; that governors vetted a script for a Nativity play and said a doll couldn't be used for Jesus; that one teacher covered his ears during a music lesson which sent confusing messages to the children about whether music was "haram" (forbidden); some governors would not shake hands with female senior leaders and dismissed women's views...

I could go on, but my thread would have been too long and I wanted to balance the 5 negative full Ofsted reports with the positive remarks made about community cohesion in 13 of the 21 schools - positive comments which have been largely missing from media reports.

Andy V's picture
Tue, 10/06/2014 - 19:39

Janet, Thank you for sharing that. I have not seen the EFA reports and only skimmed the first 4 Ofsted reports. Between our contributions it is clear that there was something markedly wrong at many of the schools and Wilshaw was right to highlight that under the pressure of an inappropriately focused governing body a grade 1 school can very quickly slide to a 4.

Worryingly, Radio 4 news this evening carried an item about concerns relating to 3 schools in Bradford.

There must be a thorough review of governance; recruitment, selection, training, evaluating operation etc now. This must not become a political electioneering football for the main parties.

Andy V's picture
Tue, 10/06/2014 - 19:45

With regard to male muslims not shaking hands with female staff, I encountered this in my interim DHT in SE London when a dominant muslim father came to see the HT to resolve an issue. He offered to shake my hand but flatly refused female HT (a religious Sister) because the Qur'an forbade men having physical contact with women who were not immediate family.

Btw he claimed to be an experience Additional Inspector with two of the ISPs undertaking Section 5, 8 and Subject inspections ...

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 14/06/2014 - 09:04

Two Park View Year 11 students talked about their experience of being at the centre of an intense media storm on Today this morning. Tahira Mohammed and Kasim Shah explained about its affect on their GCSE exams which were being taken at the time and also how being pupils at a so-called "extremist" school would affect their future employment or university prospects.

Both pupils denied extremism was promoted at Park View - Kasim accused Ofsted of arriving with an agenda; Tahira denied the pupils were not taught about other religions and said pupils had recently visited a Sikh gurdwara.

The interview can be heard here for a further six days.

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