The issues raised by the Trojan Horse letter do not “significantly affect” the majority of the 437 Birmingham state schools, Ian Kershaw found.
It was important to keep this context in mind, Kershaw cautioned.
There were elements of the “Five Steps” listed in the Trojan Horse letter* in a large number** of the sixteen schools investigated. Patterns of behaviour were commonly present and it was, therefore, “reasonable to infer” there were links between individuals. But there was no evidence to date to confirm there was a systematic plot to take over schools
, Kershaw concluded. He found “no evidence of a conspiracy to promote an anti-British agenda, violent extremism or radicalisation”.
However, Kershaw identified behaviour which in dry terms was described as not complying with local authority and school governance legal obligations. Kershaw refers to governors who may have a “genuine and understandable” desire to improve education offered to Muslim children. This often goes as far as wanting Muslim children to be taught solely by Muslim teachers in schools governed by Muslim leaders. To this end, such “activists” have used governorship to effect change in their schools. Their actions caused conflict between heads, other staff members and other governors.
Although Kershaw found no evidence about a systematic plot to take control of schools, he outlined concerns which required “immediate attention”. These arose from the actions of some men of Pakistani heritage who were promoting “certain Islamic principles” and putting their interests before those of the children.
The problem was worsened by “weaknesses” in systems surrounding school governance and failings by Birmingham City Council (BCC) which was aware of some of the problems but didn’t spot others. On some occasions, BCC made the problem worse by paying off heads using compromise agreements profligately rather than address difficult issues for fear of being accused of racism.
Although Kershaw’s remit was only to investigate BCC, he also criticised Ofsted for failing to discover “dysfunctional governance” and unbalanced curricula. Ofsted does not inspect "good financial management" or whether governance is adequate. If this supervision is not done by BCC (or by the DfE in academies) then poor governance will go unnoticed. Kershaw stressed the importance of stakeholders (eg BCC, Ofsted, the DfE and the Education Funding Agency) sharing information. Communication between them is “critical” for early intervention but Kershaw found it had not happened “in any consistent manner”.
Kershaw listed 21 recommendations. Although they are specific to BCC some have a broader significance. For example, Kershaw says BBC should consider debating the legal requirement for secular schools to have a daily act of collective worship which is “wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character”. This is a debate
which is long overdue for all schools. He also recommended that BCC consult with the DfE about the suitability and capability of academy sponsors. Again, this should be a national debate – it is the DfE which approves academy sponsors and matches them with schools. Concerns have already been raised about due diligence
and fast-tracked approval
. Perhaps the new Education Secretary Nicky Morgan should consider including local authorities in decisions around school sponsorship instead of acting as if their views on who runs schools in their areas are irrelevant. She should also reflect on whether due diligence is taken when giving approval to academy sponsors.
*The “Five Steps” are listed in full in paragraph 16 of the Kershaw report
**Kershaw’s findings about the sixteen schools will be given in a separate post.
UPDATE 17.40 The above has been updated to make it clear which is a summary of Kershaw and which contains my comments.