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Easter eggs 're-branded' at school linked to alleged Trojan Horse plot

Published 08/12/2015

Adderley school was mentioned in the four-page
Adderley school was mentioned in the four-page "Trojan Horse" letter

Easter eggs were re-branded at a school linked to the alleged Trojan Horse plot to introduce a brand of hardline Islam into classrooms, an employment tribunal has heard.

The sweet treats were referred to instead as "chocolate eggs" removing any mention of the important Christian religious festival, according to a former teaching assistant at Birmingham's Adderley Primary School.

Another ex-staff member also claimed lists of Muslim pupils, who make up the majority of the school's roll, were drawn up by teachers so they did not get sent to Easter basket-making sessions.

Hilary Owens, 46, who described herself as a practising Christian, said staff were told: "We must not refer to them as Easter eggs."

Ms Owens, who is claiming unfair dismissal alongside three other Muslim teaching assistants by the school's governing board, said: "I don't understand that, because having an Easter egg doesn't make you a Christian."

She added: "Some parents would have been upset if they came home and said 'Mummy, I've got an Easter egg', so we had to be very culturally aware."

She said she did not recall who had told her about re-naming the chocolate eggs.

She and her ex-colleagues are alleging resignation letters they purportedly signed and sent to the headteacher Rizvana Darr at the end of 2012, were forgeries.

Ms Owens, from Solihull, alongside Rehena Khanom, Yasmin Akhtar, Shahnaz Bibi all had formal grievances against the head at the time of the alleged forged resignation letters

However, the school and its governors have claimed the resignation letters were part of efforts by the four to destabilise Adderley, as set out in the anonymous "Trojan Horse" letter which was leaked in late 2013 but is now widely regarded as a hoax.

In Ms Owens' witness statement, she made reference to the findings of a 2013 Birmingham City Council audit launched following a letter from her solicitor to the local authority's lawyers over the resignations issue.

The auditors concluded by November 2013 "that it appears false resignation letters have been produced" and the "local authority does not support the actions of the schools and governors following receipt of the letters".

In recommendations to the city council, the audit stated: "The directorate consider recommending to the school governing body that they should undertake further investigation before instituting possible disciplinary proceedings, if any, against Mrs Darr."

It went on: "The city council has now agreed to proceed with these matters, to meet with the governors in order to address the first recommendation and to formally refer the matter to police."

The city council had already by that time written to Mrs Darr in March 2013 stating it would not extend the usual indemnity to any of schools' legal costs incurred in opposing the staffs' claims of unfair dismissal.

Ms Owens, who started at the school in January 2006, told the tribunal: "I do not consider that the school treating the letter as genuine and the way that they have acted in this matter to be reasonable and therefore consider I have been unfairly dismissed."

She also flatly denied being part of any "conspiracy" together with the other claimants against the headteacher, alleged to have been "on the grounds that Mrs Darr has an allegiance to a different branch of Islam to the other three claimants".

Ms Owens added: "I therefore consider it ludicrous for it to be suggested that I would be interested in becoming involved in some form of conspiracy to remove Mrs Darr on the basis of her religion."

Earlier, Ms Bibi had claimed Muslim children were excluded from Easter basket-making.

Ms Bibi said: "Each class teacher made a list of children in their class who were Muslim." These children then "stayed in class" while Christian youngsters went to the craft sessions, she added.

The "Trojan Horse" letter came to light while the four women were proceeding with an employment tribunal against Adderley school, but the hearing was adjourned when West Midlands Police arrested the colleagues on charges of conspiracy to defraud, in April last year.

But in May, 2015, the charges against the women were dropped due to "insufficient evidence".

Adderley school was mentioned in the four-page "Trojan Horse" letter, which detailed a supposed plot by hardline Muslims to take over several city schools, later triggering four official investigations.

Among those inquiries, the Department for Education commissioned former Met counter-terrorism commander Peter Clarke, whose final report stated: "There is a detailed description of a plan by some members of staff at Adderley Primary School to falsely accuse the headteacher of forging their letters of resignation.

He added: "It is worthy of note that at the time the 'Trojan Horse' letter was received by Birmingham City Council, none of the details of the Adderley Primary allegations were in the public domain, leading to the inevitable conclusion that the author of the letter was someone with detailed knowledge of what was happening at the school."

The hearing continues.

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