Schools to promote 'British values'
Schools will be made to "actively promote British values", Michael Gove said today, as it was confirmed that five Birmingham schools have been placed into special measures in the wake of the "Trojan Horse" allegations.
The Education Secretary told MPs that the Government will take "decisive action" following the findings of Ofsted, as well as the Education Funding Agency (EFA), warning that all schools could now be subjected to unannounced inspections while schools that have failed will be taken over and put under new leadership.
His comments came as Ofsted issued a damning verdict on the running of a number of Birmingham's schools.
Inspections conducted following claims of a takeover plot by hardline Muslims found that a "culture of fear and intimidation" has developed in some schools and, in several, governors exerted "inappropriate influence" over how they are being run.
A separate EFA report into Park View Educational Trust (PVET), which runs three of the schools rated inadequate by Ofsted and has been at the heart of the alleged takeover plot, concluded it ha s ''many weaknesses'' and restricted its curriculum to a ''conservative Islamic perspective''.
And EFA's report into Oldknow Academy, another school placed into special measures, found it was ''taking on the practices of an Islamic faith school''.
In a statement to the Commons, Mr Gove warned that in future any school could be subjected to tough, on-the-spot, inspections "with no advance warning and no opportunities to conceal failure".
He acknowledged that there were questions for the Department for Education, Ofsted and Birmingham City Council about whether there were "warning signs" of problems in Birmingham schools that had been missed.
He went on to say the Government is to consult on new rules to ensure that "all schools actively promote British values" - such as democracy, individual liberty, mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths.
There will also be tougher rules making clear that a teacher can be banned from the profession for inviting an extremist speaker into a school.
Letters have been sent from Schools Minister Lord Nash to PVET's schools - Park View Academy, Nansen Primary and Golden Hillock, as well as Oldknow Academy, warning that if swift changes are not made, their funding agreements will be terminated, paving the way for new sponsors to take over.
In an advice note to Mr Gove outlining Ofsted's findings, chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw warned that Birmingham City Council had failed to support a number of schools in the area in their efforts to protect pupils from the "risks of radicalisation and extremism".
He also revealed that some headteachers told inspectors that there had been an organised campaign to target certain schools in the city to change their "character and ethos".
Ofsted has published the findings of its visits to 21 schools, all inspected after a letter - now widely believed to be a hoax - came to light, which referred to an alleged plot by hardline Muslims to seize control of a number of school governing boards in Birmingham.
The five placed in special measures as a result of the recent inspections are Golden Hillock School, Nansen Primary School, Park View Academy, Oldknow Academy and Saltley School. A sixth - Alston Primary - was already in special measures.
In his note, Sir Michael said that some headteachers revealed that they had been marginalised or forced out of their jobs. Many school staff were frightened of expressing views that went against those that were promoted by their school's governors. In one case, a school leader was so worried about talking to inspectors that they had to arrange a meeting in a supermarket car park.
Ofsted also found:
:: Some schools failed to properly address issues specific to their communities, in particular, not focusing on how children may be vulnerable to extremist influences, female genital mutilation or forced marriage;
:: Governors in a number of schools made, or tried to make, changes to the curriculum and policies based on their own beliefs. In one case, governors at a primary school opposed the headteacher's decision to have mixed-gender swimming lessons, while in another, the chair of governors introduced a "madrasa" (a type of Islamic religious school) programme of study into the curriculum;
:: Some governors are trying to impose and promote a "narrow faith-based ideology" into non-religious schools by narrowing the curriculum, manipulating staff appointments and using school funds inappropriately.
The chief inspector called for an overhaul of how school governing bodies are run, including publishing a governors' register of interests and more training. He urged the Government to ensure that local councils and those responsible for academies and free schools carry out their duty to keep all children safe, including protecting them from radicalisation, and to give schools clearer information on what should be taught in a broad and balanced curriculum.
Earlier PVET robustly rejected Ofsted's findings, with vice-chair David Hughes insisting that the schools ''do not tolerate or promote extremism'' and revealing the Trust will be seeking to mount a legal challenge to the judgments.
Shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt said: "The reports into Birmingham highlight the complete lack of local oversight in our school system, resulting from this government's attempt to run all schools from Whitehall. By ruling out the introduction of a system of local oversight to ensure robust and constant checks and balances on our schools, David Cameron is leaving pupils exposed to falling standards and inadequate safeguarding."
The Local Government Association (LGA) called for councils to be given back more control over schools.
David Simmonds, chair of the LGA Children and Young People Board, said: "This has been an unsettling time for parents and children and it is vital they are at the forefront of any action taken in response to these investigations.
"Parents need to know who is accountable for their local school, but under the current system accountability is confusing and fragmented.
"It is clear that effective oversight of standards and finance in schools across the UK cannot be exercised from Whitehall, and the jumble of regimes risks leaving mums and dads unsure where to go for help when they have concerns.
"Local authorities know their schools and the communities they serve and strong local oversight by local authorities is needed to spot warning signs where schools are beginning to cause concern and tackle problems before it is too late.
"Councils need powers to intervene in all underperforming schools quickly and effectively without the need to ask permission from Whitehall."
Mr Wilshaw said that he was "pleased that minds have been changed" over unannounced inspections - a change he proposed two years ago but saw dropped at the time after what he called a "robust conversation" with Mr Gove.
He told BBC2's Newsnight the Education Secretary had not wanted to implement the reform because of concerns raised by headteachers that they needed to be there at the outset of an inspection.
"I am really pleased that minds have been changed," he said.
Mr Hunt told the programme he was in favour of schools having to promote "British values" but added: "I'm not sure Michael Gove would know if British values came and bit him on the bum.
"This is a Government that banned books in prison, a Government that wants to take To Kill a Mockingbird out of the classroom, a Government that regards Blackadder as unpatriotic."