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Intolerant ethos claim 'disturbing'

Compelling evidence of a determined effort to introduce an "intolerant and aggressive Islamic ethos" into a number of Birmingham schools has been branded as "disturbing" by the new Education Secretary.

Nicky Morgan said that former anti-terror chief Peter Clarke's investigation into the Trojan Horse allegations revealed that people with a "shared ideology" had attempted to gain control of the governing bodies of a small number of schools in the city.

She announced that t eacher could face misconduct hearings, after the inquiry uncovered evidence of "intolerant" messages shared by senior male staff at one Birmingham school.

Mr Clarke's inquiry, published earlier, concluded that there was "clear evidence" that there are a number of people, associated with each other and in positions of authority within schools who "espouse, endorse or fail to challenge extremist views".

The damning report, commissioned by former Education Secretary Michael Gove in April, was highly critical of Birmingham City Council, accusing the authority of failing to support under-pressure headteachers dealing with inappropriate behaviour by governors.

In his report, Mr Clarke, who served as head of the Metropolitan Police's counter-terrorism unit, said he "neither specifically looked for, nor found, evidence of terrorism, radicalisation or violent extremism in the schools of concern in Birmingham".

But he went on to say: "I found clear evidence that there are a number of people, associated with each other and in positions of influence in schools and governing bodies, who espouse, sympathise with or fail to challenge extremist views."

The inquiry concluded: "There has been co-ordinated, deliberate and sustained action, carried out by a number of associated individuals, to introduce an intolerant and aggressive Islamic ethos into a few schools in Birmingham."

This had been achieved in some schools by gaining influence on the governing bodies, installing "sympathetic" headteachers and senior staff, appointing "like- minded" people to key positions and removing heads who were not "compliant" with a particular agenda.

Criticising the role of Birmingham city council, the report concluded the authority was "aware of the practices and behaviours that were subsequently outlined in the 'Trojan Horse' letter long before the letter surfaced".

It goes on to say that the council has not supported headteachers faced with "aggressive and inappropriate behaviour".

Mr Clarke also warned that the DfE had allowed Park View Educational Trust (PVET) - the trust at the centre of the allegations - to move from running a single school to being responsible for three too quickly, without systems in place for holding the new academies to account.

In the wake of the findings, Ms Morgan announced a raft of measures which she said would help to "put things right".

She said: "W hat Peter Clarke found is disturbing. His report sets out compelling evidence of a determined effort by people with a shared ideology to gain control of the governing bodies of a small number of schools in Birmingham."

" There has been no evidence of direct radicalisation or violent extremism," she said. "But there is a clear account in the report of people in positions of influence in these schools, with a restricted and narrow interpretation of their faith, who have not promoted fundamental British values and who have failed to challenge the extremist views of others."

Ms Morgan pointed to evidence in Mr Clarke's report of a social media group calling itself "The Park View Brotherhood", which was used by a group of influential teachers within Park View School.

"Individuals associated with PVET in particular have destabilised headteachers, sometimes leading to their resignation or removal," she said.

"Particularly shocking is the evidence of the social media discussion of the Park View Brotherhood group whose actions betray a collective mind-set that can fairly be described as an intolerant Islamist approach which denies the validity of alternative beliefs."

Mr Clarke's report found that messages between this social media group promoted or failed to challenge "grossly intolerant" views.

It added that the all-male group discussions included " explicit homophobia; highly offensive comments about British service personnel; a stated ambition to increase segregation in the school; disparagement of strands of Islam; scepticism about the truth of reports of the murder of Lee Rigby and the Boston bombings; and a constant undercurrent of anti-Western, anti-American and anti-Israeli sentiment."

A new education commissioner is to be appointed at Birmingham City Council to oversee action to address the criticisms of the authority in the Clarke and Kershaw reports, Ms Morgan said.

And the National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL) will be examining the evidence so that its misconduct panels can consider whether any teacher involved should be barred from the profession.

Sir Albert Bore, leader of the city council, welcomed the appointment of a new education commissioner, and said the authority was "making progress" strengthening training for governors, and in its monitoring of schools.

He said: "We have already accepted all of the recommendations in Ian Kershaw's report and believe we are already making progress on most of the recommendations set out in Peter Clarke's report."

Mr Clarke's report is the last of four separate probes into the allegations in Birmingham, which were originally sparked by the "Trojan Horse" letter - now widely believed to be a hoax - which referred to an alleged plot by hardline Muslims to seize control of a number of school governing boards in Birmingham.

Mr Kershaw's inquiry for the city council concluded that key individuals were ''promoting and encouraging certain Islamic principles'' in Birmingham classrooms amid poor oversight from education chiefs.

Last month Ofsted issued a damning verdict on the running of a number of Birmingham's schools as it declared five failing and placed them into special measures.

These schools are: Golden Hillock School, Nansen Primary School and Park View Academy - all run by the Park View Educational Trust (PVET), as well as Oldknow Academy and Saltley School. A sixth, Alston Primary, was already in special measures.

Shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt said: "Ministers were warned about the failings in Birmingham's schools in 2010. Instead of taking decisive action, we have had years of inertia.

"David Cameron's schools policy has left our schools too open and too exposed to risk and falling standards."


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