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Labour pressing Gove in Trojan row

Labour has called for a new inspection requirement for state schools to deliver a "broad and balanced" curriculum, in the wake of claims that Islamist extremists attempted to influence teaching in a set of schools in Birmingham.

Days ahead of the expected conclusion of an Ofsted inquiry into the disputed "Trojan horse" claims, shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt accused Michael Gove of allowing education to be "skewed", school staff subjected to gender discrimination and children exposed to extremist views in Birmingham, and called on him to come to the Commons on Monday to explain his actions to MPs.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper claimed that the Education Secretary's public spat with Home Secretary Theresa May over the Trojan horse affair had exposed the Government's failure to develop a proper strategy to tackle extremism.

Ms Cooper highlighted official figures showing spending on the Prevent initiative to counter radicalisation had fallen from £17 million in 2010 to £1.7 million last year, and funding for police work on the strategy decreased from £24 million to £18.7 million over the same period.

Prime Minister David Cameron has ordered a swift inquiry by Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood into the row between Mr Gove and Mrs May, which burst into the open this week with the publication of a letter in which the Home Secretary questioned Mr Gove's handling of alleged extremist activity in Birmingham schools.

Appearing alongside Mr Gove at an education debate hosted by think-tank Policy Exchange in London, Mr Hunt is expected to accuse the Education Secretary of "gross negligence" for failing to ensure local oversight of schools to make sure their study programme is "broad and balanced".

"I think the time is right for Ofsted to introduce a new inspection criteria to its inspection framework so that no school can be judged as good or outstanding unless it is delivering a broad and balanced curriculum that will equip our children with the skills for success in the future," Mr Hunt is expected to say.

He will add: "Michael Gove's gross negligence comes at the cost of our children's education. For years he has been warned that the lack of local oversight in our school system will damage education standards. We are now seeing the results: schooling skewed to prevent a broad and balanced education; gender discrimination amongst staff; children exposed to extremist views.

"Michael Gove was warned of these problems in 2010. He chose not to act and is refusing to answer questions. His silence raises further questions. He must come to the House of Commons on Monday and place on record why he refused to act on warnings, why he rejects the evidence of the need for local oversight of schools, and why he thinks that more of the same is the answer.

"The horse has bolted. For too many children, the damage to their education has already been done. But by refusing to act, he is increasing exposure to risk.

"It is inconceivable that ministers can oversee half of our country's secondary schools from a desk in Whitehall. Labour will introduce local directors of school standards to oversee all schools and end this exposure to risk that is damaging school standards."

Ms Cooper said Mr Gove's reforms to give more schools independence from local oversight had made it "harder to deal with allegations of extremism in schools", while Mrs May had taken a flawed approach of concentrating on police action rather than preventative work.

"For the Prime Minister to ask the Cabinet Secretary to investigate a special advisers' briefing war is completely missing the point," said Ms Cooper. "There is a much more serious failure by the whole Government to work seriously on preventing extremism.

"The political blame game between ministers must not be a distraction from getting such serious policies that affect our national security back on track."

She added: "Michael Gove's approach of shouting aggressively about extremism, but failing to put proper processes in place, doesn't work. But Theresa May's approach of concentrating only on police interventions isn't enough either.

"A t a time when we face a growing extremist threat fostered by the Syrian conflict, too little early prevention work is being done to support community organisations and faith groups in countering the extremist narrative about Syria which is motivating young British people to join the conflict or pursue further radical activity when they return.

"We should be stepping up our support for programmes that explain the reality of the Syrian conflict - the danger it poses and the damage it causes - to protect our young people and communities. But Michael Gove and Theresa May are failing to work together, and blaming each other instead."


From Belfast Telegraph