Belfast Telegraph

Home News UK

Wilshaw to lead Trojan Horse probe

The head of Ofsted is to take a "personal lead" in the watchdog's investigation into allegations of a hardline Muslim takeover plot at a number of Birmingham schools, it has been announced.

Sir Michael Wilshaw is to visit the city next week to meet those directly involved in the inspections.

The announcement came as the National Union of Teachers (NUT) executive member for Birmingham accused Ofsted of asking "inappropriate" questions during school visits.

Ofsted has assessed more than a dozen Birmingham schools in recent weeks in the wake of the so-called "Trojan Horse" allegations and the findings are expected to be published in early May.

An Ofsted spokesman said: "Her Majesty's Chief Inspector will visit Birmingham next week to meet inspectors directly involved in the series of inspections of local schools.

"Sir Michael has made clear that he is taking a personal lead in agreeing the individual reports and ensuring that they fully address concerns that have been raised."

He added that Ofsted's overall findings will be reported directly to Education Secretary Michael Gove early next month.

The NUT is expected to discuss the situation in Birmingham at their annual conference in Brighton.

An emergency motion of the issue is being considered by the union's executive this afternoon.

Roger King, the NUT's executive member for Birmingham, said members in the city had raised concerns with him about lines of questioning by some inspectors.

"I can say, I've never had a concern raised from members who have said 'in our school they are segregating the girls from the boys'," he said.

"That has never come to anybody in our union. We've never been asked to go into a school, we've never received an email about anything of that sort of thing, or that there have been inflammatory Islamic assemblies and things like that.

"We've never had any of that kind of concern come to us, and I would have thought that if those things were going on, they would have been brought to us."

He added: "I've been into schools that have been inspected, spoken with members - and I have to say, what members have said to me they have been asked are things that are at the very least inappropriate, and nothing to do with Ofsted inspections."

Mr King said that he had been told that in one school: "The Ofsted team were going to the staff of the school and saying 'we're going to fail you' and some of the staff were saying 'why are you failing us' and they were saying 'well, you're not teaching anti-terrorism and therefore there's a safeguarding issue in the school'.

"Now I think that's an inappropriate thing to do. It's not what they are there for."

Mr King went on: "There were a number of things like that, like asking the staff 'are you homophobic?', asking girls who did not sit next to boys 'are you made to sit in different places?' and when boys and girls are sat together, asking girls why are you sitting here with these boys?"

Mr King said that there were questions over "how objective Ofsted were when they went into these schools".

Mr King was speaking after the Department for Education (DfE) said it would be inappropriate to comment on a media report claiming some schools linked to the alleged plot were set to be placed in special measures.

A report in the Sunday Telegraph claimed that at least six Birmingham schools were set to be rated as inadequate.

Ofsted also declined to comment on the possible outcome of the inspections, and pointed out that its reports on the schools in question were "going through the same rigorous moderation and quality assurance process as all inspection reports".

The Sunday Telegraph reported that the result of the snap inspections in recent weeks would give Ofsted the power to remove some senior managers from their posts.

A source told the newspaper: "Almost all of the reports to a greater or lesser extent are pointing out flaws in leadership, management or safeguarding driven by an Islamist political ideology."

The DfE said in a statement: "The allegations made in relation to some schools in Birmingham are very serious and we are investigating all evidence put to us in conjunction with Ofsted, Birmingham City Council and the police.

"It is absolutely vital these investigations are carried out impartially, without pre-judgment. It would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage."

Birmingham City Council has appointed a chief adviser to inquire into at least 200 complaints received in relation to the "Operation Trojan Horse" allegations, contained in an unsigned letter passed anonymously to the local authority and teaching unions.

The letter supposedly details efforts by Muslim hard-liners to discredit and replace the leadership of several schools in the city. Former anti-terrorism officer Peter Clarke has been appointed by Education Secretary Michael Gove to investigate the allegations for the DfE.

Mr Gove has previously expressed extreme concern at the allegations, calling for them to be substantiated and firm action taken, or to be shown to be baseless.

In a statement issued on Good Friday, Birmingham's Adderley Primary claimed a well organised group had tried to disrupt the school. Located in the Saltley area, the primary is one of four schools named in the "Trojan Horse" letter.

Meanwhile, the Park View Educational Trust - which runs three schools embroiled in the allegations - described some reports surrounding the inquiry as "highly irresponsible".

It said in a statement: "Some media accounts are suggesting that schools will close, creating unnecessary and unwarranted concern amongst families and students, many of whom are just about to start their GCSEs.

"With both the DfE and Ofsted reports, the Trust is entitled to a confidential process of right of reply in relation to all purported findings.

"That confidential process is still ongoing, so neither DfE nor Ofsted should be considered to have reached any final conclusion.

"We will not comment any further on these reports, other than to say that we do not recognise the accounts we have seen in the media as accurate or reasonable descriptions of our schools."

An Ofsted spokesman said: "Inspectors are required to uphold the highest professional standards in their work and to ensure that everyone they encounter during inspections is treated fairly and with respect. These standards are assured through a code of conduct.

"Any concerns that a school has about the inspection should be raised during the inspection. If concerns have not been resolved, individuals or schools can raise a formal complaint with Ofsted in line with our published complaints policy."


From Belfast Telegraph