The head of school inspectors Ofsted has written to Education Secretary Michael Gove warning that schools in Birmingham are at risk of an extremist take over, and made urgent recommendations to the government.
His letter summarises the findings of an Ofsted report into alleged Islamist takeovers at 21 state secondary schools in the city which has been dubbed ‘Trojan Horse’.
The report finds that schools are subject to a “culture of fear and intimidation”, that some governors had exerted “inappropriate influence on policy and the day-to-day running” of the schools, and that Birmingham City Council failed to support a number of schools in their efforts to protect pupils from radicalisation and extremism.
It concludes that, at several schools, children are being “badly prepared for life in modern Britain”.
Six of the schools inspected have now been placed in “special measures” and will be subject to further, snap inspections.
School inspectors found cases where head teachers felt ‘intimidated’, ‘undermined’ and ‘bullied’ by school governors who had often only recently been appointed. One teacher was so frightened of losing their job that they had to arrange a meeting with inspectors in a supermarket car park to avoid being detected by governors.
Some governors had also misused public money by hiring private investigators to interrogate the emails of senior staff.
The letter recommends that the government overhaul the whole system of school governors, including mandatory training, requiring that governor’s declare their interests and imposing professional governors where governance is judged to be weak.
It also says that the government should be much clearer on what should be taught in a “broad and balanced curriculum”.
In a statement today, Sir Michael Wilshaw said: “Some of our findings are deeply worrying, and in some ways quite shocking.”
“While a number of these schoos are doing well and providing their children with a good, well-rounded education, there are others that give cause for grave concern.
“In the most serious cases a culture of fear and intimidation has taken grip since the schools were last inspected.”
Speaking in the Commons today, Mr Gove said that he would impose new requirements to make sure that schools teach “British values”.
However the academy chain at the centre of the allegations has said it “rejects” the report. David Hughes, vice-chair of Park View trust described the report as “knee-jerk”.
“Ofsted inspectors came to our schools looking for extremism, looking for segregation, looking for proof that our children have religion forced upon them as part of an Islamic plot,” he said.
“The Ofsted reports found absolutely no evidence of this because this is categorically not what is happening at our schools.”