Nearly a year on from the exposure of the ‘Trojan Horse’ scandal in which hard-line Islamists were found to have taken over a number of schools in Birmingham, children at those schools are still at risk of radicalisation, the chief inspector of schools is set to warn.
The school boards of eight schools in Birmingham were taken over by Salafist Muslims who segregated pupils according to sex, banned the teaching of music and drama and introduced lessons in Arabic. Three months after the scandal broke, five schools were placed into ‘special measures’ in order to bring the situation under control.
But the head of school inspection group Ofsted, Sir Michael Wilshaw, who is set to appear in front of MPs at the Education Select Committee on the 28 January, is expected to tell them that, six months on, the schools at the heart of the scandal have failed to change, leaving children still vulnerable to radicalisation.
A Whitehall source has told the Times that “some [schools] are struggling still with the same problems,” adding that Wilshaw remained “very concerned” about the risk of radicalisation to pupils. Inspectors are set to visit the schools again this year.
Inspectors are also set to return to Sir John Cass’s Foundation and Red Coat Church of England Secondary School in Tower Hamlets, east London, where children were exposed to the sermons of Anwar al-Awlaki, the hate preacher whose teachings are said to have inspired the Paris attacks last week. Police found that an Islamic society at the school had posted videos of his sermons on their website’s front page.
Inspectors who undertook a sweep of Tower Hamlets’ schools also warned that pupils at six private Muslim schools might be “vulnerable to extremist influences and radicalisation”.
However, the wider sweep of faith schools has drawn widespread criticism from parents, including Christians and Jews who have complained that Ofsted inspectors are using it as a cover to impose liberal values on their children, most notably support for homosexual lifestyles.
Jamie Barry, a head teacher at a Birmingham primary school, was faced down by parents at a parent / teacher meeting over his introduction of the Chips (Challenging Homophobia in Primary Schools) program. He had to be rescued from the meeting by local police.
And more than 1,500 parents have signed a petition sent to education secretary Nicky Morgan requesting that the programme be scrapped, but she has upheld its use.
Meanwhile it has emerged that under 18s account for nearly half of the 4,000 referrals to Channel, the government’s counter-radicalisation program. A head teacher in north London told the Sunday Times that they had referred four children to Prevent, which is part of the program.
One was a 16 year old girl who had wanted to raise funds for ISIS; another was a 15 year old boy who made a “throwaway” remark about wanting to fight in Syria. One teenager from the borough has already travelled to Syria to take part in fighting.
One of the Birmingham schools at the heart of the Trojan Horse scandal, Oldknow Academy, is set to shut its doors for the first two weeks of term in order to retrain the teachers in a bid to turn the school around. Free school uniforms are also being handed out to all pupils, and all will receive a home visit over the two weeks from teachers. The school will also be changing its name.
The academy was placed in special measures last April, three months after the previous head teacher Bhupinder Kondal quit, complaining that she had been overruled by trustees trying to impose a Muslim agenda. She returned to her post after the board of trustees was replaced, but an inspection undertaken last month disclosed that she had failed to turn the school around.
It has now been taken over by the ARK chain of academies, and is overseen by Rebecca Garrett, a head teacher who has already taken one local primary school from rated ‘satisfactory’ to being rated ‘good with outstanding features’ in October.