Snap inspections have been carried out in six East London schools by Ofsted, over fears that another Trojan Horse plot could be underway in the borough of Tower Hamlets. The inspections were ordered by the Department of Education after concerns were raised about the influence of Islamic teaching in the schools’ curriculums. Five of the six schools are private Islamic faith schools, and one is a Church of England primary.
The schools include the East London Academy and Al-Mizan primary, both of which are private junior schools for boys run by the East London Mosque Trust, the Sunday Times has reported. Each charges £3,000 a year to teach children, mostly hailing from Bangladeshi families living in the area, passages from the Koran as well as a mainstream curriculum. Both were rated “good” for quality of education and teaching by Ofsted in 2011, and “outstanding” for students’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development.
Jamiatual Ummah secondary and Sir John Cass and Red Coat Church of England Secondary School, the latter of which is a voluntary aided state school, were also inspected. Sir John Cass is a flagship CofE school in the area. Two further schools were not named.
A government source told the Sunday Times “There were specific concerns about the curriculum being taught in some of the schools. Since these schools were being investigated, it was decided to look at six schools in the area.”
Last September, Ofsted approved of safeguarding arrangements for pupils at Marner Primary, another Tower Hamlets state school. At that time, Tower Hamlets Council strongly denied any ‘Trojan Horse’ style plot, of the kind seen in Birmingham in which a number of people were accused of infiltrating the school boards in at least three, and as many as nine Birmingham schools, in order ultimately to radicalise pupils in the city. At those schools, children were segregated according to sex and taught a curriculum of radical Islam, whether they themselves were Muslim or not.
Commenting on the recent surprise investigations, Tower Hamlets Council said “whilst we do not usually comment on Ofsted reports before they are published, we can categorically state the inspection has not found any ‘Trojan Horse’-type issues relating to the conduct of staff and governors or the curriculum” at Sir John Cass.
A spokesman for the council said that Sir John Cass was “one of the best performing schools in London — however, all schools can improve, and we look forward to supporting the school in implementing the recommendations of the Ofsted report when it is published.”
He added “Local education authorities have no powers whatsoever over the educational conduct and performance of private schools. This remains the responsibility of Ofsted and other agencies. It is for the DfE to decide whether these arrangements are sufficient.
“Councils do have a safeguarding duty for all children within their boundaries, but this does not include the right to inspect and enter the premises of private educational establishments.”
Sir Michael Wilshaw, who heads Ofsted and last year reported to the Education Select Committee on the findings in Birmingham, made following contact information handed to Ofsted by whistle-blowers, has made it clear that no-notice inspections will take place more frequently in the future. According to the Times, 40 such inspections took place in England last month. The Siddeeq Academy, a private tuition centre located in Tower Hamlets, was also raided by police.