Two years after hard-line Muslims were discovered trying to take over schools in the city of Birmingham in a so-called ‘Trojan Horse’ plot, children in the city are not being kept safe, the chief inspector of schools has said.
In a letter addressed to Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, Sir Michael Wilshaw, who chairs school inspection group Ofsted, says he still has concerns about the city’s ability to ensure the safety of its children.
Birmingham was the focus of the so-called “Trojan Horse” scandal in 2014, in which a group of fundamentalist Muslims allegedly tried to take over a number of secular state schools and impose Islamic law on the staff and students.
The claims led to a series of investigations and school inspections.
In his letter, reported in the Telegraph, Sir Michael writes that inspectors visited 21 schools, and says the local council had failed to help schools combat radicalism.
“The schools that were placed in special measures as a result of Ofsted’s findings have undergone changes of leadership and governance in the intervening period and are now generally improving,” Sir Michael said.
“Two of the schools at the centre of the so-called ‘Trojan Horse’ episode have been upgraded from inadequate to good in their recent re-inspections.”
He says he has continued to visit the city, meeting with various officials:
“As a result of these discussions, I am quite clear that, although many of these schools have improved and children are now much safer, the situation remains fragile.
“While the overwhelming majority of parents support the changes that have taken place over the past two years, there are a minority of people in the community who are still intent on destabilising these schools.”
Meanwhile, the council is failing badly to improve its performance:
“Birmingham’s political leaders, in my opinion, have consistently shown themselves to be incapable of delivering the urgent and sustained change required to improve the safety and well-being of the city’s vulnerable children.”
Sir Michael also says there are not stringent enough checks on children whose parents choose to educate them at home, as well as those at private schools.
“In previous advice letters, I have highlighted the potential risks to those children who are being educated at home or in unregistered schools, as well as those attending some independent faith schools.
“I have also identified issues around the ineffective tracking by some local authorities of pupils who are taken out of mainstream schools at points other than the usual transition dates.”
In the wake of the investigation, several Muslim teachers were found guilty of malpractice at tribunals, with one being banned from teaching for five years for exerting an “undue amount of religious influence” on students.
Some schools were also found to have stopped marking Christian celebrations such as Christmas and Easter, but introduced the celebration of Muslims festivals and even sent children on pilgrimages.