SCHOOLS will be made to actively promote British values, Michael Gove revealed today as it was confirmed that five Birmingham schools have been placed into special measures in the wake of the “Trojan Horse” allegations.
The Education Secretary told MPs that the Government will take “decisive action” following the findings of Ofsted while the Education Funding Agency (EFA), warned that all schools could now be subjected to unannounced inspections.
Mr Gove’s comments came as Ofsted issued a damning verdict on the running of a number of Birmingham’s schools and his row with Home Secretary Theresa May was the subject of a stormy debate in the House of Commons.
Inspections conducted following claims of a takeover plot by hardline Muslims found that a “culture of fear and intimidation” has developed in some schools and, in several, governors exerted “inappropriate influence” over how they are being run. A separate EFA report into Park View Educational Trust, which runs three of the schools rated inadequate by Ofsted and has been at the heart of the alleged takeover plot, concluded it has “many weaknesses’’ and restricted its curriculum to a “conservative Islamic perspective”.
The trust has rejected the Ofsted report and is considering legal action. The EFA’s report into Oldknow Academy, another school placed into special measures, found it was “taking on the practices of an Islamic faith school” and had excluded non-Muslim staff and pupils from an annual trip to Saudi Arabia for three years running.
The story started with an unsigned letter, believed to be a hoax, which became public several months ago. It referred to an alleged five-point plot - dubbed Operation Trojan Horse - by hardline Muslims to seize control of the governing boards of several Birmingham schools. It sparked investigations by the local council, Ofsted and the EFA and has also led to a high profile row between Mr Gove and Mrs May.
Labour claimed today that Mr Gove’s education policy was in “disarray” while they accused the Government of being more concerned about “warring egos” than school standards.
Prime Minister David Cameron faced accusations he is unable to control his Cabinet after the dispute between Education Secretary and Home Secretary over “extremism” escalated.
Shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt warned ministers were continuing to get involved with internal matters rather than prioritise children in Birmingham. He also insisted it must be clearer what a state education should offer to children of all faiths and no faiths in multi-cultural Britain.
Replying to Mr Gove’s statement, Mr Hunt told the Commons: “The events in Birmingham reveal an education policy in disarray, a Government more concerned about warring egos than school standards and a Prime Minister unable to control his Cabinet. But while ministers carry on their briefings, sackings and apology, the education and safeguarding of children in the great city of Birmingham has to be this House’s priority.” Home Secretary Theresa May has insisted she did not authorise the release of an explosive letter to Mr Gove criticising his department’s failure to tackle extremism in schools. Mrs May said an inquiry by Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood had cleared her of responsibility for releasing the letter,
“As the Cabinet Secretary and Prime Minister concluded, I did not authorise the release of my letter to the Education Secretary,” she told MPs. However she did not respond to a suggestion by Labour that she had written the letter in order that it could be leaked after learning Mr Gove had attacked the Home Office’s record on extremism.
Five Birmingham schools have been declared failing following 21 inspections as a result of the “Trojan Horse” allegations.
These were Golden Hillock School, Sparkhill Saltley School, Park View School Academy, Oldknow Academy, Small Heath and Nansen Primary School. In an highly unusual report, Oldknow Academy was found to be outstanding for achievement of pupils and quality of teaching but given an overall rating of inadequate by Ofsted, because of failings in the school’s leadership and management as well as the behaviour and safety of pupils.
The last inspection by Ofsted was in January last year when it was rated as outstanding overall.