OFSTED’S CHIEF inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw has singled out Bradford as an area where missing children could be at risk of exposure to extremism.
He claimed the education watchdog’s work to protect children would be a “waste of time” if local authorities do not improve the tracking of pupils who leave mainstream education.
Sir Michael Wilshaw highlighted Birmingham, Luton and Bradford as areas of “concern” over the threat of extremism in a letter to Education Secretary Nicky Morgan.
However a leading opposition councillor in Bradford has criticised Sir Michael for making what he described as “unsupported allegations.”
Sir Michael’s focus on Birmingham follows the events of the ‘Trojan Horse’ scandal which centred on an alleged move by a small group of hard-line Muslims to seize control of a small number of the city’s schools.
The allegations sparked investigations by several agencies including the Department for Education and Ofsted. An investigation ordered by the government found a “sustained, co-ordinated agenda to impose segregationist attitudes and practices of a hardline, politicised strain of Sunni Islam” in several schools. Sir Michael has also criticised authorities in Bradford before over unregistered schools in the city. Earlier this year he asked Bradford Council staff if they were being ‘naive’ when it comes to understanding how children are being educated, and asked for evidence on what ‘intelligence’ they had gathered on unregistered schools.
At the time the then Council leader David Green said that the authority was not aware of any illegal schools operating in the city. Coun Green had said the council was happy for Ofsted inspectors to come in and look at whether the council was getting intelligence and acting on it.
Now the leader of the Conservative group on Bradford Council Simon Cooke has questioned Sir Michael’s latest comments.
He said: “I am very disappointed that Sir Michael has chosen to name Bradford as failing to safeguard children from extremism, in his memo to the Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan.
“He is repeating a comment that he made months ago now and at that time many people questioned what evidence, if any, there was that this was a problem in Bradford.
“Sir Michael hasn’t been near the education department in Bradford since March 1 and I would love to know, upon what basis he has advised the Education Secretary that we have an ‘urgent and escalating problem’ with our safeguarding actions.
“It should not be the case that, as a result of his comments, many local residents may perceive there to possibly be numerous children at risk of harm, exploitation or the risk of falling under the influence of extremist views, due to failings of the council’s education staff, when there is no evidence of a single illegal school operating within the Bradford district.”
Sir Michael’s letter to Mrs Morgan says it is two years since he wrote to her predecessor, Michael Gove, following inspections of 21 state schools in Birmingham, warning that the local council had failed to help schools to keep pupils safe from the potential risks of radicalisation and extremism. Schools that were placed in special measures as a result were now “generally improving”, he said. Sir Michael calls on Mrs Morgan to agree for an Ofsted inspector to be assigned to local authorities where the Government considers that children “are at a greater risk of radicalisation.”