Trojan horse: teachers may face misconduct hearings

Jul 23, 2014 by

New education secretary also says she will look at allowing Ofsted to inspect academies in wake of scandal

Teachers involved in allowing extremism in Birmingham schools will face misconduct hearings after a report found a “disturbing” effort by Islamic hardliners to gain control of some schools in the city, Nicky Morgan, the education secretary, has said.

Describing the report as “upsetting”, the new cabinet minister said she would appoint a new school commissioner for Birmingham and ordered Sir Bob Kerslake, the former head of the civil service, to review governance within the city’s council.

Morgan also said she would look at allowing Ofsted to inspect academy chains – a move previously resisted by Michael Gove, her predecessor who was sacked in the reshuffle last week and moved to the role of chief whip.

Meanwhile, one of the schools caught up in the Trojan horse allegations has had its government funding stopped. Morgan told the Commons that the education minister Lord Nash had written to Oldknow Academy in Birmingham to terminate its funding “in light of manifest breaches”. Nash, in his letter to Oldknow’s chairman of governors, Achmad Da Costa, said: “I am not satisfied, and do not believe that I can be reasonably satisfied, with the [your] response.

He added: “Accordingly, I will proceed to terminate the funding agreement.”

A further letter from the minister states the Department for Education will revisit the school in October, to scrutinise its action plan.

It concludes: “I should once more remind you that the consequences of any continued failure to meet the standards are very serious.

“If the academy is not, at the time of the next inspection, meeting the standards, it is highly likely an immediate move will be made to delete the academy from the Register of Independent Schools.”

The report by Peter Clarke, the former head of the Metropolitan police’s counter-terrorism command, found there was a “co-ordinated, deliberate and sustained action to introduce an intolerant and aggressive Islamic ethos into a few schools in Birmingham”.

His investigation was ordered after the emergence of an anonymous “Trojan horse” letter alleging a plot by radical Islamists to take over some Birmingham schools. Clarke said there was no evidence of radicalisation, violence or encouragement of terrorism, but the letter also contained a “great deal that was true”, including efforts to remove headteachers who did not conform with the wishes of governors.

He said the aggressive Islamic ethos could “limit the life chances of the young people in their care and render them more vulnerable to pernicious influences in the future”.

“This has been achieved in a number of schools through gaining influence on the governing bodies, installing sympathetic headteachers or senior members of staff, appointing like-minded people to key positions, and seeking to remove headteachers who they do not feel to be sufficiently compliant with their agenda,” the report said.

“The existence of a common ideological stance among key linked individuals in this inquiry, the taking of control of governing bodies and the implementation of conservative religious practices in the schools where these individuals have influence, means that there can be no doubt that what has happened has been driven by a desire to instil a particular style of religious ethos into these state non-faith schools.”

Morgan said some teachers were likely to face disciplinary action and the National College for Teaching and Leadership would take the evidence provided by Clarke “so that its misconduct panel can consider whether any teachers involved should be barred from the profession”.

“What Peter Clarke found is disturbing,” she said. “His report sets out compelling evidence of a determined effort by people with a shared ideology to gain control of the governing bodies of a small number of schools in Birmingham.

“Teachers have said they fear children are learning to be intolerant of difference and diversity. Instead of enjoying a broadening and enriching experience in school, young people are having their horizons narrowed and are being denied the opportunity to flourish in a modern multicultural Britain.”

Tristram Hunt, the shadow education secretary, said Morgan’s actions did not go far enough and come after four years of warnings about failings in the oversight of academies.

“Ministers were warned about the failings in Birmingham’s schools in 2010. Instead of taking decisive action, we have had years of inertia,” he said. “David Cameron’s schools policy has left our schools too open and too exposed to risk and falling standards.

“We have seen no change in course in response to the dangerous lack of local oversight in our school system, the results of which we have seen played out in Birmingham’s schools. Labour will introduce directors of school standards in every local area to hold all schools to account, respond to early warning signs and support all schools to improve.”

Liam Byrne, a shadow minister and MP for Birmingham Hodge Hill, called on Morgan to apologise and take more responsibility for the Department for Education’s role, as the report had painted a “very sorry picture of oversight”.

Earlier, he said the Birmingham education system felt almost as fragmented as the Balkans and that some schools needed a completely new ethos.

Before the official publication, Byrne called on Morgan to concentrate on winning back the trust of parents, rather than resorting to Gove’s “divisive rhetoric”.

“What we have got to do now in our city is we have now got to move on. And what that means is that we need both governors and government who are committed to fostering that sense of common good. Now that means school governors who don’t promote an ethos in which other faiths and ideas are done down,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“It does also mean that we need ministers who drop the divisive rhetoric which Mr Gove has used in the past, like ‘draining the swamp’, or people on a ‘conveyor-belt to terrorism’. At times in east Birmingham we have felt like we are just a football in Michael Gove’s culture wars. That has been deeply damaging to parents’ confidence. They have felt alienated from what should have been a thorough inquiry into what was going on with their kids’ education.

“So I’m afraid the task for Nicky Morgan now as secretary of state is to bring people back together. And, crucially, they have got to tell us how we are actually going to raise standards in Birmingham because our school system is so fragmented it feels at times likes the Balkans.

“And what we now need is someone who is going to take clear ownership of raising school standards.”

via Trojan horse: teachers may face misconduct hearings, says Morgan | Education |

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