School investigators find no sign of Birmingham extremism but PM promises ‘robust’ response
DAVID CAMERON stood accused of whipping up Islamophobia yesterday after promising a “robust” campaign to monitor Muslim community schools.
The Prime Minister continued to ramp up his rhetoric despite investigators finding no evidence at the 21 under-suspicion Birmingham schools that they had fostered religious hatred.
“Protecting our children is one of the first duties of government and that is why the issue of alleged Islamist extremism in Birmingham schools demands a robust response,” declared Mr Cameron.
Inspectors did criticise the management of some schools. hree academies run by Park View Educational Trust are to be placed in special measures, while educational standards at a sixth were labelled “poor.”
Education Secretary Michael Gove said he would cut funding for several privately managed academies, but said he would be seeking new sponsors to take them over.
National Union of Teachers general secretary Christine Blower condemned the government’s response as “highly inflammatory,” “unprecedented and clearly political.”
But she added that it was ironic that the Con-Dem Cabinet had aggressively pursued the creation of faith schools under their free school and academies agenda.
“What all this does show is that if schools sever their connection with a local authority, the levers to monitor or effect change available at local level are lost,” she said.
Allegations of an “extremist plot” in schools were splashed across front pages in March.
An undated, unsigned letter was alleged to represent the leak of a five-point plan by hard-line Islamic fundamentalists to seize control of Birmingham’s schools through strategic appointments and dismissals, dubbed Operation Trojan Horse.
The allegations are now widely believed to have been a hoax but sparked four separate investigations into 21 schools, drawing on officials from the Department for Education, Birmingham City Council and West Midlands Police.
Two of those bodies — the Education Funding Agency and school inspectors Ofsted — filed reports yesterday finding no evidence of the alleged plot, although investigators suggested that several schools had held classes or assemblies discussing Christianity “especially for our benefit.”
Park View Educational Trust vice-chairman David Hughes defended the three academies it runs, saying: “Ofsted inspectors came to our schools looking for extremism, looking for segregation, looking for proof that our children have religion forced upon them as part of an Islamic plot.
“The Ofsted reports find absolutely no evidence of this because this is categorically not what is happening at our schools — our schools do not tolerate or promote extremism of any kind.”
Hands Off Birmingham Schools, a new grass-roots campaign group led by former Respect Party leader Salma Yaqoob, also dismissed Ofsted’s inspections as politically motivated.
She urged Mr Gove to “listen to the voices of the children, parents and community in Birmingham,” adding: “We are standing up for multicultural education in this diverse city which is inclusive of all our children.”