POLITICS

Schools May Be Ordered To 'Promote British Values' In Response to 'Trojan Horse' Affair

09/06/2014 16:16 BST | Updated 09/06/2014 16:59 BST
PA

Schools will be made to "actively promote British values", Michael Gove said 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, as well as the Education Funding Agency (EFA), warning that all schools could now be subjected to unannounced inspections while schools that have failed will be taken over and put under new leadership.

His comments came as Ofsted issued a damning verdict on the running of a number of Birmingham's schools.

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 (PVET), 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''.

And 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.

In a Commons statement immediately before Gove, Theresa May dismissed claims that her explosive row with the education secretary over extremism is part of a Conservative Party leadership battle.

The home secretary said she would not dignify with a response veteran Labour MP Dennis Skinner's allegation that the pair were locked in a battle over succession as she faced a Commons grilling.

Skinner claimed the briefing war between the two Cabinet ministers was part of a fight over who is going to succeed David Cameron as Tory leader, with Gove reportedly favouring George Osborne, who sat next to him in the Commons today, over May.

In a statement to the Commons, Gove warned that in future any school could be subjected to tough, on-the-spot, inspections "with no advance warning and no opportunities to conceal failure".

He acknowledged that there were questions for the Department for Education, Ofsted and Birmingham City Council about whether there were "warning signs" of problems in Birmingham schools that had been missed.

"We must all acknowledge there has been a failure in the past to do everything possible to tackle non-violent extremism," Gove said.

He went to say that independent schools, academies and free schools are required to "respect British values", and there will now be a consultation on new rules to ensure that "all schools actively promote British values".

There will also be tougher rules making clear that a teacher can be banned from the profession for inviting an extremist speaker into a school.

In an advice note to Gove outlining Ofsted's findings, chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw warned that Birmingham City Council had failed to support a number of schools in the area in their efforts to protect pupils from the "risks of radicalisation and extremism".

He also revealed that some headteachers told inspectors that there had been an organised campaign to target certain schools in the city to change their "character and ethos".

"In several of the schools inspected, children are being badly prepared for life in modern Britain," Sir Michael concluded.

Ofsted has published the findings of its visits to 21 schools, all inspected after a letter - now widely believed to be a hoax - came to light, which referred to an alleged plot by hardline Muslims to seize control of a number of school governing boards in Birmingham.

The five placed in special measures as a result of the recent inspections are Golden Hillock School, Nansen Primary School, Park View Academy - all run by the Park View Educational Trust (PVET) - Oldknow Academy and Saltley School. A sixth - Alston Primary - was already in special measures.

In his note, Sir Michael said that some headteachers revealed that they had been marginalised or forced out of their jobs.

Many school staff were frightened of expressing views that went against those that were promoted by their school's governors. In one case, a school leader was so worried about talking to inspectors that they had to arrange a meeting in a supermarket car park.