Operation Trojan Horse: Michael Gove Is Not Happy When He's Asked About The 'Islamist School Plot'

Michael Gove Is Not Happy When He's Asked About The 'Islamist School Plot'

Michael Gove has been forced to deny that the Government has been irrevocably damaged by his public spat with cabinet colleague Theresa May over the so-called 'Islamist plot' to take over schools in Birmingham.

Questioned about if the spat with the Home Secretary over the 'Trojan Horse' letter had left him considering his position in cabinet, or damaged the reputation of the government, Gove responded with a curt "no".

The Education Secretary's brief response came at a Policy Exchange event in central London as it was reported that a school mired in the Islamist controversy in Birmingham was told it faces being downgraded in a damning Ofsted report.

The school mired in the Islamist "Trojan Horse" controversy will be told that it faces being downgraded in a damning Ofsted report

The Guardian said Park View academy in Birmingham would be labelled as "inadequate" after inspectors found it has failed to adequately tackle extremism.

It is one of 21 schools in the city being inspected after claims in a letter - now widely believed to be a hoax - referred to an alleged plot by hard-line Muslims to seize control of governing boards in the city, dubbed Operation Trojan Horse.

On Thursday Golden Hillock academy, which like Park View is run by the Park View Educational Trust (PVET), revealed it was declared to be failing by Ofsted and put in special measures, a judgment the trust condemned, denying it was an inadequate school.

The Education Secretary refused to expand on his one word answer as he was pressed about the impact of the row over tackling extremism and slipped out of a side entrance at Microsoft's central London offices where the event was held, avoiding further questions from reporters.

Ofsted's inspections into all 21 schools are to be released on Monday.

But the report into Park View, in Alum Rock, says it is "not doing enough to keep students safe, including raising students' awareness of the risks of extremism", the Guardian said.

The report is not thought to have uncovered any evidence of extremist behaviour, but it says students at the predominantly Muslim school have a limited understanding of different cultures, arts and beliefs and are not prepared properly to live in a multicultural society.

Among other findings, speakers brought in to the school were not vetted, and pupils are not taught how to use the internet safely.

Staff are reportedly scared of speaking out and feel intimidated and some feel governors inappropriately involve themselves in the running of the school. Education about sex is also ineffective, and pupils are not equipped to protect themselves from bullying.

Ofsted recommended the school should "urgently improve systems for safeguarding students", the Guardian said, and make better use of the Government's Prevent anti-extremism programme.

Park View said Ofsted made "absolutely no suggestion, nor did they find any evidence, that Park View schools either promote or tolerate extremism or radicalisation", the newspaper reported.

The school's educational trust added: "Park View works with the Prevent team and students across the school on preventing violent extremism and addressing the risks of being groomed towards having a right-wing ideology.

"The Prevent team have been welcomed without restriction into Park View School and have done more work here than with many other schools."

The Trojan Horse letter, which was unsigned, undated and first sent to council officials and teaching unions late last year, has sparked several separate investigations including by Birmingham City Council, West Midlands Police, the Department for Education and Ofsted.

Tristram Hunt, shadow education secretary, said Ofsted should be given new "broader criteria" for inspections to tackle concerns pupils were not being afforded enough protection from extremism and radicalisation in schools, nationally.

Pointing to Park View academy, he asked how inspectors working to the current framework back in 2012 gave the school Ofsted's highest rating of outstanding, when they had now rated it as inadequate using the same criteria.

Speaking to Radio 4's Today programme, he said: "I don't think the inspection criteria is fit for purpose, in the kind of schooling we want".

He added: "We want a much broader criteria to ensure that we don't have these problems arise."

Hunt also called for local oversight of schools, with directors on the ground in charge of driving school standards in a bid to avoid the problems now affecting Birmingham.

He said: "You can't run all these schools from behind a desk in Whitehall so we need local systems of oversight and accountability.

"We need a local director of school standards so we don't end up like the kind of situation we're seeing in Birmingham which is of national significance."

Meanwhile, the former leader of Respect and a former city councillor, Salma Yaqoob, said the "trickle" of leaked reports, including most recently Park View's, had "thoroughly damaged the reputation of Birmingham's schools and children" while there was still "no evidence" of a radical Muslim plot.

Yaqoob, who lives in Birmingham, claimed the Ofsted inspections "were not impartial" and that "the view on the ground is this is political interference - Michael Gove is the education secretary and his views are well known".

She told Radio 4's Today programme: "It seems the kids of Birmingham are already damned as being extremists before the official Ofsted report.

"I'm a Birmingham mom, I don't want to see extremism in Birmingham, I don't want to see any extremism in schools yet I have still to find any shred of evidence what extremism plot was going on.

"How are the kids being radicalised, are the kids doing something dangerous? Yet instead we've had this political footballing going on."

Park View said it did not accept Ofsted's findings, which will see it downgraded.

It added: "Ofsted judges that Park View is not doing enough to raise students' awareness of the 'risks of extremism'. We reject this."

Park View said there was "an open working environment" but accepted improvements in areas like staff pay, recruitment and progression could be made.

However, it said "a disillusioned workforce would soon result in (academic) standards slipping" and this had not been the case with three quarters of GCSE pupils earning grades A* - C, including maths and English, last year.


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