Trojan Horse: EFA Finds Evidence Birmingham's Oldknow Academy Turned Into Islamic Faith School

EFA Finds Evidence That Birmingham Academy Has Been Turned Into Islamic Faith School
The EFA is reported to have found segregated classrooms with girls seated behind boys
The EFA is reported to have found segregated classrooms with girls seated behind boys
Oldknow Academy

An investigation at a highly-rated academy into an alleged school takeover plot by hard-line Muslims found governors had effectively turned it into a faith school, it is reported. Oldknow Academy in Birmingham "is taking on the practices of an Islamic faith school and in this regard is not promoting community cohesion", according to a report by Education Funding Agency (EFA) inspectors leaked to The Sunday Times.

The academy in Small Heath, whose intake is majority Muslim, is one of 21 city schools which have been investigated over the Trojan Horse allegations. Education watchdog Ofsted, which has carried out its own fresh inspection to be published on Monday, gave the academy an "outstanding" rating the last time it visited in 2013, praising the school's tolerance, high quality teaching and its "highly ambitious" governors.

However, the EFA is reported to have found segregated classrooms with girls seated behind boys, and recorded an allegation that a hard-line teacher led anti-Christian chants at the school - though it is understood the most recent Ofsted report found no evidence of that incident.

It is also reported Christmas events were cancelled and taxpayer's cash was used to subsidise a school trip to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, from which non-Muslims were excluded. Ofsted is reportedly set to rate the school as inadequate following a more recent inspection in April, triggered by the Trojan Horse allegations.

The school's lawyers are considering a legal challenge to the inspection process, according to The Sunday Times. Yesterday, it was widely reported one of the schools at the centre of the alleged plot, Park View School in Alum Rock - rated outstanding in 2012 - will also be downgraded to inadequate by Ofsted.

The school is run by the Park View Educational Trust, which also includes the city's Nansen Primary and Golden Hillock Schools, both of which will also reportedly be given inadequate ratings and look set to be placed in special measures, with their governing boards replaced. The trust said it rejected the inspectors' findings pointing out Ofsted found "no suggestion" of extremism or radicalisation within its schools' classrooms.

Saltley School, which was one of the first originally named in the alleged plot, is also reportedly to be given Ofsted's lowest rating. The Trojan Horse allegations came to light after a letter emerged claiming existence of a five-point plan for hard-line Muslims to seize control of schools by installing friendly governors, then marginalising and forcing-out uncooperative headteachers.

The unsigned, undated letter is now widely regarded as a hoax, but prompted four separate investigations by Ofsted and the Department for Education, under orders from Michael Gove, as well as West Midlands Police and Birmingham City Council. The city council has put a stop on recruiting any local education authority governors since the crisis broke.

Theresa May's special adviser has quit as the crisis deepened over the so-called Trojan Horse letter

Gove's decision to appoint former Metropolitan Police counter terrorism chief Peter Clarke as an education commissioner to run a separate investigation was criticised by the Muslim community and the chief constable of West Midlands Police Chris Sims who called it "desperately unfortunate", because of the "unwarranted" conclusions which would be drawn given his anti-terror background.

Gove has apologised over a cabinet row with home secretary Theresa May over how best to deal with extremism, and a claim the education secretary's department was warned of concerns Muslim radicals were taking over city classrooms in 2010. May's closest adviser Fiona Cunningham has also resigned over the spat, after the Prime Minister David Cameron vowed to "sort-out" the row.

William Hague, Foreign Secretary, said earlier the Government would take a "robust" approach to extremism in schools. On Monday, Ofsted will formally publish all 21 school reports - three of which have received a clean bill of health - and the education secretary is expected to make a statement to the House of Commons.

The latest inspection findings will mark a stark turnaround for Oldknow, which became an academy in April 2012. In the school's glowing 2013 Ofsted, inspectors said pupils' achievement was outstanding and was "all the more remarkable" given the vast majority of pupils spoke English only as a second language.

Inspectors observed "a very wide range of different cultures is celebrated" and "assemblies reflect the different faiths groups in the academy". The use of school funding to "subsidise trips and even large-scale trips, such as the ones to Saudi Arabia" was viewed as a positive by Ofsted, because it allowed pupils from poorer backgrounds go abroad.

Samir Rauf, a teacher at the school for 10 years speaking to Channel 4 News last week, said he could not see how inspections had concluded the academy had been turned into a faith school. "I can't see how that can happen, it's an academy," he said. He said the launch of investigations over the alleged plot "really does make me wonder what the world's coming to".


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