UK & World News
'Evidence' Of Islamist School Takeover Plot
There is "clear evidence" of an Islamist takeover plot at Birmingham schools, a Government-led inquiry has found.
School groups and governors were involved in "coordinated, deliberate and sustained action" to instil an "intolerant and aggressive Islamist ethos" at some city schools, the report by the former head of the Metropolitan Police Counter-Terrorism Unit Peter Clarke has concluded.
Commenting on his findings, Mr Clarke voiced concerns the infiltration of the city schools by hard line Islamist groups could lead to the radicalisation of students in the future.
He said Birmingham City Council had failed to do anything about widespread concerns over the takeover and that senior officers were aware of the problems as early as 2012 but did not act.
Concerns over so-called "Trojan Horse" practices were set out in a letter written in November 2013 and handed to Birmingham City Council. It was passed to the Home Office in January and then to the Department for Education.
The letter was leaked to the media at the beginning of the year, sparking public concern, but the report found the council knew about the problem "long before the letter surfaced".
The letter claimed Islamists were identifying schools for takeover, targeting sympathetic parents and then installing their own governors, head teachers and staff, ousting incumbents with PR campaigns.
While the council dismissed the letter as a hoax, Mr Clarke said the Trojan Horse practices it detailed were accurate, saying there was evidence teachers were bullied and intimidated and those who did not conform made the subject of governor complaints.
He said in a number of cases head teachers who raised concerns were drummed out of their positions, one accused of Islamophobia, and their concerns were second to those of governors.
At Park View Academy, one of the schools at the centre of the plot, the report - commissioned by former education secretary Michael Gove in April - found teachers at the school who referred to themselves as the "Park View Brotherhood" frequently exchanged extremist views on social media.
The report said: "The all-male group discussions include explicit homophobia; highly offensive comments about British service personnel; a stated ambition to increase segregation in the school; disparagement of strands of Islam; scepticism about the truth of reports of the murder of Lee Rigby and the Boston bombings; and a constant undercurrent of anti-Western, anti-American and anti-Israeli sentiment."
The council was more concerned with the impact on community cohesion than the effect on education, the report found.
Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said the report's conclusions were "disturbing" and the Department of Education would "take action to put things right".
A report in 21 of Birmingham schools by the schools inspectorate Ofsted last month found there was a "culture of fear and intimidation" and that governors had exerted an "inappropriate influence" over how they were run.
As a result Park View Academy, its sister academy Golden Hillock and Nansen Primary School - all run by the Park View Educational Trust - were put into special measures.
Oldknow School, a primary school, and Saltley, a secondary school, which are overseen by Birmingham City Council, are also in special measures.
Last week Park View Educational Trust chairman Tahir Alam and the entire board of trustees resigned.