Executive Summary: When the Council first got the letter it concluded that ‘The motivation was seen as an attempt to raise community tension and defusing this threat was seen as more important than speculating on the origins of the letter’. And ‘We have not been able to form any conclusion about whether there is any substance to the claims surrounding Operation Trojan Horse made in the document’. Meanwhile ‘West Midlands Police passed a copy of the letter to the Home Office in December 2013, who in turn passed it to the Department for Education. The Department for Education began to investigate the allegations. Redacted copies of the letter were circulated by unknown hand to a number of headteachers in Birmingham at the end of January 2014 and the beginning of February 2014, and were passed to union representatives who in turn contacted the Department for Education. Organisations such as the British Humanist Association contacted the Department for Education in early 2014 with concerns about the activity and behaviour of the senior management team and governing body at Park View School: The Academy of Mathematics and Science, whilst a former member of the governing body at Golden Hillock School also contacted the Department with concerns, including about the circumstances under which the former headteacher had left his position.’
Regarding the Trojan Horse letter, Clarke does not seek to establish whether it is a hoax – just whether what is says is true. Here he concludes that ‘It quickly became apparent to me that although there are some factual inaccuracies in the letter, there is also a great deal that is true, some of which had not previously been in the public domain.’ In fact ‘senior officers were aware of practices subsequently referred to in the ‘Trojan Horse’ letter as early as the end of 2012, and discussions on this issue took place between officers and elected members in May 2013. This is some six months prior to the ‘Trojan Horse’ letter being received by the Leader of the Council.’
In terms of what has actually happened in the schools, ‘In summary, there has been a determined effort to gain control of governing bodies at a small number of schools by people who are associated with each other. Once in a position to do so, they have sought to introduce a distinct set of Islamic behaviours and religious practices.’ In terms of whether this ‘is simply a case of the schools looking to respond to the wishes and aspirations of their local communities, or whether it is the case that a group of people who hold a particular ideological position are looking to impose their view of required behaviour for all Muslims into school life’, ‘There is ample evidence that individuals who hold or have held key positions in the schools have a shared ideological basis to their faith. During the investigation I took possession of the contents of a social media discussion between a group of teachers at Park View School that for much of 2013 was called the ‘Park View Brotherhood’. It was initiated and administered by Mr Monzoor Hussain, the Acting Principal, and was joined by influential teachers within the school. The evidence from more than 3,000 messages spread over 130 pages of transcript shows that this group either promoted or failed to challenge views that are grossly intolerant of beliefs and practices other than their own. 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. Some postings were challenged by the administrator, Mr Hussain, but generally only where criticism was made of other Muslim groups. The numerous endorsements of hyperlinks to extremist speakers betray a collective mind-set that can fairly be described as an intolerant Islamist approach that denies the validity of alternative beliefs, lifestyles and value systems, including within Islam itself.’
On extremism, Clarke says that ‘I neither specifically looked for nor found evidence of terrorism, radicalisation or violent extremism in the schools of concern in Birmingham. However, by reference to the definition of extremism in the Prevent strand of the Government’s counter terrorist strategy, CONTEST, and the spectrum of extremism described by the Prime Minister in his Munich speech in February 2011, I found clear evidence that there are a number of people, associated with each other and in positions of influence in schools and governing bodies, who espouse, endorse or fail to challenge extremist views.’
The ‘Trojan Horse’ letter: ‘The Department for Education received the letter on 13 December from West Midlands Police via the Home Office. Officials started to gather facts and brief Ministers. At the very end of January, they were contacted by a national campaigning organisation [the BHA] that put them in touch with whistleblowers who had information about Park View School’.
‘There is also a section in the letter that refers to events at Saltley School and Specialist Science College, where at the time the then headteacher, Balwant Bains, was negotiating his resignation. The letter states that ‘Balwant Bains will soon be sacked and we will move in’. Bearing in mind that the letter was received by Birmingham City Council in early December 2013, it is concerning that the Council continued to negotiate the terms of Mr Bains’ resignation and signed a compromise agreement with him on 2 January 2014. The story of Balwant Bains illustrates many of the themes that have emerged during my investigation, and is dealt with in some detail within the report.’ This gets its own chapter.
What are the specific patterns of behaviour observed? Five themes, namely:
The ideological agenda in Birmingham schools: What happened ‘appears to be a deliberate attempt to convert secular state schools into exclusive faith schools in all but name.’ It ‘stems from an international movement to increase the role of Islam in education’ which is supported by the Association of Muslim Schools–UK, the MCB and others. Tahir Alam’s 2007 MCB report is cited and summarised.
Park View Educational Trust: There are two diagrams showing ‘The extent of Mr Alam’s extensive local and national connections’, including being a governor of a bewildering array of schools. He is also on Birmingham SACRE (see also its 2012-13 annual report). The 2007 MCB report is referenced, and ways in which Park View reflects it are pointed out, e.g. SRE ‘being taught with reference to an Islamic moral framework under which boyfriend/girlfriend relationships as well as homosexual relationships are not acceptable.’ The school ‘sought to export its Islamising blueprint’ to other schools. A long list of the ‘most concerning features’ are reported as alleged, including ‘IT technicians recording what appeared to be Al Qaeda terrorist videos into a DVD format’, ‘the only three staff allowed to deliver Sex and Relationships Education to boys refusing to discuss AIDS on the basis that a good Muslim only had sex with his wife and therefore did not need to know about safe sex’, ‘an assembly where pupils were told that if they did not pray they were worse than a kaffir (a derogatory term for non-Muslims), supported by a poster with the same message’, and other allegations also seen elsewhere.
The Park View Brotherhood: This was the name of a WhatsApp group made up of staff at the Park View schools, administered by Mozz Hussain, until March 2014. Peter Clarke has got hold of these messages. Mozz and Razwan Faraz (Vice Principal at Nansen) are identified, while ten further male teachers are referred to anonymously. Some of the postings are homophobic, for example upon seeing LGBT resources for schools, Razwan posted ‘These animals are going out full force. As teachers we must be aware and counter their satanic ways of influencing young people’. They also include ‘a proposal to use their schoolchildren in a political campaign [namely signing an e-petition calling for proscription of the EDL]. There is also an undercurrent of anti-Western sentiment, explicit antagonism towards the British military, a sceptical reaction to news of terrorist attacks (Lee Rigby and the Boston bombings), and numerous links posted to extremist speakers. On two occasions… an offensive image of a lavatory roll imprinted with the Israeli flag was posted.’ Examples of specific exchanges are provided. It is recommended that ‘Department for Education should consider taking action against teachers who may have breached the teacher standards.’
Birmingham City Council’s role and their response to ‘Trojan Horse’ concerns: Essentially at a meeting in May 2013 it was decided by the Council that issues that had been raised ‘that the issues should be monitored through the prism of ‘community cohesion’’. This was essentially stuck to until the Council launched its inspection in April. One ex-headteacher described this as ’Authorities have prioritised the pleasing and appeasing of groups of adults – who are not necessarily representative of the wider parent bodies – over the entitlement of children’. Clarke agrees with this assessment. Three examples are given (Moseley, Golden Hillock and Saltley) of where governor-generated conflict has led to the Council being asked to remove the head or the governors with the Council removing the head through a compromise agreement each time. The Council did not look for patterns in this but dealt on a case by case basis.
Issues for the Department for Education and other organisations: This was the section that in the Guardian’s draft accused the DfE of ‘benign neglect’, but in the final version is weaker. Now it says ‘The autonomy granted to those who run academies is generally a welcome development yet can make those institutions vulnerable to those without good intentions. Academies are accountable to the Secretary of State but that accountability can prove inadequate in circumstances where the governors are pursuing an inappropriate agenda but where the educational and financial performance of the academy indicate that everything is fine.’ With regard to ‘what the Department for Education knew and when’, Clarke has ‘not looked into this as I am aware the Permanent Secretary at the Department has been commissioned to conduct a separate enquiry into this question.’
The NAHT is praised but other teaching unions are criticised as they ‘have not been proactive in assisting my enquiry and, indeed, in some cases, have been overtly critical of both the enquiry and my appointment… consideration of more systematic problems affecting their members appears to have been put to one side.’
It is recommended that ‘Ofsted should consider whether the existing inspection framework and associated guidance is capable of detecting indicators of extremism and ensuring that the character of a school is not changed substantively without following the proper process. This includes ensuring that the appropriate boundaries for a non-faith school are not breached.’
Governance – what happens in the schools: Evidence is given of poor financial management and inappropriate spending at Saltley, Oldknow’s school trips to Saudi Arabia, and other issues. It is recommended that no individual joins more than two governing bodies.
Conclusions: ’I have received evidence from witnesses who express three key concerns about the impact on children of what has happened. First, I have been told by teachers that they fear children are learning to be intolerant of difference and diversity. Second, although good academic results can be achieved through a narrowing of the curriculum, it comes at a cost. The cost is that young people, instead of enjoying a broadening and enriching experience in school, are having their horizons narrowed. They are not being prepared properly to flourish in the inevitably diverse environments of further education, the workplace or life outside predominantly Muslim communities. They are thus being potentially denied the opportunity to prosper in a modern multi-cultural Britain. Third, the very clear evidence that young people are being encouraged to adopt an unquestioning attitude to a particular hardline strand of Sunni Islam raises real concerns about their vulnerability to radicalisation in the future. I have heard evidence to the effect that there are real fears that their current experiences will make it harder for them to question or challenge radical influences.’
‘At the centre of what has happened are a number of individuals who have been, or are, associated with either Park View School or the Park View Educational Trust. Time and again, people who have been either teachers or governors at Park View, appear to be involved in behaviours at other schools that have destabilised headteachers, sometimes leading to their resignation or removal. The tactics that have been used are too similar , the individuals concerned too closely linked and the behaviour of a few parents and governors too orchestrated for there not to be a degree of co-ordination and organisation behind what has happened. The clear conclusion is that Park View Educational Trust has, in reality, become the incubator for much of what has happened and the attitudes and behaviours that have driven it.’
The annexes: Annex 1 is the terms of reference. Annex 2 is the Trojan Horse letter itself. Annex 3 is a timeline of events (mentioning the BHA’s role several times). Annex 4 is a map of schools, 5 gives an overview of ‘Schools where these behaviours were observed’ (including some detail of incidents not outlined elsewhere but quite like Ian Kershaw’s report), including a table of types of incident by school, while 6 summarises the 2007 MCB report.
Original story: Today has seen the publication of Peter Clarke’s report for the Department for Education (DfE) into the Birmingham schools at the centre of the so-called ‘Trojan Horse’ plot. The report has found ‘co-ordinated, deliberate and sustained action, carried out by a number of associated individuals, to introduce an intolerant and aggressive Islamic ethos into a few schools in Birmingham.’ The British Humanist Association (BHA), which in January facilitated a number of whistleblowers making complaints about Park View School, has called for a reassessment of the place of religion in schools.
The report found that ‘young people, instead of enjoying a broadening and enriching experience in school, are having their horizons narrowed. They are not being equipped to flourish in the inevitably diverse environments of further education, the workplace or indeed any environment outside predominantly Muslim communities. They are thus potentially denied the opportunity to enjoy and exploit to the full the opportunities of a modern multi-cultural Britain.’ It also found ‘very clear evidence that young people are being encouraged to accept unquestioningly a particular hardline strand of Sunni Islam’ which ‘raises concerns about their vulnerability to radicalisation in the future. I have heard evidence to the effect that there are real fears that their current experiences will make it harder for them to question or challenge radical influences.’
The report concludes that ‘At the centre of what has happened are a number of individuals who have been, or are, associated with either Park View School or the Park View Educational Trust. Time and again, people who have been either teachers or governors at Park View appear to be involved in behaviours at other schools that have destabilised headteachers, sometimes leading to their resignation or removal. The tactics used are too similar, the individuals concerned too closely linked, and the behaviour of a few parents and governors too orchestrated for there not to be a degree of co-ordination and organisation behind what has happened. The clear conclusion is that the Park View Educational Trust has, in effect, become the incubator for much of what has happened and the attitudes and behaviours that have driven it.
‘There has been co-ordinated, deliberate and sustained action, carried out by a number of associated individuals, to introduce an intolerant and aggressive Islamic ethos into a few schools in Birmingham. This has been achieved by gaining influence on the governing bodies, installing sympathetic headteachers or senior members of staff, appointing like-minded people to key positions, and seeking to remove headteachers they do not feel to be sufficiently compliant. Some of these individuals are named in this report; most are not. Whether their motivation reflects a political agenda, a deeply held religious conviction, personal gain or a desire to influence communities, the effect has been to limit the life chances of the young people in their care and to render them more vulnerable to pernicious influences in the future.’
Speaking on Friday upon the publication of Birmingham City Council’s own review, Sir Albert Bore, Leader of the Council, admitted ‘We have previously shied away from tackling this problem out of a misguided fear of being accused of racism.’ And the report itself found ‘a culture within BCC of not wanting to address difficult issues and problems with school governance where there is a risk that BCC may be accused of being racist or Islamophobic.’ The Clarke report concurs with these findings, quoting a witness as saying that ‘Authorities have prioritised the pleasing and appeasing of groups of adults – who are not necessarily representative of the wider parent bodies – over the entitlement of children’.
BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented, ‘It is deeply worrying that a fear of Islamophobia has led to the sort of discrimination against Muslims that those in positions of responsibility at the Council should actually be seeking to prevent. Today’s findings join the ample evidence of previous weeks to demonstrate the urgent need for a principled public policy conversation about the place of religion in schools. If children are to be protected and public authorities are not to retreat into vacillating self-censorship, we must ensure there is clarity about the entitlement of every young person to a broad and balanced curriculum, in an inclusive setting that treats everyone equally regardless of religion, belief, gender or sexual orientation. If such a reassessment is not made then we will only see the problems that have occurred in Birmingham repeat themselves elsewhere.’
For further comment or information contact Pavan Dhaliwal at email@example.com or on 020 7324 3065.
Read today’s report: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/335243/Report_into_allegations_concerning_Birmingham_schools_arising_from_the_Trojan_Horse_letter-web.pdf
Read Nicky Morgan’s statement in Parliament: https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/oral-statement-by-nicky-morgan-on-the-trojan-horse-letter
The report states that ‘Organisations such as the British Humanist Association contacted the Department for Education in early 2014 with concerns about the activity and behaviour of the senior management team and governing body at Park View School: The Academy of Mathematics and Science… The Department for Education received the [Trojan Horse] letter on 13 December from West Midlands Police via the Home Office. Officials started to gather facts and brief Ministers. At the very end of January, they were contacted by a national campaigning organisation that put them in touch with whistleblowers who had information about Park View School.’ It goes on to note in the timeline that on 31 January, ‘The British Humanist Association contacts DfE saying that they have received allegations about “inappropriate teaching and leadership behaviour” at Park View School from former members of staff.’ On 3 February ‘The British Humanist Association complaint about Park View School is forwarded to Ofsted by DfE.’ On 5 February ‘DfE official talks directly to whistleblower about concerns that they raised via the British Humanist Association about Park View School.’ It wasn’t until 23 February that ‘Sunday Times publishes first story on the ‘Trojan Horse’ letter.’
Read the BHA’s previous statement setting out the allegations of the former members of staff that contacted it: https://humanism.org.uk/2014/04/24/revealed-former-staff-outline-concerns-park-view-school-birmingham/
Read the BHA’s statement upon the publication of the Ofsted and Education Funding Agency (EFA) reports: https://humanism.org.uk/2014/06/09/34029/
Read the BHA’s statement upon the publication of the Council’s report: https://humanism.org.uk/2014/07/18/bha-responds-leaked-details-dfes-report-birmingham-schools/
The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.
A number of allegations about Park View School were first made to the BHA in 2011 but the former member of staff who made the allegations decided at that time that they did not want anything to be done with them.
In mid January 2014 other former members of staff contacted the BHA about the school, and contact was re-established with the original complainant. The BHA gathered the complaints and did its own investigation into the school’s RE, passing all of this on to the Department for Education and Ofsted on 31 January. The DfE committed to investigating the allegations. A few days after first contacting us, the former staff also contacted Liam Byrne MP, who has also reported being aware of the allegations before the ‘Trojan Horse’ letter appeared in the media.
Some of the allegations the BHA passed to the DfE and Ofsted were leaked to Sunday Times and formed the main basis of an article it published on 23 February. The article also reported that a current member of staff had also made a complaint to Ofsted last year ‘that the school in effect excluded female students from after-school tennis classes by ruling that they could not be taught tennis by male teachers.’
The ‘Operation Trojan Horse’ letter was apparently authored in 2013 and sent to Birmingham City Council late in the year. However, it first leaked to the Sunday Times and numerous other sources after the Sunday Times first reported on the allegations about Park View School that the BHA had passed on. The first story about ‘Operation Trojan Horse’ appeared on 2 March. On 9 March the Sunday Telegraph announced that it had been conducting its own parallel investigation into the school.
On 20 April the Sunday Telegraph reported that six of the schools were to be put in special measures, with the paper subsequently publishing extracts from a draft Education Funding Agency report that had been leaked to it.
On 24 April the BHA published a statement setting out the former members of staff’s concerns.
On 2 May the NAHT said that it believed a number of schools had ‘experienced concerted efforts to alter their character in line with the Islamic faith… We have supported around 30 of our members throughout this incident, with detailed case work in around a dozen schools and serious concerns in half that.’
On 5 June Ofsted’s report into Golden Hillock School, another school in the Park View Academy chain, was leaked, and it was widely reported that the school is to be put in special measures. On 7 June Ofsted’s report into Park View School itself also leaked, with the school similarly being found to require special measures.
On 9 June Ofsted and the EFA’s reports into 21 schools were published, supporting many of the concerns put to the BHA. On Friday Peter Clarke’s report has leaked to The Guardian, further backing up those concerns, with Birmingham City Council’s report also published.
Today sees the publication of Peter Clarke’s report.