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The curious incident of the Trojan Horse in the middle of Birmingham: Twenty questions to solve the mystery

Sir Tim Brighouse, former London Schools Commissioner and chief education officer for Oxfordshire and Birmingham, writes:

A game of 20 questions for those who would solve the curious incident of the Trojan Horse in the middle of Birmingham.

1. What is the provenance of the Trojan Horse letter? Was it real or a hoax and is it pure co-incidence that it has the same title as a chapter of a book, Celsius 7/7, written by Michael Gove?

2. Did that coincidence and his published views on Islam cause him to consider, as it should have done, stepping aside in this matter and handing over responsibility to his Schools Minister David Laws? (Just as Vince Cable did on the Murdoch issue earlier in the Parliament)
3. If he had concerns about the behaviour of the governors of the academies in Birmingham, why didn’t Michael Gove send one or two of his officers to governing body meetings – as he had a duty so to do as holder of the private contract with the trust? And why did he so recently approve one academy’s sponsorship of two other of the schools now found by Ofsted to be inadequate?
4. Who receives the reports that academies are required to send before each governing body meeting to the Education Funding Agency and when did Michael Gove last ask for a report on these?
5. What was the Ofsted guidance to inspectors who conducted the inspections of the Birmingham schools?
6. What was the inspectors' experience and knowledge of schools and communities like those in east Birmingham?
7. How did inspectors collect evidence of keeping children safe from ‘extremism’ and ‘radicalisation’?
8. What is the best practice in this regard issued to schools and when was it issued?
9. Why have HMI abandoned their longstanding approach of only reporting on what they observe in schools in favour of reporting uncorroborated accounts of past events?
10. Was the professional integrity of Ofsted maintained throughout the writing process so that no draft reports were at any time shared with DFE or the EFA and no comments other than the school itself considered for or included in the final reports?
11. On what basis is HMCI so confident that both sets of such contradictory verdicts on the same schools are accurate when the evidence published by the Education Funding Agency regarding two schools outlines longstanding irregularities?
12. In any case, what reliability can we put on the Education Funding Agency when their procedures and processes have been so roundly criticised this week by the House of Commons Select Committee?
13. Should there continue to be state-aided faith schools in any guise?
14. If the answer to question 13 is ‘yes’, is it fair that there are 51 primary and nine secondary Catholic aided schools in Birmingham but just two Islamic aided schools?
15. How does the government intend to create a situation where such inequity is removed In Birmingham and other cities with large Muslim populations?
16. Will part of ‘promoting British values’ involve discontinuing the requirement that schools should have an act of collective worship mainly or wholly Christian in character?
17. Will this be replaced by a duty on schools to show respect for people of all faiths and none and charge all schools with promoting the social, cultural, moral and spiritual wellbeing of a civilised and peaceful society?
18. Should there be a protocol in every LA setting out the proper role of governor and professional agreed by local branches of the National Governors’ Association and teacher unions to be used for whistleblowing in cases of persistent bullying or infringement of their proper role by a governor?
19. Should the LA be empowered to investigate complaints arising from such a protocol in local Academies as well as in their own schools?
20. How much extra money is to be granted by the Secretary of State to help the Birmingham schools and their pupils and communities already adversely affected by staff shortages?

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