How Birmingham's schools need a `new narrative'

23rd January 2015 at 00:00
City struggles to recruit teachers after `Trojan Horse' allegations

Schools in Birmingham have been hit by "serious" recruitment difficulties, because of adverse publicity surrounding the alleged "Trojan Horse" Islamist plot and subsequent inspections that led to five schools being placed in special measures.

Sir Mike Tomlinson, who was appointed education commissioner for Birmingham in the wake of the controversy, told TES that the events of the past year had created recruitment problems for schools across the city, even those that are rated highly by inspectors.

Now Park View, one of the schools criticised by Ofsted, has launched a campaign to recruit staff after what assistant principal Lee Donaghy describes as an "unbelievably difficult year".

In a recent blog post, Mr Donaghy acknowledges that the school has been left with a "huge staffing and recruitment challenge" because of intense media scrutiny.

"The pupils of Park View School remain as bright, respectful and aspirational as they were when I joined in 2010," he writes. "The events of 2014 are beginning to affect their life chances and that is the tragedy lost in headlines about Trojan Horse plots."

The "Park View Needs You!" campaign aims to attract teachers from around the country and is backed by the Department for Education, which has said it will consider offering extra funding to cover recruitment costs.

Within the past week, Adrian Packer, executive principal of the Park View Educational Trust, which runs the school, has already appointed three acting assistant principals, a head of science, and senior maths and English teachers. And he is still looking for more staff.

"Park View has been caricatured in the media," Mr Packer said. "That would make some teachers nervous, but what we're finding is the very best practitioners are coming forward, and want to step up and help us. We want as many outstanding teachers as possible.

"These are people who are compelled by a moral imperative; they want to help us in turning around something that had taken a turn in the wrong direction."

As well as taking on full-time roles, teachers have offered weekend and evening help. Teach First recruits and retired headteachers have also volunteered to pitch in.

Four separate probes were conducted into allegations that hardline Muslims were plotting to seize control of a number of school governing bodies in Birmingham. A report for the DfE, carried out by former Metropolitan Police counter-terrorism chief Peter Clarke, finds that there was an attempt to introduce an "aggressive Islamic ethos" in some schools.

But the impact on recruitment is not confined to schools highlighted by the investigations. Sir Mike, a former chief inspector of schools, was appointed to his latest role in September to oversee improvements across Birmingham. He said that many schools were struggling.

"It would be very surprising if what has been written about Birmingham is not having a negative impact on recruitment," he added. "I know that some schools, even very, very good schools, are having serious problems. It's a pity given that just over 80 per cent of schools are good or outstanding."

Mr Packer is hopeful that the problems can be overcome. "We need a new narrative," he said. "What I'm interested in is what's next."

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