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Trojan Horse: No evidence of 'anti-British agenda' in schools

An investigation into the schools implicated in the alleged Trojan Horse takeover plot has found no evidence of a conspiracy to promote an "anti-British agenda, violent extremism or radicalisation".

The Birmingham City Council report into the schools in the east of the city did find "key individuals" were "promoting and encouraging certain Islamic principles" within those schools, however. 

The inquiry, which was carried out by Ian Kershaw and published today, also found some members of school governing bodies made a "determined effort to change schools, often by unacceptable practices, to influence educational and religious provision”. 

But the overall conclusions of the report were at odds to those of Peter Clarke, the former Metropolitan Police counter-terrorism chief, whose leaked investigation for the Department for Education concluded there was a "sustained, co-ordinated agenda to impose segregationist attitudes and practices of a hardline, politicised strain of Sunni Islam". 

In a 151-page report, Mr Kershaw concluded: "The evidence shows individuals have been seeking to promote and encourage Islamic principles in the schools with which they are involved, by seeking to introduce Islamic collective worship, or raising objections to elements of the school curriculum that are viewed as anti-Islamic."

Mr Kershaw's report said the problems had been allowed to run "unchecked" due to what he branded "weaknesses in the system and poor oversight of governance" mainly by the city council, but also by Ofsted, the Education Funding Agency and the DfE.

Its findings concluded that "elements" of the so-called Trojan Horse five-step plan to seize control of governing boards were present in 13 schools, including the three academies of Park View Educational Trust (PVET), which has been at the centre of the allegations.

However, he said: "There is no evidence of a conspiracy to promote an anti-British agenda, violent extremism or radicalisation in schools in east Birmingham."

He added: "There is little express evidence to which I can point of a systematic plot or co-ordinated plan to take over schools serving students of a predominantly Muslim faith or background."

The incident led to the Department for Education to insist that every school be expected to teach the British values of “democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths”.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of heads' union the NAHT, said: “We cannot fully support the conclusions reached by the City Council's review into the Trojan Horse allegations.

“The City Council has used too narrow a definition of extremism and limited both their process and their terms of reference in a way which excludes critical evidence. We entirely understand the pressures faced by the council but do not feel that their conclusions reflect the full reality in schools. 

“The Clarke review, sections of which have been reported on in the press ahead of formal publication, reaches a very different set of conclusions from access to a different evidence base. The discrepancies between the two are regrettable and unhelpful."

Shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt said: "There is a dangerous lack of oversight in David Cameron's schools system and the results of this are being played out in Birmingham. Peter Clarke is right to describe the government's approach as one of 'benign neglect' – ministers failed to act on warnings they were given in 2010.

"Standards are being damaged and schools exposed to risk because of an ideological refusal to give local areas new powers to oversee schools."

And he added: "Labour has proposed new local directors of school standards to support and challenge schools to improve and to root out problems before they set in."


Related stories:

Trojan Horse: Five schools placed in special measures - June 2014
Hunt: Ofsted 'must answer questions' over Trojan Horse scandal  - June 2014
'Trojan Horse is a complex saga from which almost no one involved comes out well' - June 2014

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