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14.10.14

Ofsted raises concerns about Trojan Horse schools

The schools at the heart of the ‘Trojan Horse’ scandal have failed to address problems with unbalanced curriculums and the segregation of girls and boys in the classroom, according to Ofsted.

Sir Michael Wilshaw, chief inspector of schools, sent a letter to the education secretary, Nicky Morgan, in which he says “very little action” has been taken to address the failings at five Birmingham schools that were alleged to be the subject of takeover plots by hard-line Islamists.

According to the letter “too much poor practice” has remained “unchallenged” in the last five months. One of the criticisms identified as a potential cause for this is that the changes to the governance and leadership at the schools has been slow. The letter says: “The new trustees and IEB members have appropriate backgrounds and skills for their roles. However, they have had very little time to secure suitable leadership for the schools or to take effective action on the weaknesses raised in the previous inspections.”

At the start of September, Ofsted inspectors carried out unannounced inspections at the five schools placed into special measures in June: Park View School, Golden Hillock School and Nansen primary, all run by Park View Educational Trust, alongside Oldknow Academy and Saltley School.

The Ofsted letter says little has been done to discourage segregation and to encourage girls and boys to sit and work together in lessons at Park View Academy.

In Saltley School there is also a problem with segregation among staff. The letter says that some teachers and support workers segregate themselves into groups based on their religious beliefs and that this had not yet been addressed by school leaders.

Also at Golden Hillock School, senior leaders reported that, during the summer term, they were not supported by the outgoing trustees in addressing their concerns about safeguarding.

Ofsted also raises concerns that little has been done to change the existing unbalanced curriculum in the schools. While plans have been drawn up for curriculum changes they “often lack the detail required to ensure that effective action will be taken to ‘actively promote’ fundamental British values and tolerance of those of different faiths and beliefs”.

Golden Hillock School is used as an example, where religious education GCSE students have to teach themselves if they wish to study anything other than Islam.

The letter is also critical of Birmingham City Council, saying it is not effectively sharing information with Ofsted about actions it is taking. It says that “despite repeated requests” Ofsted has not yet seen the single integrated plan that the authority has drawn up in response to the Clarke, Kershaw and Ofsted reports.

Sir Michael made a series of recommendations, including asking the DfE to “take more rapid action to require a change of trustees and governors in academies when serious concerns are identified”.

Cllr Brigid Jones, Cabinet Member for Children and Family services at Birmingham City Council, said: “It is a pity we received these reports a month late and of course things have now moved on in these schools. Four of the schools are academies but the fifth, Saltley, is a local authority school. We had actually sent a new action plan for this school before Ofsted came, but for some reason Ofsted did not read it and instead reported on the old one.

“It is also important to point out that the inspections were barely a week into the new school term so there obviously hadn’t been much time to make changes due to the intervening summer holiday; even the advice notice from Ofsted points out that ‘they have had very little time to secure leadership for the schools or take effective action on the weaknesses raised in the previous inspections’.

“However, with Saltley we did take decisive action by removing the governing body, putting in place an Interim Executive Board and securing leadership through Washwood Heath Academy. We will continue to work with the schools to get them to the standard our children deserve.

A Department for Education spokesman said: "These reports are a snapshot. They reflect the particular circumstances of the schools and the time at which the inspections took place, in some cases just a couple of days into the start of the new school year.

"We are confident that the strong leadership teams we have put in place mean that change will be rapid and effective once it has had more than a few weeks to have an impact."

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