Recent allegations into an alleged plot to “Islamicise” secular state schools will be probed in an investigation by the Sir Michael Wilshaw, head of the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted), the watchdog organization that conducts school inspections in the UK.
The head teachers and governors of seven schools in Birmingham are likely to lose their jobs in this shake-out.
Community tensions and fears in the area have been stoked by the announcement by Education Secretary Michael Gove of a second investigation, into “extremist infiltration” in these schools. Peter Clarke, a former counter-terrorism head at the Metropolitan police will conduct the probe.
The allegations of an alleged “hardline Islamic takeover” of a group of 18 schools in Birmingham, which has a large ethnic minority population were first made in the media, notably in the The Daily Telegraph and then picked up in other media outlets and the political sphere.
A mysterious anonymous document called “Operation Trojan Horse,” allegedly written by the Islamicist plotters has been the source for most of these allegations. The dossier refers to a head teacher called Noshaba Hussain who the management reportedly replaced by a ‘sympathetic’ teacher in Springfield School. The school however later confirmed that Ms. Hussain left the school 20 years ago. It also proved wrong several other allegations in the document.
Their claims were that school inspectors who visited the schools had found evidence that the schools governing bodies were pressurizing head teachers to segregate students by gender, and to marginalize non-Muslim students. Some of the allegations related to the allegiance of some school managements to terrorist organisations.
Several school governors and teachers have called the whole operation a “witch-hunt” — a wholly unnecessary exercise that will only create divisions amongst Muslim and non-Muslim.
In a letter in his school’s spring school letter, David Hughes, a trustee and governor at Park View school in Birmingham for the last 15 years wrote “In all my years as a governor we have not received a single complain about ‘extremism’ or ‘radicalism’.” He said that the Ofsted inspectors who visited looked for reasons “to condemn the school – even the outstanding features.”
Douglas Morgan, another teacher from Birmingham was quoted by The Guardian as telling the conference that the inquiries could “demonise the Muslim population of this country.”
With elections to the European Parliament due in May, and general elections next year, and with its ratings falling at the expense of the right wing United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), the Conservative Party-led government has in recent months taken several measures to show it can act tough on issues like migration and terrorism. The school offensive is seen as part of a strategy to win back conservative voters who are veering towards the UKIP.