Education watchdog Ofsted is to publish a string of reports triggered by the so-called “Trojan Horse” letter alleging that there had been an Islamist takeover plot to take control of community schools in Birmingham.
Five Birmingham schools out of 21 inspected will be downgraded to inadequate – Ofsted’s lowest rating – and placed in special measures on Monday, after what inspectors claimed was poor management and lack of attention to protecting pupils from what Ofsted will call “an awareness of the risks arising from extremism”.
“Protecting our children is one of the first duties of government and that is why the issue of alleged Islamist extremism in Birmingham schools demands a robust response,” the prime minister said.
The Guardian newspaper reported that it has also learned that the Department for Education is investigating options to radically restructure Birmingham’s state schools in what would amount to a sweeping, city-wide shake-up of England’s largest local authority. It could lead to all the city’s schools being forced to become academies.
Ofsted has also been asked to maintain a “regular presence” in Birmingham’s schools, reporting directly to the prime minister and education secretary.
Michael Gove said: “Evidence uncovered in Birmingham clearly indicates that schools have used the notice they have been given of inspections to evade proper scrutiny. Our children need to be protected in schools, kept safe from the dangers of extremism and guaranteed a broad and balanced curriculum. This change will help provide parents with the reassurance they need.”
One of the schools to be condemned by Ofsted includes the academically high-flying Park View school in Alum Rock, one of the Muslim-majority suburbs and areas of Birmingham. Previously rated as outstanding, Ofsted inspectors called its management and pupil safety inadequate.
In Birmingham the affair has seen the formation of an organisation named Hands off Birmingham Schools, headed by the former Respect leader and city councillor Salma Yaqoob, which plans a series of public meetings and hopes to draw in union and community involvement.
“We firmly believe these Ofsted reports are politically motivated. Our children have been subjected to deeply intrusive repeated Ofsted inspections whilst undergoing Sats and preparing for their GCSEs,” the group said in a statement.
Several schools at the centre of the takeover row, such as Park View and Golden Hillock secondary schools, are already academies, and are likely to take legal action, including possible judicial review, to challenge Ofsted’s rulings.
Several of the schools are preparing a detailed defence of the claims made by Ofsted’s inspectors. Park View school, for example, denies Ofsted’s claim it failed to prepare students “for life in wider society”. It said Park View was a registered Scouts centre and participated in the Duke of Edinburgh awards. The school also organises trips to France as well as to local museums and concerts by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.