A former Birmingham education chairman who’s been banned from any involvement with schools has launched a blistering attack on the Department for Education, accusing it of a witch-hunt, discrimination and promoting a politics of division and hatred.
Tahir Alam has become the first person to be issued with a blanket ban by the DfE which accused him of “undermining fundamental British values.”
But Alam, who resigned as chairman of governors at the Park View Educational Trust at the height of the so-called Trojan Horse controversy, said he intended to appeal against the decision.
The Trust was the focus of allegations made in the anonymous Trojan Horse letter, which came to light in late 2013 and triggered several inquiries into an alleged plot by hardline Muslims to seize control of a number of school governing boards.
The letter – which is now widely considered to be a hoax – said that Birmingham, Bradford and Manchester should lead the strategy.
According to The Guardian newspaper, Mr Alam was accused of putting pupils “at risk of vulnerability to radicalisation, promoted intolerance of difference and diversity and restricted their life chances by failing to provide pupils with the necessary learning and skills to flourish in modern, multicultural Britain.”
But in a public statement Alam said the decision by Education Secretary Nicky Morgan to prohibit him from working in, leading or managing schools is an abuse of authority and completely unjustified.
He added that:
- He rejects the official reports into the Trojan Horse affair.
- The Trojan Horse letter was a hoax.
- The affected Birmingham schools are now on a downward spiral.
- They are now run by individuals who are unrepresentative of the community they serve.
- The needs of Muslim pupils at the schools are no longer being met.
The following is his public statement:
“I will be appealing and legally challenging this decision as it is not evidence-based and relies upon hearsay and guilt by association. The assertions are entirely based on Peter Clarke’s report, EFA Review & a document I authored ‘Meeting the needs of Muslims pupils in state schools.’
“Mr. Clarke’s and EFA reports grossly misrepresent and mis-characterise our schools; what I ( and others) stand for and what I have worked for in education, namely high academic standards and inclusion and respect for all children in our schools. This includes British Muslim pupils. I utterly reject fictional accounts seeking to justify that there was some kind of sinister plot by extremists to take over Birmingham schools. I have been accused of things I know nothing about or presumed guilty by association because it suited a politically-motivated, predetermined agenda (securitisation of education).
“Now British Muslim children in these schools are being failed academically (from 75% to 54%) and are subjected to discriminatory practices. For example, broadly Islamic collective worship is banned, Friday prayers banned in Nansen school, etc. Muslim pupils are being denied an expression of who they are as British Muslims. Is this consistent with British values and democracy?
“It is self-evident that Trojan Horse Hoax is not about preventing extremism or safeguarding children but about preventing Muslim parents from having a legitimate and democratic say in how their children are being educated and perhaps also to ‘save the Muslim children from Islam!’
“Discrimination and politics of division and hatred has been perpetuated by DfE and Ofsted in the Trojan Hoax fiasco. The legacy for the school community is clear, it is now run by individuals who are unrepresentative of the community they serve. More than 90% children in Trojan Hoax schools are of the Islamic faith background but now not even a token single Trustee is from this background. Has the democratic principle and Equalities Act 2010 been ditched or is it it being selectively applied to exclude Muslims?
“In creating high performing schools, I and others involved are very proud of what we have achieved for our children in these deprived areas that have historically been failing children for decades. Our hard work and sacrifices have been ruined overnight – next years results are likely to be in 40’s. The culture of low expectations has returned with falling results being celebrated! Will Ofsted be taking the schools out of special measures now that results have declined and more children are being failed? Destruction is far easier than construction. And why is the the DfE not interested in finding out who wrote the letter and why?
“Our children were not at risk of extremism nor were we negligent in this regard. This would be unacceptable. Mr. Clarke’s cock and bull story is not worth the paper it is written on – as there was no extremist plot in Birmingham schools by “Sunni hardliners.” By the way the original Trojan Hoax letter said it was a “Salafi” plot. I was not running one. I have been promoting participation in education by parents and continue to do so to address issues of a culture of systemic failure, bad practice, low expectations and to ensure that state schools meet the needs of our children enshrined in regulation and law.
“Normally praiseworthy civic participation has been depicted as illegitimate or sinister ‘infiltration.’ I am a law-abiding British citizen. What I or other parents do as citizen is not infiltration. Our children attend state schools and parents have a right to hold schools to account on how they are managed, academic performance and meeting the needs of pupils.
“Mr. Clarke has accepted allegations as being ‘fact’ without independently verifying them or corroborating them with those accused. Top policeman got the most basic of facts wrong. For example, Mr. Clarke claims I was Chair of the Association of Muslim Governors (AMG); I have never been the Chair of AMG! This was not checked with me nor with people who ran AMG. Why? This example is typical (not an exception) of the shoddy and desperate approach of Mr. Clarke took to prove predetermined outcomes for Mr. Michael Gove, who, on a knee jerk reaction, hired him to look for “extremists and radicals.” This was a witch-hunt. An educationalist was required not anti-terror policeman!
“Having analysed and taken both written and verbal evidence from multiple sources over many months; The cross-party House of Commons Education Select Committee, in its damning reporting on the handling of the TrojanHoax Affair was rightfully adamant that there was no co-ordinated plot. The report “Extremism in schools: the Trojan Horse affair” concluded:
“No evidence of extremism or radicalisation, apart from a single isolated incident, was found by any of the inquiries and there was no evidence of a sustained plot nor of a similar situation pertaining elsewhere in the country.”
“In fact ‘isolated single incident’ refers to a BBC Panorama documentary. Mr. Clarke also tells us that an ‘Al-Qaeda terrorist’ video was copied in the school. What he deceitfully omits is that this was a BBC Panorama program which was copied for the Police (Prevent) not for school use. Another typical example of careful crafting and omission to misguide the public to a desired impression and conclusion.
“While compiling their reports Mr. Clarke and Mr. Kershaw never put a foot in any of the schools nor spoke to any children or parents but were nonetheless able to arrive at “credible” conclusions.
“This paranoid reaction to the Trojan Horse letter has done so much damage to the education of our children and unjustly vilified British Muslim children, parents, teachers and governors – an entire minority community. Indeed the Trojan Hoax has been milked to the maximum for political ends and much legislation justified on the back of the myth of extremist plot to take over Birmingham schools. It has great parallels with the justification of an illegal Iraq war based on gross misrepresentations and a pack of lies.
“The witch-hunt continues by the DfE in seeking to ban other governors and teachers in order to prove that there was some reality to the Trojan Horse Hoax. For the pupils it has taken away the very role models that had the potential to inspire young Muslims to be an asset for community, society and country.
“As a responsible authority, if the DfE was concerned about what our school were doing, the rightful and measured action would have been to conduct an investigation and we would openly and happily supported that and corrected things as suggested. Instead what we witnessed and experienced was a coordinated offensive through the media with leaks of Ofsted reports, EFA reports, etc to vilify schools and individuals. The focus of the multitude of overlapping investigation was to find, by hook or crook, evidence of extremism or radicalisation that simply did not exist. This was unjust and wrong.”