Lifetime bans handed to two Muslim teachers after the “Trojan Horse” scandal have been lifted, as the former chair of governors at one of the schools involved reveals to 5Pillars his perspective on the origin and purpose of the alleged Islamophobic “witch hunt.”
The two teachers Inamulhaq Anwar and Akeel Ahmed were banned from teaching in February.
Their bans followed allegations the two men- teachers at Parkview Secondary School in Birmingham- were part of an “Islamist” plot to indoctrinate pupils with “extremist” teachings.
A High Court judge has now ruled they were treated unfairly.
The judge, Mr Justice Stephen Phillips allowed the men’s appeal because of a failure by the NCTL- the professional standards body for teaching and an executive agency of the Department for Education (DfE). The body, and the hearing’s independent three-member panel failed to disclose, or order disclosure, of key evidence to the men’s lawyers.
The “Trojan Horse” scandal has also claimed the careers of other Muslim teachers and governors. The scandal was started by an anonymous letter sent to Birmingham City Council before being circulated around newspapers and the Department of Education (DfE).
The letter warned of a plot by hardline Muslim teachers and governors to take over a number of schools by ousting headteachers in Birmingham, and indoctrinating pupils with extreme Islamic teachings. It specifically named Mr Tahir Alam, chair of governors at Park View Educational Trust.
Speaking exclusively to 5Pillars, Mr Alam gave his perspective on how and why a letter whose source has still not been officially determined has been allowed to cause so much disruption to the lives of not only teachers but pupils at certain schools in Birmingham.
Mr Alam told 5Pillars the unsigned, undated letter first surfaced in November 2013. He claims Birmingham City Council initially ignored it. “In January 2014 it circulates again and ends up on Michael Gove’s desk. He takes personal charge and triggers the whole thing,” he said.
The former governor says he knows who wrote the letter. “There are many theories. One, that Christian groups were behind it. It was actually written by a local Muslim headteacher, someone I know.
“This person wanted to defend themselves against some other teachers who would have been dismissed and would have brought a legal case. The headteacher argues they were the victim of a conspiracy. If found guilty of dismissing them, this could have been criminal.
“This particular headteacher believed I was spiritually, morally or tactically supporting the alleged conspiracy. That’s why the letter was written: revenge against me for something I didn’t do.”
He places the bulk of responsibility for the consequences of that letter, including sackings, teaching bans and schools being placed under special measures, at the hands of the highly controversial former Tory Education Secretary, Michael Gove.
Mr Alam believes Gove wanted to become “a hero of some description” by being seen as tough on extremism.
“When he got the letter he [Gove] summoned the leader of Birmingham City Council, Albert Bore, to his office in London,” Mr Alam stated.
According to him, Bore was asked why he was not investigating the allegations in the letter and Bore “fobbed Gove off.”
Mr Alam says at this point he asked the legal officer of the council why they had not spoken to himself, being one of the accused. “Why are you communicating with DfE, counter-terrorism and the police? Why not come to me and ask for the truth?”
He continues: “Gove wanted the Home Office to launch an extremism investigation; he wanted them to use their powers to confiscate my phone and computers to pick up more info.
“Theresa May [Home Secretary at the time] refused. Gove accused her of being soft on extremism and a very public tiff between them takes place.”
It was only then, seeking some other means by which to impose his own ideology, that Gove – according to Alam – used the mechanism he had to launch an investigation and inspection into the concerned schools by Ofsted.
“He had meetings with Michael Wilshaw of Ofsted. He [Gove] was looking for kudos; perhaps for becoming Tory leader. Much of this fabrication was driven by Gove’s political motivation and his own Islamophobia and racism.”
An Ofsted inspection did take place after Michael Gove had read the letter. Park View School governed by Park View Educational Trust was not placed under special measures. Eleven days later, inspectors returned and the school failed because Mr Alam says of “political interference.”
He added that the lead inspector, Angela Corbett told him Ofsted had come a second time in such a short period following a demand by the regional director of Ofsted.
Mr Alam suggests it was Gove who instructed Wilshaw who subsequently requested the regional director to demand a second inspection by the lead inspector.
He was baffled that Park View could be placed in special measures eleven days after passing an inspection. He opines the Ofsted failing was deliberate and unjustified, done to give them power to remove the governor as only schools which receive a grade 4 after inspection can be put into special measures.
Mr Alam told 5Pillars Michael Wilshaw lauded ParkView in 2012 at a speech given at a teachers’ union conference. “Having visited our school prior, he was very impressed,” he said.
Before the “Trojan Horse” scandal, Park View had 75% of GCSE pupils attaining 5 A* to C grades including in English and Maths. Mr Alam asserts this was remarkable given 70% of pupils were on free school meals. Since the “political interference” he refers to, the school is now well below the national average of 56%.
He exclusively reveals to 5Pillars that Park View, now renamed Rockwood, this year only managed to get 49% of GCSE pupils attaining 5 A* to C passes (including Maths and English). This was up from 41% after remarking. He describes these results as “pathetic.”
Reacting to the lifting of the ban on the two teachers he said: “We are innocent of what we are being accused of. These cases are not evidence based. I hope justice will be served and all people involved will get justice. I’ve appealed my ban and that is due to go to court. I hope my ban will be overturned.”
He remains staunchly critical of the former Home Secretary and Ofsted, saying they abused their authority. “These people have destroyed the education of our children. We built this school up over a decade, instead of getting awards this is what they’ve done to us. It is a grave injustice against our children, our people, our community,” he argued.
He added: “Trojan Horse has been used to justify new regulations and statutory duties like Prevent. Schools for Muslims have become oppressive environments. Trojan Horse has been used to legitimise, legalise and institutionalise discrimination in schools against Muslim children, parents, governors and teachers.
“At Rockwood they’ve stopped Muslim teachers from leading Friday prayers. The idea is to stop the organisation of activities take the air out of them so nobody does them.”
5Pillars contacted Michael Gove MP and Ofsted for comment but they failed to respond in time for publication.
In March 2015, the House of Commons Education Select Committee found: “One incident apart, no evidence of extremism or radicalisation was found by any of the inquiries in any of the schools involved. Neither was there any evidence of a sustained plot, nor of significant problems in other parts of the country. The Trojan Horse affair is less about extremism than about governance and the ability of local and central agencies to respond to whistle-blowers and to correct abuses of power within schools.”