A headteacher’s claims of a “Trojan Horse” Islamic takeover at an Oldham school have “no basis”, a council investigation has found.
Patricia O’Donnell, head of Clarksfield Primary School, Oldham, also alleged she had received death threats.
Oldham Council said it investigated the claims made in December but concluded that it had “no concerns” about any schools.
The Council’s comments came after The Sunday Times published an article by the journalist Andrew Gilligan (who has targeted Muslim activists on a number of occasions) headlined: “Revealed: New Trojan Horse plot.”
Gilligan wrote that “fears of a new ‘Trojan Horse’ Islamic plot to take over a state school in Oldham have been raised by its head teacher, who says she has been concerned for her personal safety. Trish O’Donnell, head of Clarksfield Primary School since 2006, has been so worried that she has worked from home for short periods in recent months.”
Gilligan continued: “In an email sent to Oldham council in December, O’Donnell said she had ‘very strong reasons to believe that . . . a ‘Trojan Horse’ agenda [is] being played out’ and that her position was becoming untenable.”
But Oldham Councillor Amanda Chadderton, cabinet member for education and early years, said: “We take any allegations about our schools very seriously and always investigate in the interests of pupils, staff and parents. The report into an Oldham primary school found no basis to ‘Trojan Horse’ allegations.”
The Sunday Times story also referred to a counter-extremism official raising concerns over two other schools in Oldham – Horton Mill and Oldham Academy North.
Ms Chadderton added: “At this time, we also have no active investigations or concerns about any of the other schools the Sunday Times has asked about.”
According to Sunday Times article, Islamic teaching sessions were hosted on school premises, a parents’ petition was organised against the head teacher and objections were raised to activities including Hindi music being played in class and sex education.
The school – which has more than 450 pupils, predominantly of Pakistani heritage – is rated as “good” by Ofsted.
Meanwhile, in a letter to parents on Clarksfield School’s website headteacher Patricia O’Donnell wrote: “You may have read some headlines regarding Clarksfield School in the press today or over the weekend. Please rest assured that none of this is impacting on the children or the school at all. We are open as usual, with lessons going ahead as planned, and with our usual high safeguarding standards in place.
“We are not providing any comment to the press during this time, and we would request that you do not either, to minimise disruption at the school gates and allow us to continue teaching uninterrupted. Please speak to any member of the Senior Leadership Team in school to discuss any concerns you have. My first priority is the wellbeing and education of all the pupils at Clarksfield.”
A “Trojan Horse” inquiry in Birmingham centred around anonymous allegations which claimed there was a plot by “Islamist hard-liners” to take control of several schools in the city. The allegations sparked investigations by several agencies, including the Department for Education and Ofsted.
The consequences of the Trojan Horse Affair were profound: Ofsted placed outstanding schools in Special Measures after finding that there was evidence that some governors attempted to “impose and promote a narrow faith-based ideology” in secular schools; teachers were forced out of schools; and the Board of Trustees at Park View Education Trust resigned. More profoundly, the whole affair has left a very sour taste in the mouth in the local area.