Trojan Horse warnings made 20 years ago

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An internal review commissioned by former Education Secretary, Michael Gove, has found that the Department for Education failed to heed warnings as early as 20 years ago about fears that extremists had infiltrated Birmingham schools.

Although the review found no instances of the DfE ignoring specific warnings of extremism in schools, it did note that the department needs always to be vigilant and inquisitive and have robust systems in place.

Concerns raised with officials were treated as 'one-off pieces of transactional business' and assumed to be the responsibility of other authorities, the review concluded.

Last year an inquiry by Peter Clarke, the former anti-terror chief, concluded that there had been a co-ordinated, deliberate and sustained action by a number of individuals to introduce an intolerant and aggressive Islamic ethos into a few schools in the city.

The review found that there were six instances where concerns were raised with the department. The earliest warning came from the Rev John Ray, a governor of Golden Hillock School, which later emerged as one of the institutions at the centre of the Trojan Horse allegations. He warned of the “potential infiltration” by extremists of school governing bodies in Birmingham.

Separately senior leaders at three schools in Birmingham wrote to education ministers in the same year, in a letter copied to John Major, then the prime minister, expressing concern about Hizb-ut-Tahrir, an extremist Islamist organisation, gaining an influence over schools in the city.

Chris Wormald, the senior civil servant who wrote the review, said that the department’s conclusion that the concerns were a matter for the council were reasonable at the time given the existing policy on the matter.

But he added: “With the benefit of hindsight, it is possible to conclude that a more inquisitive department might have approached the council directly, given the seriousness of the allegations.”

Mr Wormald concludes: "Whilst I have not found evidence of people having acted inappropriately, I have concluded that in individual instances the department has lacked inquisitiveness on issues relating to potential extremism or destabilisation schools by external interests."

He adds that the department "has not historically treated the issue with the same robustness as it has demonstrated in dealing with warnings about, for example child protection".

Nicky Morgan, the Education Secretary, said she endorsed the findings and recommendations of Mr Wormwald’s review. These include introducing a formal system for staff to refer concerns about extremism to the department’s Due Diligence and Counter Extremism Division and setting up a counter-extremism steering group.

School Leadership Today
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