Britain’s chief school inspector has found a “shocking” culture of fear and intimidation in UK schools after an anonymous plot threatening the “Islamization” of UK schools led to Prime Minister David Cameron announcing random inspections.
“Some of our findings are deeply worrying, and in some ways
quite shocking,” said Michael Wilshaw, head of the Ofsted
school inspection body in a letter to Education Secretary Michael Gove.
“In the most serious cases, a culture of fear and
intimidation has taken grip.”
The official report found that, “Birmingham City Council has
failed to support a number of schools in their efforts to keep
pupils safe from the potential risks of radicalization and
Gove said Monday in a statement to the House of Commons after the
report’s release that “all schools will be required to
promote British values.”
Gove promises that schools will in future have to promote
British values BUT can’t say what they are or when we’ll see
— Nick Robinson (@bbcnickrobinson)
June 9, 2014
“This is an issue for faith schools as well as non-faith
schools,” Shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt told the
It all started with an unverified, anonymous letter, allegedly
written by hardline Islamists, making its way into government
hands back in March, prompting investigations into a so-called
“Trojan Horse” plot, which entailed a takeover of the British
education system by Muslim teachers.
The teachers allegedly intended to move any staff who disagreed
with their beliefs out of the way, as well as imposing the kind
of school discipline advocated by devout Islamists.
Michael Gove makes his statement this afternoon – but look at
his colleagues’ body language …. Every picture… pic.twitter.com/51gixPdPC1
— Labour Left (@LabourLeft) June
The letter’s contents detailed “deeply concerning” details of a
strategy to adopt a number of Islamic
cultural facets, including a system of school governors and the
hiring and teaching of staff who would work to promote an Islamic
religious agenda with its own rules and moral regulations.
The letter with the alleged Islamization plot has brought to
attention past and present findings of investigations into some
Birmingham schools that do not conform to the current national
Oldknow Academy, in the inner-city area of
Small Heath, Birmingham, was discovered to be “taking on the
practices of an Islamic faith school.” Non-Muslim staff and
pupils had been intentionally excluded from a yearly trip to
Saudi Arabia three times, Ofsted said.
On Monday, fresh findings of the Ofsted education inspection
authority were released, giving further credence to the Trojan
Horse plot idea. The five Birmingham schools of the 21 inspected
will now be downgraded to inadequate – Ofsted’s lowest rating.
A decision was made Monday to publicly tackle the alleged threat
seen in the findings. In a statement, Cameron said he would deal
with it: “Protecting our children is one of the first duties
of the government and that is why the issue of alleged Islamist
extremism in Birmingham schools demands a robust response,”
a statement from his office read.
Some parliamentarians are worried that the absence of a single
curriculum oversight authority, disbanded in 2011, opens schools
up to a number of questionable practices. This concern has been
voiced especially by David Blunkett, the Labour former education
Past and present investigations did reveal some concrete
indicators that this is an issue warranting further attention.
Blunkett is worried that too much power has been left in the
hands of the Department of Education.
Greater exposure was given to the Muslim issue recently when Home
Secretary Theresa May and Education Secretary Michael Gove – two
of Cameron’s top hard-line ministers – blamed each other for its
In order to effectively clamp down on any alleged Islamic
extremist conversions before they have a chance to develop,
Cameron has announced that the government’s chief school
inspector will be assessing plans for random snap inspections of
The prospect of Islamic extremism taking root has “no place
in our society,” the PM stated, so the inspections will most
likely be maintaining a constant presence in British schools,
reporting back to Cameron himself. This was announced at the
Monday meeting of the special task force on the issue.
Some MPs from the centrist Labour Party, however, see the
strategy as “weak and inadequate,” which follows on from
the experience of 2012-2013, when five of the aforementioned
schools in the Ofsted survey had had been given two days’ notice
by inspectors, and received glowing reviews.
Monday’s findings, however, have the company running one of the
schools fiercely defending itself and complaining that the whole
issue is overblown and its activities being completely
misrepresented by the inspection authority.
“Our Ofsted inspections were ordered in a climate of suspicion,
created by the hoax Trojan letter and by the anonymous unproven
allegations about our schools in the media,” the company
said. “Ofsted inspectors came to our schools looking for
extremism, looking for segregation, looking for proof that our
children have religion forced upon them as part of an Islamic
“The Ofsted reports find absolutely no evidence of this
because this is categorically not what is happening at our
schools. Our schools do not tolerate or promote extremism of any
kind. We have made a major commitment to raising all students’
awareness of extremism; people who know and have worked with our
schools are appalled at the way we have been
The company promised to challenge the inspection authority’s
findings in court.
Nonetheless, Islamic extremism is being taken very seriously by
Britain and the row between May and Gove had Cameron frustrated.
The education minister believes that Britain’s strategy to
“prevent” extreme messages being spread needs to be
stepped up, while the home secretary’s views are that
antagonizing mainstream Muslims would not be a smart move. This
is when Gove went to Cameron with requests to do something and
the dispute spilled over into the media, unfortunately for the
Cameron recently informed his colleagues at the G7 summit in
Brussels that he’s “set up the UK extremism task force after
the appalling murder of Lee Rigby because I wanted to make sure
that the government is doing everything that it could to drive
extremism out of our schools, our colleges, off our campuses, out
of prisons, out of every part of national life.”