Ofsted’s report into the 21 Birmingham schools involved in the so-called ‘Trojan Horse’ plot has been released (pdf) and it does not make for pleasant reading. Sir Michael Wilshaw, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, summaries that Ofsted found a ‘culture of fear and intimidation has taken grip’ in the Birmingham schools. The report suggests that the schools were targeted and an ‘organised takeover’ did occur. Here are five things you need to know about the Ofsted report:
1. A culture of fear and intimidation
Wilshaw says that some of the 21 schools who were once judged to be good or outstanding have ‘experienced high levels of staff turbulence, low staff morale and a rapid decline in their overall effectiveness.’ In some instances, a breakdown of trust between governors and staff has been found, with some head teachers telling the inspectors they were frightened of expressing different views to those of the governors.
Some of the words used to describe the situation include ‘intimidated’, ‘undermined’ and ‘bullied’. One teacher would only speak to Ofsted in a supermarket car park while some female staff complained of unfair treatment from male members of staff. Ofsted has said the safeguarding from governors in five schools is inadequate while others are in desperate need of improvement.
2. An organised campaign to alter the character and ethos
The inspectors found evidence that governors of some schools had exerted ‘inappropriate influence’ on the day to day running of schools — including narrowing of the curriculum, manipulating staff appointments and misuse of school funds. The makeup of some governing bodies has changed ‘markedly’ over recently years, leaving the schools vulnerable to ‘influence by unsuitable governors’.
In particular, some of the academies were judged by Ofsted to be breach of their funding agreements — including not having ‘broad and balanced’ curriculums, a ‘balance in religious education’ or fulfilling a ‘general requirement to promote community cohesion’.
3. Birmingham Council failed to help schools protect pupils
A number of the school leaders told Ofsted they hadn’t been supported by Birmingham City Council to keep pupils safe from the potential risks of radicalisation and extremism. Some school leaders noted that money and assistance from the Home Office’s ‘Prevent’ strategy had not made its way from the local authority to schools. ‘Very little confidence’ was generally found in school leaders on how BCC would assist with their concerns.
4. Children are being badly prepared for ‘life in modern Britain’
While examination results were found to be acceptable, Wilshaw says the curriculum in some cases was ‘too narrow’ and this could make children vulnerable to ‘segregation and emotional dislocation from wider society’. The curriculum in some of the Birmingham schools was found to reflect the personal views of some governors.
Pupils were not being equipped to live and work in what Wilshaw describes as ‘multi-cultural, multi-faith and democratic Britain’. In one instance, Wilshaw found separate ‘faith-based singing clubs’ while girls and boys were not treated equally in others.
5. Professional governors, reviewing academy funding agreements and training for governors
In his recommendations, Wilshaw suggests the government undertake the following actions to tackle the issues Ofsted found in the 21 Birmingham schools:
- Ensure local authorities and those responsible for academies/free schools carry out their responsibilities to safeguard children
- School governance arrangements need to be reviewed — with mandatory training for governors, professional governors where required and a Register of Interests for all governors
- Review auditing arrangements for funding in academies and free schools
- Review all funding agreements for academies and free school
- Review whistle blowing arrangements in local and central government
- Investigate further where there has been ‘organised infiltration and manipulation’ of governing bodies, i.e. the Trojan Horse
- More clarity on what constitutes a ‘broad and balanced curriculum’
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