Government intervenes at school 'taken over’ by Muslim radicalsSecondary to be placed in special measures by Ofsted as parents and staff detail campaign of 'Islamisation’ in city
The Birmingham school at the centre of an alleged campaign of “Islamisation” by Muslim radicals is to be placed in “special measures” by the Government’s education watchdog in a move that could see its head teacher and governors removed.
Park View, previously rated “outstanding” by Ofsted, will be downgraded to “inadequate”, the lowest possible score, in the category of leadership and management, senior education sources said.
This enables Ofsted to place the school in special measures, allowing the watchdog, if it wishes, to remove the school’s entire leadership.
The move, described as “seismic” by senior educational sources, follows a highly unusual two Ofsted inspections in the past three weeks at the school, the alleged victim of a campaign by Islamists called a “Trojan Horse” to remove secular head teachers and install Islamic practices in Birmingham state schools.
It will be embarrassing for the inspectorate and the Prime Minister, David Cameron, who previously hailed Park View as an example of educational excellence.
The disclosure comes as parents and school governors and staff describe in detail how the campaign has destabilised and undermined successful schools.
In extensive interviews with The Sunday Telegraph, more than a dozen sources disclosed how children at one supposedly non-religious primary school, Oldknow, were led in anti-Christian chanting by one of their teachers at assembly.
The school also conducts weekly Friday prayers, has organised at least three school trips to Mecca subsidised from public funds, and requires all pupils to learn Arabic — almost unheard of at a primary school.
It also runs its own madrassah, or religious school. Oldknow’s highly successful non-Muslim head teacher has been driven from her post for resisting this “Islamising agenda”, this newspaper has learnt.
The head of another successful primary school, Springfield, received death threats, had his car tyres slashed and is under “non-stop attack” by radical governors, according to parents, other governors and staff at the school.
Several sources said their schools had repeatedly appealed to Birmingham city council and the education inspectorate Ofsted for help, but were ignored.
This newspaper has also established that one of the alleged leaders of the Trojan Horse plot, Tahir Alam, is an Ofsted inspector and is employed as a “specialist in school governance” by Birmingham city council. Mr Alam says the plot is a fabrication and denies any involvement.
The council has downplayed the fundamentalist activity. Its leader, Sir Albert Bore, dismissed the allegations as “defamatory” and said there are “no serious flaws” in its management of schools.
The Sunday Telegraph has learnt, however, that late last week, in a highly unusual move reflecting deep concern in Whitehall, at least a dozen officials from the Department for Education were sent to three of the schools allegedly targeted: Park View, Golden Hillock and Nansen Primary. All three state schools are run by Park View Education Trust, whose chairman is Mr Alam.
The deputy head of Nansen, Razwan Faraz, the brother of a convicted terrorist, is the administrator of an organised group of teachers, governors and school consultants called “Educational Activists” dedicated to pursuing what Mr Faraz, in leaked messages, called an “Islamising agenda” in Birmingham schools.
Nansen, like Oldknow, is one of the tiny number of primary schools in the country that teach compulsory Arabic to all pupils.
“The DfE people are talking to the teachers and children and they are even photocopying exercise books,” said one teacher at Park View. “I have never heard of anything like this before.”
The DfE confirmed that its officials were sent into Park View as part of an “ongoing investigation” into “serious allegations”. Ofsted also made a second inspection in just three weeks at Park View last Monday. Officials are expected to carry out a snap inspection of either Nansen or Golden Hillock tomorrow.
The first Ofsted inspection of Park View, on March 5, was a brief “section 8” monitoring visit. However, it is understood that it uncovered sufficient concerns to trigger a full “section 5” inspection last week, more than three years before Park View’s next such inspection was due. “If a section 8 turns into a section 5, that is serious. It’s not looking good,” said one teacher.
At its previous full inspection in 2012, Park View was rated “outstanding”. But senior educational sources said the latest inspection had dropped it to “inadequate” in one of four categories, leadership and management, which would trigger government intervention. The head teacher, Lindsey Clark, refused to confirm or deny this last night, saying: “The outcome of the report is confidential.”
As this newspaper disclosed two weeks ago, a senior teacher at Park View praised the al-Qaeda ideologue Anwar al-Awlaki at assemblies and used school facilities to copy Osama bin Laden DVDs. The senior teacher is a candidate to replace Mrs Clark, who is retiring. On November 28 the school hosted an extremist preacher, Shady al-Suleiman, at one of its Year 10 and 11 assemblies.
At Oldknow, an academy primary in the Small Heath area, staff, parents and former staff said that the respected non-Muslim head teacher, Bhupinder Kondal, “walked out in tears” after being placed under “impossible pressure” by Achmad da Costa, the chairman of governors, a close colleague of Tahir Alam and a director with him of a group called the Muslim Parents’ Association. She is now bringing a case against the governors.
Over nine years at Oldknow, Mrs Kondal took her school from “inadequate” to “outstanding” in the Ofsted rankings, a feat managed by only a handful of heads. But governors “brought in consultants who set her completely unachievable targets”, one member of staff said.
“We were all told that she was off sick but it has now emerged that she has left,” the staff member added. Mrs Kondal is among four of the school’s six-strong senior management team who have left in the past six months.
Last year Mr da Costa recruited a new deputy head, Jahangir Akbar, from a Muslim faith school in Leicester. Soon afterwards, Jahangir’s younger brother, Khalil, was recruited as assistant head. No other candidates were interviewed for either position and the assistant headship was not even advertised, staff said. Jahangir Akbar is another colleague of Tahir Alam’s and has worked with him in the Association of Muslim Schools, of which Mr Alam is vice-chairman.
“Oldknow’s pupils are mostly but not entirely Muslim and it was always an equal-opportunity school,” said one former member of staff. “But then all of a sudden there were Jummah [Friday] prayers, and going to Saudi Arabia on government money, and the Arabic, and blatant belittling of Christianity.”
Hardline teachers were recruited who would “sow the seed of religion in every lesson,” said one source. “Some of the teachers told pupils that music was sinful in Islam and the children started to refuse to do music, even though it is compulsory in the National Curriculum. It is incredibly difficult when your own colleagues undermine your efforts to give the children a balanced education.”
Matters came to a head, three separate sources said, last December when all the normal Christmas activity, including a tree, cards and the pantomime, was cancelled because it was considered un-Islamic, and the school’s Arabic teacher, Asif Khan, delivered an assembly “ridiculing” Christian beliefs. “It was like a rally,” said one person present. “He was leading them in chants of, 'Do we believe in Christmas? No! Do we give out Christmas cards? No! The seven days of Christmas, they [Christians] can’t even count!’
“The children have always enjoyed Christmas and their parents are fine with it too. Five staff complained and Mrs Kondal made him apologise, but the governors were furious with her and that was the end, really.”
At another successful primary school nearby, Springfield, rated “good,” by Ofsted, the process appears less advanced but similar tactics are being used. The head teacher, Christopher Webb, is under “non-stop attack” by radical members of the governing body, teachers said. “Each meeting is two and a half hours of constant verbal attacks, criticism and cross-examination,” said one.
At least one of the governors at Springfield, Nasim Awan, an Islamic bookshop owner, is a member of the “Educational Activists” group administered by Razwan Faraz. He boasted in leaked messages about the “battles” he had “fought and won” at a “large inner city primary school” which led to its governing body becoming “polarised on faith grounds”.
Before Mr Awan joined Springfield’s governing body, false allegations of cheating in SATs were made against the school. “All the parents in Year 6 were texted with the allegations,” said another teacher. “What was most alarming is that their mobile numbers could only have been obtained by someone within the school.”
A three-year row was also concocted about sex education, staff said. During this period, according to staff, Mr Webb’s car tyres were slashed and he and his family received anonymous death threats over the phone. There is no suggestion that Mr Awan, who was not a governor at that point, or any of the other activists were responsible. Sex education is not taught at the school and is given only on an “individual one-to-one basis” with direct parental consent, teachers said.
Radical governors and some parents also put pressure on the school to cancel the annual nativity play, but this was fought off after Mr Webb enlisted the local imam in support, staff said. One member of staff was forced to remove a picture of Jesus from an Easter assembly on the grounds that images of a prophet were unacceptable.
“Morale is low and we are struggling with the constant need to justify ourselves when there is nothing to justify,” said one staff member. “Things are getting worse but we are getting no support from the local education authority.”
The acting head of Oldknow, Mr Akbar, would not confirm or deny any of the claims about his school last night. Mr Alam did not respond to repeated messages seeking comment. A spokesman for Birmingham council said it was committed to investigating the allegations.