A senior teacher at a Birmingham school accused of failing to protect children from extremism has told MPs staff never tolerated any extremist views. And Lee Donaghy, Vice Principal of Park View School in Alum Rock, hit back at a damning Ofsted report by insisting the Trojan Horse controversy came from “plain old Islamaphobia, either witting or unwitting”.
Ofsted last week placed five schools – including three in the Park View Academy – into special measures after a series of snap inspections following claims of a takeover plot by hardline Muslims. Inspectors said they discovered a “culture of fear and intimidation” in some schools, with some governors accused of exerting “inappropriate influence” over how they were being run.
The Commons Home Affairs Committee is conducting an inquiry into the Trojan Horse allegations.
But today MPs also heard evidence from Councillor Brigid Jones, Cabinet Member for Children and Family Services at Birmingham City Council, who insisted she had seen no evidence of extremism in city schools. She said: “Any direct evidence of extremism has yet to be presented to me.”
And Mark Rogers, Birmingham City Council’s Chief Executive, questioned the authenticity of the Trojan Horse document. He said: “I have yet to be convinced that it is an authentic letter from one plotter to another. I think what it sets out is a set of issues that somebody had some concerns about and wanted action over.”
Mr Donaghy said his school “honours the faith of the pupils, it respects the faith of the pupils inside the school”, for example by broadcasting a call to prayer which pupils are free to attend or not. But he insisted it never segregated pupils and had invited Christian and Jewish speakers to address pupils as well as Muslims. He said: “There’s been a willful misrepresentation of things that we’ve done and some things have been outright lies.”
Oftsed and officials from the Education Funding Agency had published criticisms about the school, claiming that a biology teacher had said Muslims did not believe in evolution. But the Park View Vice Principal said many of the claims had been vague and failed to name teachers involved, making it impossible for the school to investigate them.
See also “Schools trojan claims are ‘plain old Islamophobia'”, Asian Image, 17 June 2014
And “Ofsted accused of Islamophobia over Birmingham ‘Trojan Horse’ schools report”, IB Times, 17 June 2014