Snap inspections target private Islamic schools

Emergency inspections have been conducted at more schools in Tower Hamlets, east London, this month at the request of the Department for Education (DfE).

Most are understood to be private Islamic schools, but they include a flagship Church of England state school.

Ofsted inspectors gave a clean bill of health to safeguarding arrangements for pupils at Marner Primary, a Tower Hamlets state school, after a visit in September.

At the time, Tower Hamlets council strongly denied claims by a Whitehall source that the borough was “expected to be the next Birmingham” with a “Trojan Horse” problem of Islamic influence in schools.

Inspectors have now visited six more schools after concerns about curriculums had been raised by the DfE, according to government sources.

They include Al-Mizan primary and the London East Academy, private schools for Muslim boys run by the East London Mosque Trust. Their pupils, who are mostly from Bangladeshi families, learn a combination of Islamic education and some national curriculum subjects.

Ofsted teams also paid snap visits to Jamiatul Ummah secondary, another private school for Muslim boys, and Sir John Cass Red Coat CoE Secondary School, a voluntary aided state school overseen by the Tower Hamlets education authority. Two other schools inspected have not been named.

Tower Hamlets said that “whilst we do not usually comment on Ofsted reports before they are published, we can categorically state the inspection has not found any ‘Trojan Horse’-type issues relating to the conduct of staff and governors or the curriculum” at Sir John Cass.

A council spokesman said it was “one of the best performing schools in London – however, all schools can improve, and we look forward to supporting the school in implementing the recommendations of the Ofsted report when it is published”.

He added: “Local education authorities have no powers whatsoever over the educational conduct and performance of private schools. This remains the responsibility of Ofsted and other agencies. It is for the DfE to decide whether these arrangements are sufficient.

“Councils do have a safeguarding duty for all children within their boundaries, but this does not include the right to inspect and enter the premises of private educational establishments.”

A government source said: “There were specific concerns about the curriculum being taught in some of the schools. Since these schools were being investigated, it was decided to look at six schools in the area.”

Sir Michael Wilshaw, the Ofsted chief, has made clear that no-notice inspections will be undertaken more frequently in the wake of the alleged Trojan Horse plot, which involved claims that several schools in Birmingham had been infiltrated by governors and teachers with a hardline Islamic agenda.

Last month inspectors conducted 40 no-notice school inspections in England. The Siddeeq Academy, a private tuition centre in Tower Hamlets, was also raided by police.

Sunday Times, 19 October 2014