Sunday Times discovers ‘Trojan Horse 2’ in Tower Hamlets

Today’s Sunday Times features an article entitled “‘Trojan Horse 2’ in London” which attempts to extend the Birmingham “Trojan Horse” witch-hunt to Tower Hamlets, where “Islamic fundamentalists” are supposedly engaged in a takeover of the borough’s schools. No actual evidence is offered to justify this claim – just unsubstantiated assertions by a single anonymous “Whitehall source”.

The authors of the article, Sian Griffiths and Richard Kerbaj, have the nerve refer to “the original plot, first revealed by The Sunday Times”. It was Griffiths and Kerbaj themselves who were responsible for that initial report, published under the shock-horror headline “Islamist plot to take over schools”. Their article was based on a transparently fraudulent document, the so-called “Trojan Horse” letter, which Griffiths and Kerbaj reported as if it was a genuine outline of a plot to seize control of Birmingham schools. The Times, whose reporters – unlike Griffiths and Kerbaj – made some effort to check the authenticity of the letter, quickly concluded that it was crude forgery.

You’d have thought Griffiths and Kerbaj would be embarrassed by their earlier exhibition of journalistic incompetence. But no, they’re evidently proud of their work.

See also “Tower Hamlets denies Islamist fundamentalists operating in schools”, East London Advertiser, 28 September 2014

A statement from Tower Hamlets said: “Tower Hamlets council has some of the best urban schools in the world due in part to an unrivalled partnership between headteachers, parents, governors, local politicians and the local education authority over a 20-year period. For instance, 17 out of 18 secondary schools are rated by Ofsted as good or outstanding.

“The model we have adopted is based on early intervention and where problems have arisen in terms of performance or standards we have acted swiftly to address any concerns.”

‘Trojan Horse 2’ in London

By Sian Griffiths and Richard Kerbaj

Sunday Times, 28 September 2014

AS MANY as a dozen schools in the east London borough of Tower Hamlets face investigation after claims they have fallen under the influence of Islamic fundamentalists.

According to government sources, officials at the Department for Education (DfE) are concerned that the situation may be worse than that uncovered in the “Trojan Horse” scandal earlier this year, in which Islamic fundamentalists attempted to infiltrate secular schools in Birmingham. Emergency inspections of 21 schools in the city by the schools regulator Ofsted resulted in five schools being placed in special measures.

“Tower Hamlets is expected to be the next Birmingham, but even worse, because the problems surrounding Muslim fundamentalists imposing their views on education seem to be more embedded,” said a senior Whitehall source.

Both secular state schools and private Islamic schools are under suspicion, and there are concerns that non-Muslim teachers are staying silent for fear of losing their jobs.

“The DfE will rely on whistleblowers to come forward about non-Muslim teachers being sidelined by Muslim fundamentalists in the borough,” the source said. “But potential whistleblowers fear they may be bullied, further sidelined or fired if they raise concerns.”

Allegations about the imposition of extreme views in Tower Hamlets classrooms come as Ofsted prepares to publish the findings of emergency inspections of 40 schools in England in the past fortnight.

In an interview with The Sunday Times, Sir Michael Wilshaw, the chief inspector of schools, warned: “The problems in Birmingham are far from resolved.”

Ofsted has recently been into several schools in the city that were not subject to inspections during the Trojan Horse affair. Inspectors found that some schools placed in special measures have yet to overcome their problems.

Snap inspections have taken place in towns and cities across the country, including Bradford, Luton, London and Manchester. These involved faith schools with a Jewish, Christian or Islamic ethos, as well as secular schools with a high number of Muslim pupils.

Many visits were prompted by concerns that the schools were not offering a broad and balanced curriculum, including religious tolerance.

Marner Primary School in Tower Hamlets was one of those inspected after concerns were raised by the Home Office. Tower Hamlets council said it expected the school to be given a clean bill of health by Ofsted within days.

Next month Wilshaw will send the 40 reports, with a briefing note about the action required, to Nicky Morgan, the education secretary.

Officials are understood to be worried that, with Britain poised to launch airstrikes against Isis, the threat of children being radicalised was high. Wilshaw said he would not hesitate to act. “There has never been a more important time for schools to promote the beliefs and values that underpin British society.”

“I can see us doing significantly more unannounced inspections . . . All head teachers have a great responsibility to ensure their schools are run properly and are safe for the children. If they are not doing that, we will inspect [them] without notice.”

Wilshaw is also in talks with the government about how to monitor madrasahs, private Islamic schools. These schools are unregulated and it is understood there is disagreement between the coalition partners on how to tackle the issue.

The prospect of a new Trojan Horse-style scandal in Tower Hamlets will alarm ministers. The original plot, first revealed by The Sunday Times, resulted in the removal of several head teachers and boards of governors in Birmingham.

A report into the scandal by Peter Clarke, a former head of counterterrorism at the Metropolitan police, found evidence of a “sustained” attempt to impose hardline Muslim views, with female staff bullied and Christian assemblies scrapped.

The DfE said: “If any evidence of extremism is presented to us, we will investigate.”

Update:  See “Ofsted says no extremism in Marner primary school”, East London Lines, 8 October 2014