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Monday, 9 June 2014

Prime Minister takes control of 'Trojan Horse' response

Number 10 say that the Prime Minister, David Cameron, has been deeply concerned by the allegations made about extremism in a number of Birmingham schools. The Government, through the Department for Education and Ofsted, has taken swift action to investigate these allegations since the so-called Trojan Horse letter was received by the Government in late 2013. The full results of the Ofsted investigations will be released later today, but in advance of this the Prime Minister has instructed the following:
  • Education Secretary Michael Gove will ask Her Majesty's Chief Inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw to report back on the practicalities of allowing any school to be inspected at no notice. Findings from the Education Funding Agency reports suggest that notice periods were used in schools in Birmingham to put on hastily arranged shows of cultural inclusivity. The previous inspections of five of the Trojan Horse schools (which found them good or outstanding) in 2012 and 2013 gave 1-2 days notice. This time round, the schools were given 30 minutes or less notice via phone. They were found inadequate.
  • The Prime Minister is calling a special meeting of the Government's Extremism Taskforce to discuss the implications arising from the findings of the Ofsted review and the wider situation in Birmingham. The Prime Minister will also meet with key Cabinet members on Monday morning to discuss the situation.
  • To ensure the safeguarding of children in Birmingham until the situation is fully resolved, the Prime Minister has been assured by Ofsted that they will maintain a regular presence in Birmingham schools, with reports from inspectors coming directly to the Prime Minister and the Education Secretary.
David Cameron commenting said: "Protecting our children is one of the first duties of Government and that is why the issue of alleged Islamist extremism in Birmingham schools demands a robust response. The Education Secretary will now ask Sir Michael Wilshaw to look into allowing any school to be inspected at no notice, stopping schools having the opportunity to cover up activities which have no place in our society."

Education Secretary Michael Gove said: "We have to ensure children are safe in our schools. Evidence uncovered in Birmingham clearly indicates that schools have used the notice they have been given of inspections to evade proper scrutiny. Sir Michael Wilshaw will now examine the practicalities of moving to a position where all schools know they may face an unannounced inspection. Our children need to be protected in schools, kept safe from the dangers of extremism and guaranteed a broad and balanced curriculum. This change will help provide parents with the reassurance they need."

Responding to the Prime Minister's comments, Tristram Hunt MP, Shadow Education Secretary, said: "'This is an entirely weak and inadequate response by David Cameron to the gravity of the situation in Birmingham. What we're seeing in Birmingham is part of the systematic failings in the current school system. Cameron's schools policy has delivered a vacuum in the local oversight of our schools, leaving children exposed to falling standards and vulnerable to risks posed by extremists. By refusing to address the inadequate checks in the schools system, Cameron reveals he is happy with the status quo. Labour has pledged to introduce new local Directors of School Standards to root-out problems before they set in."