TROJAN HORSE HOAX- BRIEF RESPONSE by TAHIR ALAM ,former Chair of Park View Educational Trust
Mr. Clarke’s and Mr. Kershaw’s and EFA reports grossly misrepresent and mis-characterise our schools; what I ( and others) stand for and what I have worked for in education, namely high academic standards and inclusion and respect for all children in our schools. This includes British Muslim pupils. I utterly reject fictional accounts seeking to justify that there was some kind of sinister plot by extremists to take over Birmingham schools. I have been accused of things I know nothing about or presumed guilty by association because it suited a politically motivated, predetermined agenda.
Now British Muslim children in these schools are being failed academically and are subjected to discriminatory practices. For example, broadly Islamic collective worship is banned, Friday prayers banned, etc. Muslim pupils are being denied an expression of who they are as British Muslims.
It is self-evident that Trojan Horse Hoax is not about preventing extremism or safeguarding children but about preventing Muslim parents from having a legitimate and democratic say in how their children are being educated and perhaps also to ‘save the Muslim children from Islam!’
Discrimination and politics of division and hatred has been perpetuated by DfE and Ofsted in the Trojan Hoax fiasco. The legacy for the school community is clear, it is now run by individuals who are unrepresentative of the community they serve. More than 90% children in Trojan Hoax schools are of the Islamic faith background but now not even a token single Trustee is from this background. Why? Has the democratic principle and Equalities Act 2010 been ditched?
In creating high performing schools, I and others involved are very proud of what we have achieved for our children in these deprived areas that have historically been failing children for decades. Our hard work and sacrifices now ruined overnight. The drumbeat of excuses for failure has already begun with Mr. Mike Tomlinson complaining about ‘staffing issues’ in Trojan Hoax schools. Dramatic fall in results are predicted. Destruction is far easier than construction. Who created this situation on the back of undated, unsigned hoax letter? And why are the DfE and Birmingham City Council not interested in finding out who wrote the letter and why?
Our children were not at risk of extremism nor were we negligent in this regard. This would be unacceptable. Mr. Clarke’s cock and bull story is not worth the paper it is written on – as there was no extremist plot in Birmingham schools by ‘Sunni hardliners’. By the way the original Trojan Hoax letter said it was a ‘Salafi’ plot. I was not running one. I have been promoting participation in education by parents and continue to do so to address issues of a culture of systemic failure, bad practice, low expectations and to ensure that state schools meet the needs of our children enshrined in regulation and law.
Normally praiseworthy civic participation has been depicted as illegitimate or sinister ‘infiltration’. I am a law-abiding British citizen. What I or other parents do as citizen is not ‘infiltration’. Our children attend state schools and parents have a right to hold schools to account on how they are managed, academic performance and meeting the needs of pupils.
Mr. Clarke has accepted allegations as being ‘fact’ without independently verifying them or corroborating them with those accused. Top policeman got the most basic of facts wrong. For example, Mr. Clarke claims I was Chair of the Association of Muslim Governors (AMG); I have never been the Chair of AMG! This was not checked with me nor with people who ran AMG. Why? This example is typical (not an exception) of the shoddy and desperate approach of Mr. Clarke took to prove predetermined outcomes for Mr. Gove, who, on a knee jerk reaction, hired him to look for ‘extremists and radicals’. This was a witch-hunt. An educationalist was required not anti-terror policeman!
Having analysed and taken both written and verbal evidence from multiple sources over many months; The cross-party House of Commons Education Select Committee, in its damning reporting on the handling of the TrojanHoax Affair was rightfully adamant that there was no co-ordinated plot. The report ‘Extremism in schools: the Trojan Horse affair’ concluded:
‘No evidence of extremism or radicalisation, apart from a single isolated incident, was found by any of the inquiries and there was no evidence of a sustained plot nor of a similar situation pertaining elsewhere in the country.’
In fact ‘isolated single incident’ refers to was a BBC Panorama documentary. Mr. Clarke also tells us that ‘Al-Qaeda terrorist’ video was copied in the school. What he deceitfully omits is that this was a BBC Panorama program which was copied for the Police (Prevent) not for school use. Another typical example of careful crafting and omission to misguide the public to a desired impression and conclusion.
While compiling their reports Mr. Clarke and Mr. Kershaw never put a foot in any of the schools nor spoke to any children or parents but were nonetheless able to arrive at ‘credible’ conclusions.
This paranoid reaction to the Trojan Horse letter has done so much damage to the education of our children and unjustly vilified British Muslim children, parents, teachers and governors – an entire minority community. Indeed the Trojan Hoax has been milked to the maximum for political ends and much legislation justified on the back of the myth of extremist plot to take over Birmingham schools.
The witch-hunt continues by the DfE in seeking to ban governors and teachers in order to prove that there was some reality to the Trojan Horse Hoax. For the pupils it has taken away the very role models that had the potential to inspire young Muslims.
As a responsible authority, if the DfE was concerned about what our school were doing, the rightful and measured action would have been to conduct an investigation and we would openly and happily supported that and corrected things as suggested. Instead what we witnessed and experienced was a coordinated offensive through the media with leaks of Ofsted reports, EFA reports, etc to vilify schools and individuals. Focus of the multitude of overlapping investigation was to find by hook or crook evidence extremism or radicalisation that simply did not exist. This was unjust and wrong.
We must all work for a peaceful, safe and a just society in which all children and communities can thrive as citizens regardless of their backgrounds.