Call for ‘Trojan Horse’ urgency

Published: Monday 17th November 2014 by The News Editor

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The Trojan Horse scandal may not be over, Sir Michael Wilshaw warned today as he called for “greater urgency” to deal with the issues raised in Birmingham.

The Ofsted chief said it was “astonishing” that Birmingham City Council still does not have an action plan in place, and that the Park View Trust – at the centre of the investigations this summer – originally produced a plan that did not address key concerns highlighted by the inspectorate.

Giving evidence to the Commons public accounts committee, Sir Michael also revealed that the schools watchdog will be conducting more inspections of academies run by chains in the New Year.

Four separate investigations were conducted earlier this year into the allegations in Birmingham, which were originally sparked by the ”Trojan Horse” letter – now widely believed to be a hoax – that referred to an alleged plot by hardline Muslims to seize control of a number of school governing boards in the city.

In June, Ofsted issued a damning verdict on the running of a number of Birmingham’s schools and declared five failing, placing them into special measures.

These schools were Golden Hillock School, Nansen Primary School and Park View Academy – all run by the Park View Educational Trust (PVET) – as well as Oldknow Academy and Saltley School.

In an update published last month, Ofsted said that these schools had not improved, with Sir Michael warning that “very little action” had been taken to address the serious concerns raised about each school’s performance, amid slow progress in appointing new governors and senior leaders.

Sir Michael told the cross-party group of MPs: “I don’t think we’ve seen the end of the Trojan Horse issues.

“That’s why I’ve been clear that Birmingham’s got to step up to the plate and monitor what’s happening in their schools, if it’s a local authority school, much more effectively and that’s why the department has got to make sure that the new trustees of the schools that we put into special measures and the new leaders of those schools do a good job.”

The Ofsted boss told the committee that he had been to Birmingham on several occasions, spoken to school leaders and governors and gone into a number of schools that were the focus on the Trojan Horse investigations.

“There needs to be a greater sense of urgency,” Sir Michael said. “It is astonishing that the local authority has not produced an action plan, what they call their integrated plan to address the Trojan Horse issues.”

This is still not in place after 13 or 14 drafts, he claimed.

“I found it astonishing that in the Park View Trust, the action plan hadn’t addressed key issues that we raised when we put that Trust into special measures in May or June.

“These are very, very serious issues, it’s affecting not just those schools but others, that the local authority and also the trustees and the department have got to act with much greater urgency.”

Chris Wormald, the most senior civil servant at the Department for Education, said Sir Michael was right to call for urgency, but said that there were a number of things that they needed to do that “unfortunately do take quite a bit of time, particularly around a variety of staffing changes”.

“I completely agree with Sir Michael’s call for urgency, but unfortunately some of these things do take a while,” he told the committee.

Sir Michael said Ofsted planned to continue with its inspections of academy chains.

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan confirmed last month the watchdog will not be given extra rights to inspect academy chains, despite intense lobbying by the chief inspector.

Sir Michael told the committee that Ofsted has already inspected schools in four chains under its existing powers and will continue after Christmas.

He said Ofsted will choose a “batch of under-performing schools” in a particular chain, and interview headteachers and chairs of governors as part of inspections.

Inspectors will also ask the chief executive of the relevant academy trust to answer various questions, similar to those put to local council bosses as part of their inspections.

Published: Monday 17th November 2014 by The News Editor

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