Tro­jan Horse: 25 schools probed over al­leged takeover plot

Daily Trust - - INTERNATIONAL / WORLD -

An in­ves­ti­ga­tion into an al­leged hard-line Is­lamist takeover plot of Birm­ing­ham schools has widened, with 25 schools now un­der the spot­light.

Birm­ing­ham City Coun­cil said it had re­ceived more than 200 re­ports in re­la­tion to its in­quiry. It has ap­pointed for­mer head teacher Ian Ker­shaw as its chief ad­vi­sor.

Anony­mous claims hard-line Mus­lims were try­ing to take over the run­ning of some city schools were made in a let­ter sent to lo­cal au­thor­i­ties last year.

The 25 schools now be­ing looked at in­clude pri­maries, sec­on­daries and acad­e­mies. The 200-plus re­ports to the coun­cil in­clude emails and calls from staff, par­ents and gov­er­nors.

The leader of Birm­ing­ham City Coun­cil, Sir Al­bert Bore, said he did not know the full range of is­sues raised and said it would be wrong to com­ment on the specifics of the al­le­ga­tions.

“It is about the gen­eral specifics, the be­hav­iour of the schools, what hap­pens within the schools, the school day, the as­sem­bly,” he said.

Mr Ker­shaw, who is man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of North­ern Ed­u­ca­tion, will con­duct a study and re­port to a new­ly­formed re­view group made up of MPs, po­lice, coun­cil­lors and faith groups.

His re­port is due to be pub­lished along­side a par­al­lel in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the Depart­ment for Ed­u­ca­tion (DfE) in May.

It will feed into a fol­low-up doc­u­ment con­tain­ing rec­om­men­da­tions on how schools are run, both lo­cally and na­tion­ally, to be re­leased in July, the coun­cil said.

Con­cerns were raised last year when an un­dated and anony­mous let­ter out­lin­ing the al­leged plot, dubbed “Oper­a­tion Tro­jan Horse”, which it claimed had al­ready ousted four head teach­ers and brought about an ad­her­ence to more hard-line Is­lamic prin­ci­ples.

The let­ter was ap­par­ently penned by some­one in Pro-Rus­sian ac­tivists have at­tacked an­other of­fi­cial build­ing in east Ukraine, ig­nor­ing a dead­line to leave or face evic­tion by Ukrainian forces.

A crowd stormed a po­lice sta­tion in the town of Hor­livka, near Donetsk, tak­ing con­trol of the build­ing. Ukraine’s in­terim pres­i­dent hit out at “ag­gres­sion” from Rus­sia, but sig­nalled sup­port for a na­tional ref­er­en­dum.

Olexan­der Turchynov said Kiev was “not against” a vote on the fu­ture of the coun­try, a key de­mand from pro­test­ers.

Mr Turchynov also said Ukraine was pre­par­ing an “anti-ter­ror­ist oper­a­tion” against gun­men oc­cu­py­ing govern­ment build­ings in Slo­viansk and a num­ber of other towns and cities.

His of­fice said that he had sug­gested the UN could as­sist in any such oper­a­tion. This would be highly un­likely as Rus­sia has a veto on the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil, which would have to au­tho­rise any such ac­tion. Cor­re­spon­dents Birm­ing­ham to a con­tact in Brad­ford.

Sir Al­bert said the city coun­cil had spo­ken to lo­cal au­thor­i­ties in both Manch­ester and Brad­ford.

“There are cer­tainly is­sues in Brad­ford which have sim­i­lar­i­ties with the is­sues be­ing spo­ken about in Birm­ing­ham,” he said.

He added he was frus­trated with the two-tier schools sys­tem in which acad­e­mies op­er­ate out­side the lo­cal author­ity’s con­trol and re­port di­rectly to the DfE.

“We do not have the re­la­tion­ship with acad­e­mies as we do with the com­mu­nity schools,” he said. Brigid Jones, the coun­cil’s cab­i­net mem­ber for chil­dren and fam­ily ser­vices, said chil­dren should be able to work “with­out fear of in­tim­i­da­tion”.

She de­nied claims from some Mus­lim par­ents that a freeze on the re­cruit­ment of school gov­er­nors, while it in­ves­ti­gates the claims, was ef­fec­tively a mes­sage that Mus­lim gov­er­nors were not wel­come. BBC says people in east­ern Ukraine are anx­iously wait­ing to see if Mr Turchynov car­ries through on his threat to use the army against the proRus­sian groups.

In a tele­vised ad­dress to par­lia­ment, in­terim Pres­i­dent Turchynov sug­gested Kiev would be open to mov­ing from a repub­lic into a fed­er­a­tion and giv­ing broader rights to Ukraine’s Rus­sian speak­ers.

The pro-Rus­sian groups who have seized govern­ment build­ings in east­ern re­gions are de­mand­ing lo­cal ref­er­en­dums on ei­ther in­creased lo­cal rights or an op­tion to join the Rus­sian Fed­er­a­tion.

But Mr Turchynov stopped well short of giv­ing in to these de­mands by show­ing sup­port for a na­tional ref­er­en­dum, of which the out­come is un­cer­tain be­cause most people in Kiev and the Ukrainian-speak­ing west re­ject the idea of fed­er­al­i­sa­tion. BBC

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