State schools isolate non-Muslims
By Andrew Gilligan
18 April 2014
Park View school in Birmingham, one of the 25 schools under investigation for alleged infiltration by extremism. Photo: Caters
Schools in Birmingham are illegally segregating pupils, discriminating against non-Muslim students and restricting the GCSE syllabus to “comply with conservative Islamic teaching”, an official report leaked to The Telegraph discloses.
Department for Education inspectors said that girls in a school at the centre of the so-called “Trojan Horse” plot were forced to sit at the back of the class, some Christian pupils were left to “teach themselves” and an extremist preacher was invited to speak to children.
The report, into three schools in the city, follows weeks of controversy over the alleged plot to “Islamise” secular schools in Birmingham and will lead to calls for intervention. The report focuses on Park View School and its sister schools, Golden Hillock and Nansen, the only primary of the three. Inspectors found that Park View practised forced and discriminatory sex segregation and has “restricted” GCSE subjects “to comply with conservative Islamic teaching”.
Core elements of the GCSE syllabus were missed out as “un-Islamic” and an extremist preacher with known al-Qaeda sympathies and anti-Semitic views was invited to speak with children. At Golden Hillock, there was discrimination against non-Muslims, the report found. Its handful of Christian students “have to teach themselves” in one GCSE subject after the teacher “concentrated on the students who were doing the Islamic course”. At Nansen, Year 6 children, aged 10 and 11, received no teaching at all in the arts, humanities or music.
The document, classified “official-sensitive”, describes the results of inspections of the schools last month by officials from the DfE. All three are supposedly non-faith schools run by the Park View Educational Trust.
Allegations that radical Muslims were seeking to “Islamise” secular schools in Birmingham first emerged publicly last month in a leaked letter, describing an operation purportedly named “Trojan Horse”. The letter supposedly described how activists could stir up Muslim parents to oust secular headteachers. Park View and its chairman of governors, Tahir Alam, were named in the letter as being at the centre of the plot. Mr Alam and the school have furiously denied the claims as “fictitious”, “Islamophobic” and a “witch-hunt”.
However, the leaked report substantiates many of the claims made against the school. It accuses Park View of 20 separate breaches of the law, the schools’ funding agreement with the DfE, and the Academy Schools Handbook. The inspectors found that, contrary to its denials, Park View did practise forced and discriminatory gender segregation, with “boys sitting towards the front of the class and girls at the back or around the sides”.
The school has always claimed that any separation of the sexes was voluntary. However, the report says: “Students told us they were required to sit in the places which they were given by teachers.” This constituted “non-compliance with the Equality Act” and potentially “less favourable treatment for girls”. There was entirely separated teaching, in separate rooms, for some subjects, the report says.
The small number of Christian or non-Muslim pupils also suffered discrimination, the report says. At Golden Hillock, five Christian students in Year 11 “have to teach themselves” in one GCSE subject, religious education, because the teacher gave all his or her time “to the students who are doing the Islamic course”.
Sheikh Shady al-Suleiman, an extremist preacher who “is known to extol... the stoning of homosexuals, anti-Semitic views [and is] sympathetic to al-Qaeda”, was invited to address students at Park View, the inspectors found. The core curriculum at the two secondary schools had been Islamised, with GCSE subjects “restricted to comply with conservative Islamic teaching”.
Children told the inspectors that in biology the teacher “briefly delivered the theory of evolution to comply with the syllabus”, but told students that “this is not what we believe”. In biology, the inspectors also found that “topics such as body structure and the menstrual cycle were not covered in class, though pupils needed them for the GCSE exam . . . students told us that as Muslims they were not allowed to study matters such as reproduction with the opposite sex”. At Park View, a “madrassah curriculum” was followed in personal, health and social education, the report said.
Though all the schools are supposed to be secular, the inspectors said they were not sufficiently welcoming to those of other faiths or no faith, with students at Park View encouraged to “begin and end each lesson with a prayer” and loudspeakers used to “broadcast the call for prayer across the school”. The report added that the respected non-Muslim headteacher was marginalised, and female staff at one of the schools were treated in a “rude and dismissive” way.
Teaching standards and children’s safety were placed at risk after the schools’ management recruited close relatives, without adequate teaching experience or proper background checks, to key leadership posts.
At Golden Hillock, any discussion of sexual orientation or intimacy was banned, affecting “the broad and balanced teaching of many subjects, including art and English literature”, the inspectors found. At Nansen, there were “no lessons in the humanities, arts or music” for one entire year, Year 6, and only “limited” teaching in Year 5. Arabic, however, was compulsory for all students — almost unheard of at a primary school.
Female staff at the schools were discriminated against, the report says. “One of the senior leaders [at Nansen] interviewed reported that she had never met a governor or been invited to a governing body meeting, although the male senior leader with similar responsibilities was invited to every meeting”. At Golden Hillock, three members of staff told inspectors that governors were “rude to women and dismissive of their input” and that some governors “will not shake the hands of female senior leaders”.
The report makes clear that Park View’s most senior female leader, the non-Muslim executive headteacher, Lindsey Clark, had been reduced to a figurehead, marginalised to the extent that she “was unaware of the names of some of the more recent appointments to the senior leadership team” at her own school. Last week, Mrs Clark retired.
All three schools were in reality run by Mr Alam, who had an “inappropriate day-to-day role in the running of the schools” and who received undeclared four-figure payments from them as a “consultant”, the report states. At Nansen the deputy headteacher, Razwan Faraz, “was appointed deputy only three years after [achieving] qualified teacher status”, the report says. No references from outside the schools were taken up for him. As The Telegraph revealed last month, Mr Faraz, the brother of a convicted terrorist, is the administrator of a group of teachers, governors and school consultants called Educational Activists which pursues what he calls an “Islamising agenda” in Birmingham schools.
Mr Alam, a leading activist in the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), has a number of hardline views. In evidence for the MCB to the UN’s high commissioner for human rights in 2008, he said he would “caution against advocating that desegregation [in schools] should be actively pursued” and stressed the “obligatory nature” of the hijab for Muslim women and girls.
The disclosures came as Tristram Hunt, the shadow education secretary, prepared to make a strong attack on “divisive” attempts to impose religious values on secular schools. Speaking at the NASUWT union conference in Birmingham, he was due to say: “We cannot have narrow, religious motives which seek to divide and isolate dictating state schooling. We cannot have headteachers forced out, teachers undermined, curricula rewritten and cultural or gender-based segregation. Indeed, it is more important than ever in a modern, multi-cultural city like this one that schooling serves to unite, not fracture communities.”
A spokesman for Park View Educational Trust said: “This is a confidential draft report which the trust is entitled to respond to within a given timescale and it should not have been made public. We are extremely disappointed that our entitlement to confidentiality has been breached and we will not comment any further.”
Source: Telegraph UK.