Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Islamist plot in Britain: six schools face Ofsted special measures

At least six Birmingham schools at the centre of an alleged Islamic takeover plot are set to be placed in “special measures” by Ofsted in a move that could see their entire leadership removed.

The six schools are implicated in the so-called “Trojan Horse” plot by extremists to “Islamise” secular state education in Birmingham which has allegedly seen the illegal segregation of pupils and discrimination against non-Muslim pupils.

The Telegraph understands the six will be rated “inadequate” by the schools inspectorate after a series of snap inspections over the past few weeks. The label usually leads to “special measures”, which in turn give Ofsted the power to remove senior managers or even close the schools.

Ofsted will also take action, although less drastic, at a further nine schools in the city where the attempted Islamic takeover is less advanced, or where secular head teachers are resisting it. Only one of the 17 schools inspected by Ofsted so far in connection with the alleged plot has received a clean bill of health, although one report is yet to be completed.

One source said: “Almost all of the reports to a greater or lesser extent are pointing out flaws in leadership, management or safeguarding driven by an Islamist political ideology. Sometimes the flaws are light. In some cases they are very severe. Those to be put in special measures are those where [radical] governors are effectively running the school.”

Separately, senior sources at the Department for Education (DfE) say they have established an “overlapping web of connections” in the schools affected, with a “driving force which appears to be explicitly Islamist”. This is despite some prominent figures in Birmingham attempting to cast doubt on the credibility of the allegations.

In the reports, to be published at the same time next month, Ofsted will grade Park View; Golden Hillock; Nansen; Oldknow and Saltley schools in Birmingham as “inadequate” for leadership and management, the lowest possible ranking. A sixth school, Alston, is already in special measures.

Springfield; Adderley; Regents Park; Highfield; Gracelands; Ladypool; Marlborough; Montgomery and Waverley schools will be graded as “requiring improvement” in leadership and management, the second-lowest rank, and given enhanced monitoring and support. No concerns were found at Ninestiles. The report on one further school, Washwood Heath, is still being completed. A number of other schools in Birmingham are likely to be inspected after Easter.

One school on the list has confirmed that it had been targeted. In a message to parents, Adderley said several head teachers had informed the authorities of “malicious and targeted campaigns to remove them” and that attempts have been made “to destabilise the school by a very small but well organised group of individuals”.

It added: “The governors, head teacher, senior leadership team and staff have been robust in ensuring that Adderley remains a multicultural school providing a safe and positive learning environment for all of our 630 children.”

The verdicts of the Ofsted reports are almost certain to mean that Tahir Alam, the hardline Muslim Council of Britain activist accused of being the “Trojan Horse” plot’s ringleader, is removed from his roles as chairman of governors at Park View, chairman of the Park View Educational Trust, which also runs Nansen and Golden Hillock, and from his post as a governor of Highfield. His key allies at many of the schools affected are also likely to be removed. Mr Alam denies any involvement in any plot, calling it a “witch-hunt” and “fabrication”.

A separate report, by inspectors from the DfE, has substantiated many of the allegations. The report, disclosed in The Telegraph on Friday, accused Park View, Nansen and Golden Hillock of illegally segregating pupils, discriminating against non-Muslim students and “restricting” the GCSE syllabus to “comply with conservative Islamic teaching”.

The report said girls at Park View and Golden Hillock were made to sit at the back of the class; some Christian pupils at Golden Hillock were left to “teach themselves” and at Park View a supporter of al-Qaeda was invited to speak at assembly. Aspects of the GCSE curriculum were ignored as un-Islamic, even though needed by pupils for exams.

Lindsey Clark, Park View’s respected executive head, who retired last week, is one of five non-Muslim head teachers in a small area of Birmingham to leave her job in the past six months. The DfE report makes clear that Mrs Clark, who over 11 years took Park View to an Ofsted rating of “outstanding”, had been reduced to a figurehead.

At Oldknow, another school to be placed in special measures, Bhupinder Kondal, the non-Muslim head teacher, was forced from her job despite also achieving an “outstanding” Ofsted rating.

At Springfield, staff told The Telegraph Christopher Webb, the successful secular head teacher, is under “non-stop attack” by radical members of the governing body. Separately, Mr Webb has received death threats.

A small number of individuals linked to either Mr Alam, a Birmingham charity called the al-Hijrah Trust or an online group called Educational Activists are present in most of the schools affected. In messages leaked to The Sunday Telegraph, members of the Educational Activists group discussed how they would pursue an “Islamising agenda” in schools.

Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, last week controversially appointed Peter Clarke, the former head of counter-terrorism at Scotland Yard, to investigate the issue. Ministers and DfE officials were understood to be frustrated at what one senior figure called “the wilful attempt at every stage to minimise what is happening” by local leaders in Birmingham.

The city council was aware of growing pressure on head teachers almost six months ago, but only acted after an anonymous letter purporting to reveal details of the plot was published. Many teachers have told The Sunday Telegraph their complaints to the council were ignored.

Mark Rogers, the chief executive of the council, claimed only two weeks ago that there was no conspiracy, merely “new communities” raising “legitimate questions and challenges” to the “liberal education system”.

However, the council has now frozen the recruitment of school governors and set up an inquiry of its own.

Ofsted is understood to be highly critical of the council’s performance. However, parents and Tristram Hunt, the shadow education secretary, said Mr Gove’s policies were also to blame. Many of the schools affected have converted to academies, greatly limiting the local authority’s control over how they are run.


Town's schools urged to fly Union Jack to boost patriotism in pupils with campaign launched by grandson of Bolton's first Indian immigrant

Schools are being urged to fly the Union Jack and sing the national anthem at every assembly as part of a campaign to foster patriotism among the young.

The campaign in Bolton was launched by a Tory councillor whose grandfather was the town’s first Indian immigrant.

It was approved this week despite a Labour councillor questioning whether schools with tight budgets could afford flags and poles.

Schools in the area will also be asked to fly the St George’s cross on April 23, St George’s Day, and the Commonwealth flag in March.

Mudasir Dean said he wanted to seize the Union Flag back from the Far Right and show children it was a symbol people from all backgrounds could celebrate.

‘My grandfather came to Bolton in the 1920s from India,’ he said. ‘He lived here all his life and he was the first Asian to settle in Bolton.

‘Growing up in Bolton, I’ve seen less and less of the Union Flag. It’s been hijacked by the Far Right and it’s time we take that symbol back into mainstream British, Bolton life.’

Councillor Dean said complaints that new immigrants couldn’t settle in Britain was sometimes ‘our own fault’. ‘If we were more patriotic – if we sang our national anthem and flew our flag – and instilled it in our younger generations, they would do,’ he added.

Speaking before Wednesday’s vote, Labour councillor and school governor Chris Peacock questioned the plan on practical grounds.

‘Who will pay for these new flag poles and flags?’ he asked. ‘Schools’ budgets are already stretched. Raising the Union flag won’t raise standards – that should be our priority.’  However the Labour-controlled authority backed the motion, carried with 34 members in favour, four against and 11 abstentions.

The council will now write to all schools in the area and ask them to consider flying the flag and incorporating a performance of God Save the Queen into the school day.

But Mr Peacock said he remained opposed, telling the BBC: ‘If you want to inspire patriotism amongst our young people, show the clips from the Olympics again.’


The Asian ceiling in elite schools revisited

Charles Murray

Last December, I wrote at length in this space about Asian-Americans as the new Jews. My point, drawing on a detailed, data-driven analysis by Ron Unz, was that the Ivies have converged on about 16%, plus or minus a few percent, as the appropriate proportion of Asian-Americans in their institutions, even though collateral evidence tells us that a fair proportion based on their qualifications would be much higher. An article published last week in the New York Times drives this point home from a new perspective.

The title of the article is “Confessions of an Application Reader: Lifting the Veil on the Holistic Process at the University of California, Berkeley,” and it is required reading for anyone who wants to understand how admission to elite universities works. It reveals what everyone involved in the admissions offices of elite universities has long known: “Holistic admissions” is admirable in theory and corrupt in practice when a school has an underlying agenda. The subjectivity of the holistic process permits the school to produce whatever admissions outcomes it wants without the embarrassment of coming right out and saying what it’s doing.

The article is fascinating on its own, but what caught my attention was the contrast between the treatment of Asian-American applicants in the holistic process and the admissions results. By California state law, race and ethnicity are not supposed to be considered in the state’s university system. But as the article makes clear, the holistic process de facto downgrades the role of academic qualifications (where Asians have their greatest advantage) in the admissions decisions, so that “underrepresented minorities” (Latinos and African Americans) can get an edge. And yet, in 2012 Asian-Americans still constituted 43% of the freshman enrollment, about four times their representation in the California population of 15–19 year olds.

That a group can have the deck stacked against it and still produce the results that Asian-American applicants got is dazzling. What would have been the percentage of Asian-Americans in Berkeley’s freshman class if academic qualifications were decisive? Sixty percent? Eighty percent? There’s no way of knowing, but it would surely have been a lot higher than 43.

California has a higher concentration of Asians than the rest of the nation, so we shouldn’t expect the Ivies to have as high a proportion of Asian applicants. But the same is not true of Stanford, just forty miles down the road from Berkeley. Same region of the same state. Even more prestigious than Berkeley. Even more of a magnet for the most ambitious, academically superior students. And yet just 19% of its freshman in 2012 were Asian-Americans, barely higher than the Ivies’ average of 16% and less than half the percentage at Berkeley.

There is no benign explanation for this disparity, unless benign includes “We think a ceiling on Asian-Americans in our student body is appropriate.” That’s what America’s elite universities have decided, and it’s time to demand that they justify it publicly. So let’s have that much-touted conversation about race, but let’s do it about Asian-Americans. Here is the sub rosa rationale for the Asian-American ceiling:

“Yes, they get high test scores and grades in high school, because that’s all they and their ambitious parents care about. They aren’t intellectually curious. They don’t add to classroom discussions. They don’t have any interests outside academics or maybe music. They don’t come from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds. They don’t add as much to the university environment as other kids whose test scores and grades aren’t as high.”

I didn’t write that down because I believe it, or because I think any admissions officer in any elite university in the country will defend it in public, but because something like that logic is the only justification for a ceiling on Asian-American admissions. Otherwise, it’s just discrimination against hard-working, high-achieving young people because of the color of their skin. And that would be despicable.


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