BHA responds to leaked details of DfE’s report into Birmingham schools
Parts of a draft of Peter Clarke’s report for the Department for Education (DfE) into various Birmingham schools, including Park View School, have been leaked to The Guardian. The British Humanist Association (BHA) prompted the DfE and Ofsted to investigate Park View School by facilitating three former members of staff to make complaints about their experiences at the school some time before the so-called ‘Trojan Horse’ letter appeared in the press, and worked with those members of staff to ensure their concerns were heard across the media. The BHA has expressed its concern at the situation in Birmingham and called for a review of the place of religion in British schools.
BHA Head of Public Affairs Pavan Dhaliwal commented, ‘The leaked portions of Peter Clarke’s draft report into the situation in Birmingham make for extremely alarming reading, and like the Ofsted and Education Funding Agency reports into Park View School, appear to confirm the concerns that were put to us by a number of whistleblowers in January. It is hugely important that every state-funded school provides an education that is broad, balanced and inclusive – with no discrimination on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, or religious or non-religious beliefs. We hope that the new governing bodies of the Park View academies will ensure that this is the case.
‘More generally, however, the findings with respect to these schools stand in stark contrast to the landscape of Christian and Jewish schools in this country. In some places concern is expressed about practices that are unacceptable in the Birmingham schools simply because they are not “faith” schools, but that would be considered to be permissible in schools legally designated as religious. And more generally it is hard to see that we would arrive at a situation where a certain group of individuals would be so successful in imposing one religious ideology on a group of state schools, were it not for the fact that so many other schools are legally able to religiously discriminate in their admissions, their employment, or their curriculum.
‘There has been no systematic review of the place of religion in schools in modern times. And yet since 2000 the proportion of secondary schools that are legally religious has increased by 20%, with the freedoms and diversity of these schools increasing massively. For such a large change in public service provision to occur without any serious thought is shocking and we are now seeing the sad consequences of this policy.’
Read the BHA’s previous statement setting out the allegations of the former members of staff that contacted it: https://humanism.org.uk/2014/04/24/revealed-former-staff-outline-concerns-park-view-school-birmingham/
Read the BHA’s statement upon the publication of the Ofsted and Education Funding Agency (EFA) reports: https://humanism.org.uk/2014/06/09/34029/
The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.
A number of allegations about Park View School were first made to the BHA in 2011 but the former member of staff who made the allegations decided at that time that they did not want anything to be done with them.
In mid January 2014 other former members of staff contacted the BHA about the school, and contact was re-established with the original complainant. The BHA gathered the complaints and did its own investigation into the school’s RE, passing all of this on to the Department for Education and Ofsted on 31 January. The DfE committed to investigating the allegations. A few days after first contacting us, the former staff also contacted Liam Byrne MP, who has also reported being aware of the allegations before the ‘Trojan Horse’ letter appeared in the media.
Some of the allegations the BHA passed to the DfE and Ofsted were leaked to Sunday Times and formed the main basis of an article it published on 23 February. The article also reported that a current member of staff had also made a complaint to Ofsted last year ‘that the school in effect excluded female students from after-school tennis classes by ruling that they could not be taught tennis by male teachers.’
The ‘Operation Trojan Horse’ letter was apparently authored in 2013 and sent to Birmingham City Council late in the year. However, it first leaked to the Sunday Times and numerous other sources after the Sunday Times first reported on the allegations about Park View School that the BHA had passed on. The first story about ‘Operation Trojan Horse’ appeared on 2 March.
On 9 March the Sunday Telegraph announced that it had been conducting its own parallel investigation into the school.
On 20 April the Sunday Telegraph reported that six of the schools were to be put in special measures, with the paper subsequently publishing extracts from a draft Education Funding Agency report that had been leaked to it.
On 24 April the BHA published a statement setting out the former members of staff’s concerns.
On 2 May the NAHT said that it believed a number of schools had ‘experienced concerted efforts to alter their character in line with the Islamic faith… We have supported around 30 of our members throughout this incident, with detailed case work in around a dozen schools and serious concerns in half that.’
On 5 June Ofsted’s report into Golden Hillock School, another school in the Park View Academy chain, was leaked, and it was widely reported that the school is to be put in special measures. On 7 June Ofsted’s report into Park View School itself also leaked, with the school similarly being found to require special measures
On 9 June Ofsted and the EFA’s reports into 21 schools were published, supporting many of the concerns put to the BHA. And today Peter Clarke’s report has leaked to The Guardian, further backing up those concerns, with Birmingham City Council’s report also due to be published.