Birmingham City Council’s leader, Sir Albert Bore, today attacked the Telegraph for its “wholly reprehensible and completely unacceptable” publication of a leaked Department for Education report into three of the so-called “Trojan Horse” schools taken over by Muslim hardliners. This is what in the trade is called “deflection”: try to make the story about the leaking of the report, rather than the contents of it.
It’s not hard to understand why Sir Albert wants to change the subject. The contents of the leaked report – which substantiate many of the claims made against the schools – make his and his council’s past behaviour look rather silly.
Little more than a month ago, Sir Albert was calling the Trojan Horse allegations “defamatory” and saying that there were “no serious flaws” in Birmingham’s school management. Just over two weeks ago, his chief executive, Mark Rogers, said there was no plot, merely “new communities” raising “legitimate questions and challenges” to the “liberal education system.”
Within days, however, the council announced that it had frozen the recruitment of school governors and was setting up a six-month enquiry after receiving around 200 complaints from parents and teachers.
Sir Albert now announces that the council is setting up a whistleblowing hotline for parents and teachers, saying that it has “received information in respect of 25 schools.” He named 18 of them today – a list that accords almost exactly with that published in the Telegraph at the weekend. Nor, of course, has Sir Albert or anyone else denied the central charge of our story – that six of the schools on the list will be rated “inadequate” for leadership and governance (one already is), something which usually leads to special measures.
Let us hope, however, that Birmingham council is not merely preparing a more sophisticated form of whitewash. The members of its investigation include the headteacher of one of the 18 schools inspected and the Bishop of Birmingham, David Urquhart, who has attacked the publication of this story for “demonising sections of the local community.”
The members also include an as yet unnamed representative of the hardline Birmingham Central Mosque – the organisation which last month banned the BBC from asking on its premises whether it was all right to be Muslim and gay. Until his recent death, the mosque representative was to have been its chairman, Mohammad Naseem, who recently appeared to compare gay people to murderers and paedophiles.
The council has known about the Trojan Horse allegations for around six months – and known that something is wrong for a lot longer. It repeatedly ignored concerns raised in private. It only acted once the allegations got into the media. That, in short, is the value of disclosure.
The schools inspected so far are: Adderley, Alston, Golden Hillock, Gracelands, Highfield, Ladypool, Marlborough, Montgomery, Nansen, Ninestiles, Oldknow, Park View, Regents Park, Saltley, Small Heath, Washwood Heath, Waverley and Welford.
Read extracts from the leaked report here.