The Prime Minister has been deeply concerned by the allegations made about extremism in a number of Birmingham schools. The government, through the Department for Education and Ofsted, has taken swift action to investigate these allegations since the so-called Trojan Horse letter was received by the government in late 2013. The full results of the Ofsted investigations will be released on Monday (9 June 2014), but in advance of this the Prime Minister has instructed the following:
- Education Secretary Michael Gove will ask Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw to report back on the practicalities of allowing any school to be inspected at no notice. Findings from the Education Funding Agency (EFA) reports suggest that notice periods were used in schools in Birmingham to put on hastily arranged shows of cultural inclusivity. The previous inspections of 5 of the Trojan Horse schools (which found them good or outstanding) in 2012 and 2013 gave 1 to 2 days notice. This time round, the schools were given 30 minutes or less notice via phone. They were found inadequate.
- the Prime Minister is calling a special meeting of the government’s Extremism Taskforce (ETF) to discuss the implications arising from the findings of the Ofsted review and the wider situation in Birmingham. The Prime Minister will also meet with key Cabinet members on Monday morning to discuss the situation.
- to ensure the safeguarding of children in Birmingham until the situation is fully resolved, the Prime Minister has been assured by Ofsted that they will maintain a regular presence in Birmingham schools, with reports from inspectors coming directly to the Prime Minister and the Education Secretary.
The Prime Minister said:
Protecting our children is one of the first duties of government and that is why the issue of alleged Islamist extremism in Birmingham schools demands a robust response. The Education Secretary will now ask Sir Michael Wilshaw to look into allowing any school to be inspected at no notice, stopping schools having the opportunity to cover up activities which have no place in our society.
Education Secretary Michael Gove said:
We have to ensure children are safe in our schools. Evidence uncovered in Birmingham clearly indicates that schools have used the notice they have been given of inspections to evade proper scrutiny. Sir Michael Wilshaw will now examine the practicalities of moving to a position where all schools know they may face an unannounced inspection.
Our children need to be protected in schools, kept safe from the dangers of extremism and guaranteed a broad and balanced curriculum. This change will help provide parents with the reassurance they need.
Ofsted have responsibility for determining notice periods for inspections. In September 2012 Ofsted reduced the default notice period for its inspections from 2 days to half a day. Only schools already rated inadequate for behaviour routinely face unannounced inspections. Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector also has the power to order no notice inspection if he feels there is justification to do so, but this is done rarely and normally only in cases of serious child safeguarding concerns (which has been the case for this round of reports in Birmingham).
The EFA report into Oldknow school will make clear that:
- “Staff told us that they had been instructed to add Christianity to learning because of our visit”
- “We were told by 2 staff members that the assembly [on Easter and Christianity] had also been put on especially for our benefit”
- a timetabled literacy lesson was switched for an RE lesson on Christianity
The Education Secretary will now write to Sir Michael Wilshaw to ask him to examine the practicalities of extending the use of unannounced inspections so that any school can be inspected at no notice. Not every inspection would be no notice, but every school would be aware that they could face a no-notice inspection at any time.
Meetings with the Cabinet
Members of the ETF are: Vince Cable, Nick Clegg, Michael Gove, David Laws, Oliver Letwin, Theresa May, Chancellor, Eric Pickles and Baroness Warsi
Attendees of the meeting on Monday are: the Deputy Prime Minster, the Chancellor, Michael Gove, Theresa May, Eric Pickles, Baroness Warsi and David Laws.