The Trojan Horse affair epitomises many of the questions and concerns expressed elsewhere about the changing school landscape and the overlapping roles of the organisations responsible for oversight of schools. No evidence of extremism or radicalisation, apart from a single isolated incident, was found by any of the inquiries and there was no evidence of a sustained plot nor of a similar situation pertaining elsewhere in the country. Our report therefore covers the response of the Department for Education and Ofsted to the situation and wider lessons for the school system.
The number of overlapping inquiries contributed to the sense of crisis and confusion, and the number of reports, coming out at different times and often leaked in advance, was far from helpful. The scope for coordination between inquiries by the Education Funding Agency, Ofsted and others is restricted by their statutory roles but more coordination could and should have been achieved. All the reports included recommendations that went far beyond the situation in the particular schools concerned and the DfE should draw together the recommendations from all the investigations and set out its response.
Ofsted's inability to identify problems at some Birmingham schools on first inspection when they were found shortly afterwards to be failing raises questions about the appropriateness of the framework and the reliability and robustness of Ofsted's judgements and how they are reached. Confidence in Ofsted has been undermined and efforts should be made by the inspectorate to restore it in Birmingham and beyond.
The proven "lack of inquisitiveness" within the DfE prior to the receipt of the Trojan Horse letter may be partially explained by the general level of awareness of such issues at the time. However, the Department was slow to take an active interest between the receipt of the letter in December 2013 and March 2014 when the issue became public. This is more surprising, given the change in context and the heightened emphasis on combating radicalisation and extremism.
The greater autonomy of academies makes it easier for a group of similar-minded people to control a school. While it should be remembered that several of the governors criticised in Birmingham were local government appointees, the DfE needs to be alert to the risks of abuse of academy freedoms of all kinds and be able to respond quickly.
It is vital that information is shared effectively between the various bodies responsible for oversight of schools. This was a problem in Birmingham and the DfE needs to keep its new arrangements under review to ensure that they are working well.
The recent steps taken to strengthen the DfE's Due Diligence and Counter Extremism Division are welcome, all the more so for being overdue. We recommend that the Secretary of State make an annual written ministerial statement on the priorities and achievements of the DDCED.
The British values which are now to be promoted in all schools are universal and an important part of what children should learn. We support the introduction of the requirement on all schools to ensure that such values are actively promoted to all students. Monitoring how they are promoted in individual schools must be done with common sense and sensitivity.