Extremism in schools: the Trojan Horse affair - Education Committee Contents

2  The investigations


12. We have put together the following timeline of key events connected to the Trojan Horse affair:

Birmingham head tells DfE and others of his concerns about Birmingham schools


November: Anonymous 'Trojan Horse' letter sent to Birmingham City Council and others, claiming the existence of a plot to impose a more hardline Muslim ethos on Birmingham schools, resulting in the ousting of four headteachers.

December: The DfE receives a copy of the letter. West Midlands police counter-terrorism unit, alerted by BCC, start to examine the case.


5-6 March: First inspection by Ofsted of Park View.

7 March: The existence of the letter becomes public. The DfE, Education Funding Agency and Birmingham City Council confirm they are investigating.

17-18 March: Ofsted undertakes a second inspection of Park View.

21-25 March: EFA visits Park View academies.

27 March: Michael Gove writes to Ofsted asking them to investigate 15 named schools

31 March: The DfE says it is looking into claims that the Trojan Horse plot targeted 12 schools.

2-10 April: Ofsted inspects 15 schools.

9 April: The governors of Park View Educational Trust describe the ongoing investigations as a "witch-hunt".

10-11 April: EFA visits Oldknow Academy.

11 April: Birmingham City Council appoints Ian Kershaw as Independent Chief Advisor, reporting to the Trojan Horse Review Group

14 April: Birmingham City Council says it is looking into allegations involving 25 schools in the city, including primaries, secondaries and academies. Council leader Sir Albert Bore says he does not believe there is a "plot".

15 April: Michael Gove appoints Peter Clarke as Education Commissioner to take an overview of evidence in relation to Birmingham schools and the allegations relating to the 'Trojan Horse letter'.

20 April: Sir Michael Wilshaw takes personal charge of Ofsted's Trojan Horse investigations.

3 May: Sir Michael says Ofsted has inspected 21 schools.

3 June: Three of the schools under investigation publish their Ofsted reports. Ninestiles and Small Heath are rated as "outstanding" and Washwood Heath as "good".

3 June: Home Secretary Theresa May writes to Michael Gove asking whether it is true that the DfE was warned about the allegations in 2010 and Birmingham Council warned as far back as 2008.

9 June: Ofsted publishes inspection reports on the 21 schools and the DfE publishes Education Funding Agency reports on Park View Educational Trust and Oldknow Academy Trust. Five schools, including four academies, are placed in special measures. Lord Nash writes to the four academies, setting out the steps which must be taken by 4 July to address breaches of the funding agreement, the Academies Financial Handbook and the Independent Schools Standards. The five schools are: Park View Academy, Nansen Primary School, Golden Hillock School (together forming Park View Educational Trust); Oldknow Academy; and Saltley School and Specialist Science College. A sixth school, Alston Primary School, was already in special measures and remains so.

19 June: Saltley School governors resign en masse.

15 July: Chair of Governors, Tahir Alam, and board of trustees at Park View Educational Trust resign.

18 July: Draft of Clarke report published in the Guardian. Kershaw report published by Birmingham City Council.

22 July: Clarke report published by the DfE. Nicky Morgan makes statement to the House.

19 August: Oldknow Academy Trust governors resign and new members appointed, led by Dr Barry Henley, a Birmingham City Councillor. Bhupinder Kondal withdraws resignation as head of Oldknow and takes up post again.

24 September: Appointment of Sir Mike Tomlinson as education commissioner for Birmingham.


16 January: Publication of Wormald review of DfE action on warnings received prior to the Trojan Horse letter

29 January: Statement to the House by Nicky Morgan on progress in implementing Clarke report recommendations.

Action by the DfE before the Trojan Horse letter

13. Rumours about what was happening in schools in Birmingham have allegedly been around for at least a decade. The DfE acknowledged that a headteacher from the city, Mr Tim Boyes, told the Department of his concerns in 2010. Mr Gove did not attend the meeting, although another Minister was present.[11] In addition, Ian Kershaw found "evidence [which] suggests that the DfE was aware of the connections between some of the individuals and the potential risks that this posed".[12]

14. In his statement to the House in June 2014, Mr Gove accepted that "There are questions for [...] the Department for Education" about whether warning signs were missed. He asked the Permanent Secretary, Chris Wormald, to investigate how the DfE had dealt with warnings "since the formation of this Government and before".[13] After a considerable delay, the Wormald review was finally published in January 2015. It found that there were no instances where specific "warnings" were ignored by the Department and no cases where Departmental officials or Ministers acted inappropriately. It did find that "the Department has lacked inquisitiveness on this issue, and […] has not historically treated the issue with the same robustness as it has demonstrated in dealing with warnings about, for example, child protection".[14] Mr Wormald concluded that "the Department needs to be more vigilant, more inquisitive and have more robust systems in place than it has in the past".[15]

Reaction to the Trojan Horse letter

15. On 7 March 2014, when the existence of the Trojan Horse letter became public, the DfE and the EFA confirmed to the press that they were investigating the allegations but did not make clear what form these investigations had taken since December 2013. Nearly three weeks then passed before Michael Gove wrote to Ofsted on 27 March, commissioning inspections of 15 schools in Birmingham under section 8(1) of the Education Act 2005. Mr Gove's letter referred to "serious allegations made in relation to some of these schools, including a large number of reports in the press in the last month" and stated that "Press coverage also alleges that the same behaviours have been seen in other local schools".[16]

16. Mr Gove told the House on 9 June that "when the specific allegations in the Trojan horse letter were shared with the Department for Education, it was rapid in seeking to deal with those problems and ensuring that appropriate inspection and action was taken".[17] We requested further information on the actions of the DfE following receipt of the letter. In response, the DfE set out how between December and the end of January 2015 officials had "kept in touch with BCC over the progress of its internal enquiry into the allegations and began its own investigations of the allegations using open source checking on the schools and individuals mentioned within the letter".[18] The DfE supplied the following timeline of "significant dates" which shows how action within the DfE sped up once Ofsted has started its inspections in Birmingham.

·  5 February: DfE officials talk to whistleblowers about Park View School.

·  10 February: DfE passes on detailed allegations about Park View School to Ofsted, who subsequently decide to inspect the three academies run by PVET.

·  12 February: Meeting between Michael Gove and Sir Albert Bore.

·  5-6 March: Ofsted section 8 inspection of Park View School.

·  7 March: DfE hears concerns from a former governor of Golden Hillock School.

·  17-18 March: Ofsted full section 5 inspection of Park View School.

·  19 March: Michael Gove hosts meeting with BCC, West Midlands Police and other government departments to discuss Birmingham.

·  20 March: Michael Gove meets two Birmingham MPs.

·  24 March: Michael Gove chairs meeting with three Birmingham MPs and an MP's researcher

·  21, 24, 25 March: The Education Funding Agency visits the three academies in Park View Trust to monitor compliance with Funding Agreements and Independent School Standards.

·  27 March: Michael Gove commissions Ofsted to carry out a batch inspection of 15 schools in Birmingham.

·  April 2-10: Those batch inspections of 15 schools are carried out by Ofsted.

·  April 10-11: The Education Funding Agency visits Oldknow Academy to monitor compliance with the Funding Agreement and Independent School Standards.

·  April 15: Peter Clarke is appointed as Education Commissioner and DfE publishes a press notice together with his Terms of Reference. [19]

Coordination of investigatory activity

17. By mid-April 2014 the number of investigations into schools in Birmingham had escalated, with the EFA, BCC, Ofsted, and the Education Commissioner, not to mention the police, all conducting inquiries with different terms of reference and involving different schools. With all this activity already underway, on 15 April 2014 Michael Gove appointed Peter Clarke, former head of counter-terrorism at the Met police, as Education Commissioner with a remit:

    To further investigate the allegations and the representations and evidence received to date, and by drawing on a range of further material and evidence, to establish fully what has happened in the schools of concern; to understand the implications for the school system both in Birmingham and more widely with a view to making recommendations to ensure that schools in Birmingham are well-governed and that Birmingham's children are adequately safeguarded from exposure to extremist views or radicalisation.

18. The appointment of Peter Clarke was greeted with concern by some of those involved in Birmingham. The Chief Executive of BCC explained that the difficulty was "the message [the appointment] sent to communities that somebody with a strong counterterrorism background was being sent in, and also the message it gave to head teachers that we were not having a joint inquiry with the local authority".[20] Councillor Jones explained:

    The local authority had hoped to conduct an inquiry that was joint between us, the Department for Education and Ofsted, and DCLG were also involved in those discussions […] At the 11th hour, the Secretary of State decided it would not be a joint inquiry, and announced the appointment of Peter Clarke to conduct a separate inquiry. He then decided to instruct Ofsted to inspect the schools separately […] We could have achieved a cheaper and more streamlined inquiry had we had one inquiry rather than the three disparate ones.[21]

19. Ofsted questioned Cllr Jones's chronology and asserted in supplementary evidence that it "would not have been appropriate for Ofsted to be part of a 'joint inquiry'".[22] It coordinated the publication of its first batch of inspection reports with those of the EFA which was looking at the schools which were academies.

20. There were also attempts to coordinate the inquiries conducted by Ian Kershaw and Peter Clarke. Mr Kershaw's terms of reference specifically asked him to "coordinate your investigation with Mr Clarke in relation to [academy] schools if they fall within the remit of both investigations".[23] Relevant evidence was shared where appropriate, although the different timescales for completion meant that not all evidence could be shared. The Kershaw team interviewed 76 witnesses, 18 of whom were seen jointly by Ian Kershaw and Peter Clarke. The Kershaw inquiry also received information from seven interviews conducted by Peter Clarke's team.[24]

21. The Kershaw report was published earlier, and in a fuller form, than planned because of a leak to the media of the Clarke report. This meant that the BCC Review Group which was overseeing the Kershaw investigation was given an "exceptionally limited time-a matter of a few hours-to have sight of, absorb, reflect upon and consider the executive summary" of the report before they were expected to comment on it.[25] Although the Review Group broadly supported the Kershaw recommendations, they expressed concern that it had not had sight of Mr Clarke's report and that "to run separately two independent investigations of the same issues has unquestionably served to reinforce suspicions that there are 'parallel universes' between central and local government".[26]

Government responses to the reports

22. As requested by the former Secretary of State, Ofsted pulled together its findings from the inspections of Birmingham schools into an advice note which was published at the same time as the inspection reports in June 2014. In the note, Sir Michael Wilshaw set out a list of nine recommendations for implementation by the DFE. On 14 October, following the first monitoring inspections of the schools in special measures, Ofsted issued a second advice note with four further recommendations.

23. We asked Sir Michael in January 2015 what progress had been made in implementing the recommendations in his advice notes. He told us "very limited progress".[27] Following our meeting he asked the DfE to update us on progress. In March Lord Nash provided us with a chart matching DfE actions against Sir Michael Wilshaw's advice.[28]

24. The Government accepted all the recommendations in the Clarke report and on 29 January 2015 the DfE published a progress report, which indicated that "all the recommendations have been implemented or are on track".[29] The Secretary of State declared that as a result "I am confident that if the events we witnessed in Birmingham were repeated again today they would be identified and dealt with more quickly and in a far more effective way".[30]

25. The Government did not issue an official response to the Kershaw report which was made primarily to Birmingham City Council, but nevertheless contained recommendations pertinent to the DfE and Ofsted, including on academies (see paragraph 42 below) and on the requirement on schools to provide a daily act of collective worship wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character. There has been no public attempt by the DfE to pull all these reports together and address them in a coordinated way.

Conclusions and recommendations

26. There was a proven "lack of inquisitiveness" within the Department for Education prior to the receipt of the Trojan Horse letter. Whilst this may be partially explained by the general level of awareness of such issues at the time, the timeline supplied by the DfE indicates that 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. We are not convinced that "open source checking" was a sufficient response to the seriousness of the allegations being made to the DfE.

27. The sheer number of organisations which became involved indicated the complexity of emerging oversight arrangements for schools. 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.

28. The scope for coordination between inquiries by the EFA, Ofsted and others is restricted by their statutory roles but more coordination could and should have been achieved. The DfE must ensure that such needless duplication does not happen again.

29. All the reports included recommendations that went far beyond the situation in the particular schools concerned. The findings of the reports need to be drawn together. We recommend that DfE draw together the recommendations from all the investigations and set out its response.

11   Review into possible warnings to DfE relating to extremism in Birmingham schools (the Wormald Review), January 2015, DfE Back

12   Kershaw report , p. 24 Back

13   HC Deb, 9 June 2014, col 265 Back

14   The Wormald Review, conclusions  Back

15   Ibid Back

16   Letter from Michael Gove to Sir Michael Wilshaw, HMCI, 27 March 2014  Back

17   HC Deb, 9 June 2014, col 279 Back

18   Department for Education (EIS0002) p1 Back

19   Department for Education (EIS0002) p2  Back

20   Q270 Back

21   Q272-5 Back

22   Ofsted (EIS0001) para 6 Back

23   Kershaw report, p. 94 Back

24   Kershaw report, p. 75 Back

25   Trojan Horse Review Group, Report to Leader of Birmingham City Council, 18 July 2014, p4 Back

26   Ibid, p4 Back

27   Oral evidence taken on 28 January 2015, HC (2014-15) 880, Q72 Back

28   Department for Education (EIS0003)  Back

29   HC Deb, 29 January 2015, col 1015 Back

30   Ibid Back

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Prepared 17 March 2015