Requiring schools to “promote British values” and introducing no-notice inspections, are just two of the measures Michael Gove wants to introduce to tackle extremism in schools.
Mr Gove told MPs that schools are already required to “respect” British values. But in light of Monday’s Ofsted report, which concluded that there was an “organised campaign” by extremists to target some Birmingham schools, the education secretary said he wanted to take this requirement further:
“Now, we will consult on new rules that will strengthen this standard, further requiring all those schools to actively promote British values. And I will ask Ofsted to enforce an equivalent value in maintained schools through changes to the Ofsted framework.”
Five Birmingham schools have been placed in special measures following the so-called “Trojan Horse” allegations, and Ofsted inspectors said that there was a “culture of fear” in some of the 21 schools inspected.
Mr Gove outlined a range of measures that he wanted to introduce, including spot Ofsted inspections, which he said would help to identify when pupils are at risk.
He also said that funding agreements for the academies involved had been cancelled, and that established academy sponsors were already poised to take over.
In a statement to the House of Commons, Mr Gove outlined some of the more shocking findings from Ofsted following its investigation: staff had been heard talking about “white prostitutes”, a call to prayer had been broadcast over a loudspeaker in the playground while in a biology class, pupils were told that evolution “is not what we believe”.
He also acknowledged that there were questions for the Department for Education, Ofsted and Birmingham City Council about whether there were “warning signs” of problems in Birmingham schools that had been missed.
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But despite a public row with Theresa May last week, he commended the home secretary for tackling extremism: “No government and no home secretary has done more to tackle extremism than this government and this home secretary.”
Ms May gave her own statement to parliament before Mr Gove, in response to a request for an urgent question from shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper. She insisted that she did not approve the decision to publish a letter that attacked the education secretary for the way he handled the allegations of extremism. A Home Office aide has since resigned over her role in the row.
The five schools placed in special measures as a result of the recent inspections are Golden Hillock School, Nansen Primary School, Park View Academy – all of which are run by the Park View Educational Trust (PVET) – Oldknow Academy and Saltley School.
Park View Education Trust has hit back at the allegations, and Lee Donaghy, Park View Academy assistant principal, said: “This is a normal state school like thousands of other across Britain – 98 per cent of our pupils just happen to be Muslims – British Muslims.”
He added: “This school is part of Britain and Britain is part of this school.”