9 Jun 2014

How ‘Operation Trojan Horse’ hit crisis point

Fears that Islamist extremists were attempting to infiltrate schools in Birmingham date back as far as 2010, but have only just hit crisis point. Channel 4 News looks back at who said what.

7 March 2014
“This is all about causing the maximum amount of organised chaos and we have fine-tuned this as part of operation Trojan Horse. You must identify what the head’s strengths are and build a case of disruption around that.”

The now infamous unsigned, undated – and widely thought to be fake – letter is sent to Birmingham City Council purporting to be a five-point plan for Islamic extremists to take-over schools. Identify the school, befriend Salafi parents, install sympathetic governors, identify staff to smear and maintain pressure, it suggested.

4 May 2014
“A tight network of religious leaders of the Islamic faith has made a concerted effort to get involved in the running of schools and to strengthen the power of governing bodies to have a dominant influence in shaping the character of local schools.”

Russell Hobby, the general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers delivers the group’s annual speech in Birmingham, warning “schools should not be places for indoctrination in any creed or ideology, political or religious”.

28 May 2014
“Back in 2010, I had a whole series of colleagues who were reporting concerns about governance and things that weren’t going well in their schools. Over 20 years… tensions and politics have exploded and as a result head teachers have had nervous breakdowns, they’ve lost their jobs, schools have been really torn apart.”

Tim Boyes, head of Queensbridge School in Birmingham, says he warned the Department for Education as early as 2010 that Muslim hardliners were trying to take over Birmingham schools.

4 June 2014
“Charles Farr [the director general of the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism] always believed if extremists become violent we should deal with it. It has been characterised by others in government as just beating back the crocodiles that come close to the boat rather than draining the swamp.”

A Department for Education source is quoted in The Times detailing Mr Gove’s concerns about the Home Office’s approach to tackling extremism. The education secretary later apologises for the comments.

4 June 2014
“Why is the DfE wanting to blame other people for information they had in 2010? Lord knows what more they have overlooked on the subject of the protection of kids in state schools? It scares me.”

A letter from Home Secretary Theresa May to Michael Gove questioning his department’s response to the allegations appears in The Times. Mrs May’s aide Fiona Cunningham later is forced to resign over the response.

8 June 2014
“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.”

David Cameron personally intervenes in the controversy demanding an end to Ofsted’s practice of giving schools two days’ notice of an inspection.

9 June 2014
“In the most serious cases, a culture of fear and intimidation has taken grip since these schools were last inspected. We found evidence that some head teachers, including those with a proud record of raising standards, have been marginalised or forced out of their jobs. This has left a vacuum in which schools previously rated good or outstanding have suffered enormous staff turbulence, a collapse in morale and a rapid decline in their overall effectiveness.”

The Ofsted Chief Sir Michael Wilshaw presents the education watchdog’s findings, insisting there was evidence of an “organised campaign to target certain schools”.

9 June 2014
“We will put the promotion of British values at the heart of every school.”

Education Secretary Michael Gove proposes radical reform in wake of the Ofsted findings as five schools at the centre of the crisis in Birmingham are placed into special measures.