Monday, 21 April 2014

Project Trojan Horse

The Daily Mail (and its on-line presence www.mailonline.co.uk) have been running a series of stories recently on an alleged "Project Trojan", as shown below:

7th March 2014 : Revealed: Islamist plot dubbed 'Trojan Horse' to replace teachers in Birmingham schools with radicals

14th April 2014 : Did Muslim hardliners try to infiltrate and takeover TWENTY FIVE Birmingham schools? Probe into 'Trojan horse' plot expands

The article contains a text box stating that "Former headteacher Noshaba Hussein...told the Mail she "was the victim of a pernicious, well orchestrated smear campaign" carried out by "a dangerous, well organised and sinister group"

But a mere 10 seconds of Googling brings up a 1994 article from the Local Government Chronicle that descibes how Ms Hussein "was criticised on her appointment because she had no previous experience with primary pupils. It later emerged that there had been allegations of financial mismanagement against her in her previous job. Mrs Hussain was eventually sacked when education chiefs found inaccuracies on her application form". Further, more detailed, information can also be found here.

See end of post for resulting PCC complaints and responses.

20th April 2014 :Schools at the centre of Muslim Trojan Horse plot 'to be put on special measures' amid fears number affected has reached 25

6th April 2014 :In very marked contrast, Dave Hughes, a White, practicing Anglican, director and governor of Park View School (a school mentioned repeatedly in the above articles) wrote an open letter on 6th April. Some of the key points are shown below, with the full text at the foot of this post.

i)72% of pupils qualify for free school meals
ii) 99% of Pupils are Muslim
iii)Yet in 2013 75% of pupils gained 5 A*-C (inc Maths and English)
iv) Ofsted judged school excellent in all categories only 18months ago
v) Mr White dismissed for unprofessional conduct - did not complain of a "Muslim plot’, until now.
vi)Mr Sloan resigned while suspended and did not complain of ‘anti-American assemblies’ in the late 1990s, until now.
vii)Staff complaints that ‘a senior colleague’ had endorsed the views of Anwar-al-Awlaki when addressing pupils have not said when, where or who was a witness.
viii) The school is closing the attainment gap for disadvantaged pupils and preparing them to become economically active citizens. And yet the media is full of bitter accounts from disgruntled ex-members of staff rather than the current, hard-working talented teachers who are making this possible.

Open Letter re: Park View School from a Governor 06/04/2014
From: Dave Hughes

As a Park View Trustee and Governor at Park View School for over 15 years who is a white, practising Anglican Christian, I am writing this open letter to all those people who appear to have joined in the witch hunt against the most successful school in England in in its kind of neighbourhood – one of the most deprived in England: 72% of our pupils are eligible for Free School Meals - under the pretext of concerns about extremism and threats to the education of pupils.

Contrary to what Khalid Mahmood MP would have people believe we governors are not Salifists or Wahabis, in my case, not even Muslim. But really, how could we expect Mr Mahmood to have an accurate picture of what happens in governors’ meetings? He’s never attended one, nor ever even visited the school as far as I can recall.

In all my time as a Governor we have not received a single complaint about ‘extremism’ or ‘radicalism’. If we had we would have investigated it openly and thoroughly. Up until this point the attention and support we have appreciated from Ofsted – who judged the school as outstanding in all categories 18 months ago, the Department for Education and numerous well-respected school improvement partners such as Teach First and Future Leaders has focused on how we are making a difference to our students when they come from such disadvantaged areas.

In 2013 75% of pupils gained 5 A*-C grades at GCSE including English and Maths; 81% of pupils attained a grade C or above in English and 83% attained a grade C or above in Maths. So how have we done this? As you would expect,through hard work and dedication; through attention to detail; through a relentless focus on driving up standards of teaching and ensuring that everyone who works with us and for us has the same high expectations of our pupils that we have.

Fifteen years ago when I first became a Governor the school was a much different place. Less than 20 per cent of pupils were gaining 5A*-Cs and in one year just one out of 90 pupils gained a grade C or above in Maths. Just one! Governors found that completely unacceptable and made it our business to make a concerted, sustainable change.

Unfortunately some of those former staff members who are now sharing fictitious allegations with the media are the very same staff whose performance and expectations of pupils proved that they weren’t along for the journey. If they had shown the same enthusiasm for making sure their pupils got a good education as they have for smearing the school in the media, Park View would have been a much different place. They’re trading on their supposed ‘insider’ status and hoping that no-one can remember that far back to actually challenge their accounts.

Well, I chaired the Disciplinary Panel that recommended the dismissal of Michael White for his unprofessional behaviour as a senior teacher. At no time either during that panel, or subsequently, has he made allegations of a ‘Muslim plot’, until now.

Equally Mr Sloan, who claimed in a Sunday newspaper this weekend that he saw ‘anti-American assemblies’ in the late 1990s that were ‘mind-blowing’,made no complaints at the time and has not done so since, until now. Mr Sloan was suspended from Park View while complaints from parents that he had referred to their children during lessons in the most derogatory terms could be investigated, not simply because (as he alleges) he made a comment about the wearing of a headscarf. He resigned before a full investigation could be conducted.

Similarly, as well as remaining anonymous, the staff complainants who allege that ‘a senior colleague’ had endorsed the views of Anwar-al-Awlaki when addressing pupils have not given any specific details of when and where this happened or named any witnesses to the allegation, which the school strongly denies.

And let’s not forget, while the school has been the subject of numerous inspections, media queries and speculation our teachers are still working hard towards this year’s GCSEs. We’re aiming high again and we’re confident that our pupils will achieve good qualifications, which will allow them to move onto sixth form or college and from there to university and work. The school is ticking two of Michael Gove’s most important boxes – closing the attainment gap for disadvantaged pupils and preparing them to become economically active citizens.

And yet the media is full of bitter accounts from disgruntled ex-members of staff rather than the current, hard-working talented teachers who are making this possible. I am immensely proud of what has been achieved in the past 10 years by pupils, staff, should be equally proud.

When I started as a governor here over 15 years ago no recognition was given to the fact that over 90% of the children were Muslim. In fact it was resisted sometimes in the strongest terms:
- no Halal food served
- there were no facilities or arrangements for student prayer, for those who wanted it
- girls who wanted to wear headscarves were not allowed to
- and the school refused to apply for a religious part-determination to allow its collective act of worship to be Islamic in nature

All these things are now in place. I am immensely proud of the fact that Park View honours, respects and supports the cultural and religious background of all our children – who are still predominantly (99%) but not exclusively Muslim – while preparing them to be part of 21stcentury multi-cultural Britain.

Finally, the Ofsted inspections and Education Funding Agency review. I am appalled that whilst Park View governors and trustees have respected confidentiality, others clearly haven’t and alleged outcomes have been leaked to the media. Are there areas to improve at the school? Yes of course, as there are at most schools. The governors had hoped that the report from the initial inspection would support us with these. However, I strongly suspect that is now very unlikely. The revisit of the inspection team gave every indication of having no wish other than to condemn the school – even the outstanding features.

The vision of the Park View Education Trust is to enable the pursuit of excellence, recognition of abilities and talent, and the realisation of ambitions for all of our learners. In so doing, we aspire to break the link between demographics, deprivation and destiny. And we are achieving that in Park View Academy, and starting to in Golden Hillock and Nansen Academies. That work has been, and continues to be, seriously threatened by these specious and unfounded attacks whose impact is so socially divisive and dangerous for a settled, stable, multi-cultural Birmingham.

David Hughes
Director and Governor,
Park View School Trustee and Vice Chair,
Park View Education Trust 6th April 2014

Complaint to PCC
BFTF send the following complaint to the PCC (form here):
"Section (1i) of the code was breached by the article stating that "Former headteacher Noshaba Hussein...told the Mail she "was the victim of a pernicious, well orchestrated smear campaign" carried out by "a dangerous, well organised and sinister group". This is inaccurate and misleading as it does not include the, easily available, information that she was sacked due to lack of experience, a flawed recruitment process and inaccuracies in her application. More info can be found here"


Also sent this complaint to the PCC:
Article is misleading in that it fails to point out that Park View school (at least) is extremely high performing (75% A*-C GSCE, inc Maths and English), especially given its disadvantaged intake. According to Dave Hughes, governor of Park View on 6th April "The school is closing the attainment gap for disadvantaged pupils and preparing them to become economically active citizens. And yet the media is full of bitter accounts from disgruntled ex-members of staff rather than the current, hard-working talented teachers who are making this possible."

The MailOnline article also failed to mention that (in relation to Park View)
i) Complainant Mr White dismissed for unprofessional conduct - did not complain of a "Muslim plot’, until now.
i) Complainant Mr Sloan resigned while suspended and did not complain of ‘anti-American assemblies’ in the late 1990s, until now.
iii)Staff complaints that ‘a senior colleague’ had endorsed the views of Anwar-al-Awlaki when addressing pupils have not said when, where or who was a witness.

Update : 25th May 2014
Recently received a communication from the PCC saying that BFTF's complaint (see above) had been rejected [bold by BFTF] :

"Clause 1 (i) of the Editors’ Code of Practice states that “the press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures”. The complainant was concerned that the academic record of one of the schools mentioned in the article had been misrepresented. He stated that the allegations were unfounded and that a number of the “whistle-blowers” referenced in the article had only mentioned the “Trojan Horse Plot” very recently. He also said that a former head teacher, Ms Noshaba Hussein, who was quoted in the article, had been dismissed due to lack of experience, and not as a result of a “plot” as suggested.

The Commission noted the complainant’s opinion that the allegations in the article were unfounded. It emphasised, however, that the position of the complainant did not affect the newspaper’s right to publish these allegations. Newspapers are free under the terms of the Code to report on comment and conjecture, provided they are distinguished from fact. The complainant did not dispute that allegations had been made and the publication was entitled to report on these, so long as the status of the allegations was made clear. The Commission was satisfied that the newspaper made clear throughout the article that none of the allegations about the “Trojan Horse plot” had been proven. The reporting of the allegations themselves did not engage the terms of Clause 1. The newspaper was entitled to publish quotations from Ms Hussein, stating that she was of the opinion that she had been dismissed from her post as a result of an “Islamic plot”, as these statements were clearly attributed to Ms Hussein, and not reported as proven fact.

The Commission noted the complainant’s concern that the academic record of Park View School had not been mentioned, but did not consider that the omission was misleading in the context of the article. As such, there was no breach of Clause 1."

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