Bradford’s schools in ‘witch hunt’ row over 'Trojan Horse' investigation (From Bradford Telegraph and Argus)
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Bradford’s schools in ‘witch hunt’ row over 'Trojan Horse' investigation
Updated 8:51pm Thursday 12th June 2014 in News
DAVID Cameron hinted he believed the ‘Trojan Horse’ affair had spread to Bradford, as he described the threat of Islamist extremism in schools as “extremely serious”.
Speaking in the Commons, the Prime Minister told MPs he was determined to crack down on problems “not just in Birmingham but elsewhere”.
Mr Cameron did not name any other places, but was speaking after the BBC and many national newspapers reported the allegations at two Bradford schools.
Meanwhile, Education Secretary Michael Gove turned his attention to Laisterdyke Business and Enterprise College – one of those schools - calling for it to become an independent academy.
In a statement, the Department for Education (DfE) vowed to “take firm and swift action if pupils are being let down or placed at risk”.
And it said: “We are working closely with Bradford local authority, which has already taken a number of steps to improve governance and teaching at schools of concern - including appointing an interim executive board at Laisterdyke Business and Enterprise College.
“We now expect the school to become an academy, led by an excellent sponsor with a track record of turning round underperforming schools.”
However, the DfE appeared to accept it had no power to order the switch to academy status, at a school that has not been placed in special measures by Ofsted, the watchdog.
Asked if it was merely making a request to the Council, a spokesman added: “Laisterdyke Business and Enterprise College was judged by Ofsted to require improvement last year.
“The local authority had serious concerns about the school’s leadership and applied to us to appoint an Interim Executive Board. Ministers agreed to this request.
“In these circumstances it is our expectation that the school will become an academy led by a sponsor that has a track record of turning round underperforming schools.”
In the Commons, asked about the fallout from the Trojan Horse affair in Birmingham, Mr Cameron said: “The problem of Islamist extremism in our schools is serious. The situation - not just in Birmingham, but elsewhere - is extremely serious.
“I am absolutely determined, as are the Home Secretary, the Education Secretary and, indeed, the whole Government, to ensure that it is unacceptable in our country.
“People should be being taught in our schools in a way that ensures that they can play a full part in the life of our country.
But the chairman of governors at the other Bradford school alleged to be involved in Islamist extremism, Carlton Bolling College, has warned the reports "feel like a witch hunt."
Bradford Councillor Faisal Khan said suggestions the governing body was trying to impose a strict Islamic ethos on the school were wrong. He was also on the board of governors for Laisterdyke before the entire board was fired in April.
Of the claims about Carlton Bolling, Cllr Khan said: "We deliver the full curriculum including arts and drama, and we meet the needs of our children Muslim or not, more recently in recognition of the diverse challenges we employed staff with eastern European language skills. The facts are that we recruit the best staff irrespective of religion and the school is headed by a non-Muslim head teacher leading a diverse and dedicated workforce.
"These unfounded and unsubstantiated fears are part of smear campaign to link Bradford to a non-existent plot.
"Everyone needs to take a step back before more damage is done to these schools and the reputation of many including Ofsted. There are others who are deliberately quoting out of context, and this kind of carelessness is giving legitimacy to begin the witch hunt in Bradford and in the case of others appear to be at the centre of a plot to marginalise the Muslim community."