The Department for Education (DfE) has published a robust response to a select committee report into extremism in schools following the so-called “Trojan Horse” scandal that surfaced in Birmingham last year.
The Education Select Committee’s initial report was released in March and concluded that the scandal had revealed problems with DfE and Ofsted and that there was “no evidence of extremism or radicalisation” in any of the schools involved.
This is what we have learned from the government’s response:
The DfE believes the select committee’s report “downplays the seriousness of events in Birmingham” and risks undermining the government’s efforts to tackle extremism.
It has placed “several” temporary prohibition orders on teachers who were implicated in the scandal to prevent them from re-entering the classroom. It intends to permanently bar them.
The DfE is seeking to use “new powers” to ban governors who were also implicated to prevent them from having any future involvement in helping to run schools.
Officials have refuted claims from the select committee that there was a “proven lack of inquisitiveness” within the department when the accusations first came to light, and the DfE has rejected claims that it was slow to react to the scandal.
Likewise, the DfE has dismissed warnings that the academy system and the freedoms its provides are open to abuse. Such a “school-led system” providing teachers with greater autonomy was “the cornerstone of this government’s education policy,” it said.
It did, however, point the finger at Birmingham City Council stating: “The council did not have good systems for monitoring and recording governance or supporting the operation of governing bodies.”
Checks on school governors are about to get a lot tougher, with schools expected to publish details of individual members of their governing bodies. Details will be held in a newly created national database of school governors.
The DfE sees the threat of extremism in schools as being a far greater problem than what was apparently exposed in Birmingham, stating that the “fundamental challenges of cohesion…run much wider and deeper than the ‘Trojan Horse’ events in these schools”.
The department believes the threat of Isis (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) poses challenges for schools that were “unimaginable just a year ago”.