Birmingham Muslim school probe 'glacial', MP Byrne says

The BBC revealed claims that the politics of al-Qaeda had been discussed during one Park View School assembly

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An investigation into an alleged plot by Muslim hard-liners to take control of several schools in Birmingham must report immediately, an MP has demanded.

Claims that 12 schools in the city have been targeted are being investigated by the Department for Education and Birmingham City Council.

Ofsted revealed on Wednesday that inspectors were visiting two schools.

Labour's Liam Byrne told Radio 4's Today programme the Ofsted probe had been a "glacial process".

Mr Byrne's Hodge Hill constituency includes one of the schools named as part of the alleged plot - Park View Academy.

He said "We just need the truth on the table now."

Ofsted inspectors visited the school twice last month and were at two other schools - Golden Hillock School and Nansen Primary - run by the same trust on Wednesday.

Following the Park View visits, Ofsted said: "The findings are being quality assured and will be published in due course, in line with Ofsted's publication guidance.

"It would be inappropriate to comment further until that time."

Prime Minister David Cameron told BBC WM the government would "not accept any school being run by extremists or promoting extremist views".

He added: "It's not acceptable; we can't have that happening in our country and Ofsted have all the powers they need to intervene."

'Witch hunt'

Mr Byrne said: "Parents have just been given their school choices for next year for their kids. What a lot of them are very worried about is, is Park View the right place for their child?

"It is an outstanding school, there are serious allegations, the right way to deal with it is to get Ofsted in to come and have a look at it.

Park View School

Classes were under way as I was walked into the school. There were pictures along the corridors of children on school trips, but there were no photos of girls and boys together.

I was told I could peer through the classroom windows but not go inside as it would be too disruptive for the students.

The classes were mixed in terms of gender but the girls - most of whom were wearing white headscarves - were sitting among girls, and the boys were at desks with other boys.

It could be argued that as more than 90% of its pupils are Muslims of Pakistani heritage the school is simply adhering to a culture and religion that is popular among those that attend.

The Chair of Governors, Tahir Alam, was adamant that no compulsory Islamic practices were forced on the students, but he was not keen on me speaking to other members of staff, apart from a non-Muslim maths teacher who he said he had a close relationship with.

John Brockley, who has been at the school for almost 30 years, said in some cases assemblies are segregated, but he emphasised that many Muslims are comfortable with that arrangement, especially during prayer.

He said he understood why some non-Muslims may feel uncomfortable at the school.

"We need that report on [Education Secretary] Michael Gove's desk now so that he can decide the way forward.

"This has dragged on for well over a month and a half now. There have been all kinds of leaks to the press and we just need the truth on the table now."

Park View Education Trust has rejected claims of a Muslim takeover, while its chairman Tahir Alam told BBC Radio 4's Today programme it was facing a "witch hunt" based on "all sorts of false allegations".

He said an internal investigation by the trust had found no evidence to back up the claims.

"I can't comment on who's making these allegations because I don't know who they are. When this is supposed to have happened we don't know," he said.

Anonymous letter

Birmingham City Council has announced it is planning to increase the number of staff working on its investigation after a "significant number" of people came forward with fresh concerns.

Allegations of a plot to install head teachers and other senior staff and governors who are more sympathetic to Islam were raised in an anonymous letter.

Authorities have yet to determine if either the letter, or the "Operation Trojan Horse" plot it refers to, are genuine.

The Today programme's Sima Kotecha, who was shown round Park View School by Mr Alam, said: "The students I spoke to outside of the school insisted they enjoyed being there and were never made to do anything they didn't want to do.

"But two members of staff who spoke anonymously about life at the school said non-Muslim members of the team were being isolated.

"They also claimed that in one school assembly a political viewpoint that was sympathetic to Al-Qaeda was promoted."

The school has denied all allegations against it.

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