Operation Trojan Horse: Will we ever learn the truth?

Regents Park Community School and Nursery, Birmingham

This week three senior figures were appointed to oversee investigations into claims that a small group of hard-line Muslims had tried to "take over" schools in Birmingham.

This was after it emerged the inquiry into the so-called Operation Trojan Horse plot was much bigger than first thought. More than 200 separate complaints have been made about 25 schools, all of which are in parts of the city with Muslim populations of 90% or more.

So what is the Operation Trojan Horse 'plot', is it even real and are we likely to ever learn the truth?

line break
The 'plot'

At the heart of the story is the document first sent to the city council at the beginning of last November. An accompanying letter from a "concerned citizen" urges the leader, Sir Albert Bore, to act immediately upon reading a document, which he or she claims, was found in the office of his or her "boss" at a school in Birmingham. The same letter was sent to four schools in early February.


Trojan Horse letter

There are four pages, but the document must have been longer as it's clear that there is at least one page missing at the beginning and at least one more at the end.

Apparently written in Birmingham with instructions to someone in Bradford, it details a five point plan on how to take over schools, which the author calls Operation Trojan Horse.

Many have questioned its authenticity because the document seems simply too good to be true. Conspiracies, where they exist, are rarely set out in black and white so conveniently.

However, some of the allegations about Adderley School hadn't previously been in the public domain.

They are at the core of an unfair dismissal claim which will be heard at an industrial tribunal later this year, and documents relating to the case are being investigated by the West Midlands Police economic crime unit.

Four women have been arrested in connection with that case. It is therefore difficult to report those details at the moment.

Apparently written in Birmingham with instructions to someone in Bradford, it details a five point plan on how to take over schools, which the author calls Operation Trojan Horse.

It suggests targeting schools with a predominantly Muslim population, especially in poorer areas, before selecting a group of parents, which it describes as "hard liners", to agitate at the school gate and in the playground and to raise questions about staff, the syllabus and teaching methods.

It goes on to say that after infiltrating the governing body, a policy of disruption should be carried out from within, until the leadership has been changed to one more sympathetic to the group's religious views.

Trojan Horse, it says, is "totally invisible to the naked eye and allows us to operate under the radar. I have detailed the plan we have in Birmingham and how well it has worked and you will see how easy the whole process is to get the head teacher out and your own person in".

It identifies four schools at which it claims Operation Trojan Horse had been successfully put into action. Saltley School, Adderley School, Regents Park Community School and Park View Academy.

A Park View governor, Tahir Alam, is named in the document as someone who was involved in the plot, an accusation he has repeatedly and strenuously denied. Another school, Highfield, is mentioned as a potential target.

line break
Real or fake?

Those that argue that it is a hoax point to problems with the language used in the document and question the accuracy of some of what is said. Much of what's referred to in the document had been widely reported locally before reaching the attention of the national press.

Park View School

It is, they argue, too good to be true. If there were a genuine conspiracy, then who would take the trouble to write it all down and leave an incriminating paper trail?

Those that say it's genuine say that some of the allegations had not previously been in the public domain. The document, they say, has been with Birmingham City Council for six months and was, during the early stages of the investigation, also scrutinised by detectives. If it had been proven to be a fake, why has no-one been able to categorically say it is?

When asked directly, officials have qualified their answers saying it is "probably a fake", or "likely to be spurious", but without a definitive answer.

Unless the author of the letter, or the Trojan Horse document, is positively identified, it may be impossible to prove its provenance

Even if it was fabricated, it might have been a well-intentioned attempt by a whistleblower to try to alert the authorities to genuine concerns about leadership and governance.

line break

Hoax or not, it has prompted a storm of allegations about bullying and intimidation at schools, as well as accusations that the Department of Education and the city council allowed a small clique to remove teachers, staff and governors and introduce more Islamic teaching methods.

Nansen Primary School

Many of the schools have had good or outstanding Ofsted inspection reports and can point to good achievements in exams.

In the seven weeks since the story became public, there have been repeated complaints that state-funded, secular institutions have been turned into faith schools by stealth.

It has been alleged that girls and boys are forced to sit apart in class; female teaching staff are bullied or ignored by male Muslim counterparts; Arabic has replaced French or other European languages on the curriculum; ultra-conservative dress codes are strictly enforced and, most controversially of all, that on at least one occasion, a radical cleric and senior figure within al Qaeda was praised in an assembly.

Many of the people making these accusations have refused to speak publicly, but instead have given anonymous interviews to the media. They have been accused of being racist Islamophobes with personal grudges.

The claims are being taken extremely seriously by all of the authorities and have prompted a number of inquiries.

line break
What are the inquiries looking into?

Ofsted is investigating the schools on behalf of the Department for Education. It is specifically looking into allegations of wrongdoing within the schools. Questions will have been asked about the leadership, the curriculum, teaching methods, the quality of teachers and the education received by the children.

Saltley School

Birmingham City Council has appointed Ian Kershaw, a former head teacher, to oversee its main inquiry into the Operation Trojan Horse allegations. This also involves Ofsted and the DfE, but includes West Midlands Police and the National Association of Head Teachers. The unions and the council believe the allegations show genuine problems with the system of school governance, especially within academies.

The council has appointed Stephen Rimmer to head a second review group which will involve the education sector, councillors and MPs, faith groups and community leaders. Mr Rimmer is a former Home Office director general, who also led the government's anti-radicalisation strategy Prevent.

The most controversial appointment was that of the former head of the Met's counter terrorism unit, Peter Clarke, as an education commissioner by the secretary of state Michael Gove. His background raised hackles in the predominantly Muslim areas at the heart of the Trojan Horse allegations. It is a community that already feels victimised and isolated.

Even though there have been a number of terror plots uncovered in the same streets, there is anger that the language used by the DfE, which used words like "extremist" and "Islamist", has changed the tone of the story from one which was about school governance to something darker and more sinister.

There have also been mutterings that other government departments were not happy about the timing of this particular announcement, despite an official statement insisting that it was 100% supported.

There is another inquiry which is going on quietly in the background. Accusations have also been made about financial wrongdoing at some of the schools, and the Education Funding Agency is investigating those.

line break
When will we find out out the truth?

Ofsted is likely to publish its reports first. It has carried out inspections at 15 of the 25 schools which are being investigated by the the authorities. They have all been what are commonly referred to as "snap" inspections under Section 8 of the 2005 Education Act, which allows for the re-inspection of schools which are causing concern.

Most last two days and involve the questioning of staff, parents, governors and pupils. The first school to be inspected was Park View Academy on 6 and 7 March. There was a further visit there a week later. That inspection report is overdue, but it's thought Ofsted will wait until reports into the other schools are ready before publishing them altogether. After the Easter break is all that we know for certain.

The Kershaw and Rimmer reviews will publish their findings by the end of the school year in July, but interim reports are expected in early May. The Clarke inquiry is expected to run alongside both of these.

As part of the Rimmer review the Youth Parliament has been commissioned to come up with two pieces of work to answer two questions:

What does a good inclusive education in Birmingham look like? And what does a safe and resilient citizen of the future look like? This is likely to publish during the summer.

There is no firm date for a publication of the EFA findings.

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

BBC Birmingham & Black Country



13 °C 7 °C

BBC Local Live

    Wolves v Middlesbrough 14:41: BBC Sport

    Wolves boss Kenny Jackett could make changes for the visit of Middlesbrough tonight, after his side surrendered a 3-0 lead at Millwall on Saturday.

    Richard Stearman

    Captain Sam Ricketts is pushing to start and Richard Stearman (pictured) may also come in for his 200th club appearance.

    Speedster banned from driving 14:25: Royal Sutton Coldfield Observer

    A speeding motorist caught going more than 100mph on an Erdington dual carriageway has been banned from driving.

    Patients sent '200 miles for treatment' 14:13:

    Health chiefs in the West Midlands are being condemned for sending mental health patients up to 200 miles away for treatment.

    The Liberal Democrat MP for Solihull Lorely Burt said the service was under so much pressure that hospital beds weren't available.

    Norman Lamb, health minister, said it shouldn't be happening.

    News on the hour 13:56: Chris Blakemore News editor, BBC WM

    A man arrested after a police officer was shot in the eye has been to sent to a psychiatric unit.

    Hear more on this story and others in our 14:00 bulletin.

    Wanted man 13:45: Alex Homer BBC Local Live

    Dwaine Matthew Campbell, aged 24, of no fixed address, is wanted for domestic-related harassment against a former partner.

    Dwaine Matthew Campbell

    He is also wanted on warrant for failing to appear at Swansea Crown Court in 2011 for drug offences. Wolverhampton police are appealing for help to find him.

    Doctors and nurses 'could lose jobs' 13:35:

    Dudley North MP Ian Austin says doctors and nurses at the town's Russells Hall Hospital could lose their jobs because it is £12m in debt.

    Ian Austin

    The Labour member told Parliament the financial problems were leading to delays for patients and urged ministers to take action.

    Conservative Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the Dudley Group Foundation Trust had 350 more nurses than when the coalition came to power.

    Pupils' cycle training 13:23: Alex Homer BBC Local Live

    A programme offering cycle safety training to 4,500 schoolchildren this year wheeled into Chad Vale Primary School, Edgbaston, earlier.

    Pupils were taught at level two of the three-level Bikeability scheme - sessions that see riders go on to public roads. The city council received £180,000 from the government for the scheme for this financial year.

    More information is available here.

    Blackburn v Birmingham 13:13:

    Caretakers Richard Beale and Malcolm Crosby take charge of Birmingham City against Blackburn Rovers this evening, after Lee Clark's sacking.

    News on the hour 12:59: BBC WM

    Our top local story at 13:00 is:

    • Two children who are suspected illegal immigrants and were found in the back of a refrigerated lorry on the M6 have been taken into the care of social services.
    Coming up on TV 12:44: Amy Cole Presenter, Midlands Today

    Jaguar Land Rover has officially opened its new factory in China.

    Some components firms in the West Midlands are supplying parts to the new plant and we will hear from our business correspondent Peter Plisner at 13:30 on BBC One. Watch the programme afterwards here.

    Ashes missing after cemetery vandalism 12:35: Express and Star

    A devastated family have appealed for help after a grandmother's ashes were removed from a memorial by vandals who wreaked havoc in a cemetery.

    Land Girls honoured 12:25: Tom Richardson BBC News Online

    A memorial to Britain's Land Girls funded by an £85,000 fundraising campaign is due to be unveiled later.

    A clay maquette shows how the finished sculpture will look when it is unveiled

    The bronze statue, created to honour women who served in the Land Army during World War Two, has been placed at the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas, Staffordshire.

    A three-year campaign by the Staffordshire Women's Food and Farming Union to fund the project received more than 1,000 donations.

    Original Balti Triangle restaurant closing 12:14: Birmingham Post

    One of Birmingham's original Balti Triangle restaurants is closing after nearly 45 years - despite numbering Robert Plant and UB40 among its biggest fans.

    Queen to open JLR factory 12:03:

    The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh will officially open the new Jaguar Land Rover engine factory at the i54 business park near Wolverhampton next Thursday, it has been announced.

    The Queen and a picture from inside the Jaguar Land Rover plant

    During their visit to the area, the royals will also tour International Security Printers to see the work of the specialist postage stamp printers.

    News on the hour 11:57: Jay Vydelingum Journalist, BBC WM

    Two children who are suspected illegal immigrants and were found in the back of a refrigerated lorry on the M6 have been taken into the care of social services.

    Hear more on this story and others in the headlines at 12:00.

    The original free schools 11:47: Tom de Castella BBC News Magazine

    In the 1970s, idealistic young activists created a wave of experimental schools with no compulsory lessons, no timetables, no rules.

    One of the original free schools has survived to the present day - but only by becoming "unfree". In Balsall Heath, it is today known as St Paul's.

    Illustration of 70s style free school

    So what happened to the kids who attended these free-for-alls?

    Found tied to goalposts 11:36: Tom Richardson BBC News Online

    Bran was found tied to a set of goalposts in Wolverhampton by RSPCA inspectors earlier this year. He'd been left overnight without food and water and was "very aggressive" when first found.

    Increase in dumped pets 11:25: Tom Richardson BBC News Online

    The RSPCA says it's noticed an "alarming increase" in the number of abandoned animals - with the West Midlands among the worst regions for "dumped" pets.

    Between January and October this year it said there were 1,428 cases reported across the area.

    It says owners are dumping pets, especially injured or unwanted newborns, in bins, skips or on waste ground and with winter approaching, the charity expects the problem to get worse.

    Grooming complaints 'four decades ago' 11:16: Birmingham Mail

    Child sexual exploitation has been going on in Birmingham for 40 years, a leading expert has warned.

    Your pictures 11:05:

    Glenn, from Shirley, Solihull, emails: "Just woke up to go to work and was greeted by this sight."

    Tree on top of a car

    Send us your pictures via email, Twitter or Facebook, if it is legal and safe to do so.

    News on the hour 10:58: Jay Vydelingum Journalist, BBC WM

    We are about to hear from the Labour leader of Walsall Council Sean Coughlan, who claims if some facilities close after a consultation about libraries and children's centres, they will be replaced.

    Listen live to our 11:00 bulletin.

    Have your say 10:49: Alex Homer BBC Local Live

    We've introduced BBC Local Live to bring you news, sport, travel and weather updates in one place. We'd like to find out what you think.

    Naming 'poor' cab drivers 10:39: Birmingham Post

    Minicab firms in Birmingham which run poor quality cars with rude drivers will be named and shamed under a new inspection scheme being drawn up by city licensing chiefs.

    Honours even at Hawthorns 10:28: BBC Sport

    Daley Blind's late goal salvaged a point at West Bromwich Albion but could not end Manchester United's winless run away from home under Louis van Gaal.

    Daley Blind

    Read the full match report from last night's action here.

    What happened to people in lorry? 10:17:
    • Two children, suspected illegal immigrants found in the back of a refrigerated lorry on the M6, have been taken into the care of social services
    • They were among a group of 12 found when a lorry was stopped between Hilton Park services and Junction 10a
    • Three adults are currently in immigration detention while another seven have been ordered to report regularly to the Home Office
    • The lorry driver was arrested on suspicion of facilitation of illegal immigration and bailed
    Gusts across the UK 10:04:

    You can see how the tail-end of Hurricane Gonzalo has affected people UK-wide as live updates are provided here.

    This BBC weather chart shows the most significant gusts at 08:00.

    Wind gusts
    News on the hour 09:55: Jay Vydelingum Journalist, BBC WM

    In the 10:00 bulletin we hear from the Labour leader of Walsall Council Sean Coughlan, who tells us why a consultation on library closures will begin.

    Listen live here.

    Axe-wielding gang stole phone 09:48:

    A man was stabbed and beaten by an axe-wielding gang of robbers who stole his phone as he walked home from work.

    West Midlands Police is appealing for information about the Oldbury attack, which happened last month.

    Queen to open JLR factory 09:38: Express and Star

    The Queen will officially open Wolverhampton's new £500 million Jaguar Land Rover engine factory next week.

    Gales could be severe 09:27: Sara Blizzard Weather Presenter, BBC Midlands Today

    It's a windy day today with gales or even severe gales. We've also got some heavy showers and they're going to be quite squally.

    Sara Blizzard shows us there is a yellow warning about the winds from the Met Office

    We could see gusts of up to 60mph and they could continue for a time throughout the evening.

    'Influx of poorer families' feared 09:15: Jay Vydelingum Journalist, BBC WM

    Sandwell Council says it is concerned a change in council tax policy could mean an influx of poorer families coming in from London.

    It is after a judge ruled the authority's two-year residency policy for claiming council tax benefit was unlawful.

    Fallout from Fellaini tweet 09:06: Birmingham Mail

    West Bromwich Albion were accused of a "complete lack of knowledge, class and respect" by a Manchester United player for a tweet about Marouane Fellaini.

    Marouane Fellaini slammed Manchester United level within minutes of coming on as a substitute

    In actual fact, what the Baggies were guilty of was a clumsy, ill-advised attempt at 'Carry On' style humour.

    News on the hour 08:56: Jay Vydelingum Journalist, BBC WM

    We will hear from Sandwell Council's deputy leader Steve Eling in the 09:00 bulletin, who says authorities in London are trying to shift their problems into the West Midlands.

    Listen live to BBC WM.

    Dark clouds above city 08:49:

    This was the view from the BBC's Birmingham office at the Mailbox earlier this morning, as dark clouds gathered above the city.

    Sky over Birmingham

    Share your photos with us via email, Twitter or Facebook.

    Train delays 08:40: Alex Homer BBC Local Live

    If you're travelling via train to the North West from the West Midlands today, there's some hold-ups.

    Virgin Trains is running with an emergency speed restriction on the West Coast Mainline between Preston and Lancashire, with 15-minute delays expected.

    Congestion on A34 eases 08:29: Steve Hermon Journalist, BBC WM

    We had reports of congestion on A34 towards the underpass where it flooded last week. It looks OK to me.

    The A34
    Flights OK at Birmingham Airport 08:18: Alex Homer BBC Local Live

    The weather has not yet caused any problems at Birmingham Airport.

    Some Lufthansa services could be cancelled due to unrelated strike action. Passengers are advised to check with Lufthansa directly to see if their flight is affected.

    Video: The hurricane effect 08:05:
    News on the hour 07:56: Jay Vydelingum Journalist, BBC WM

    In the 08:00 bulletin: There will be a consultation about whether to close some libraries and children's centres in Walsall.

    • Engine factory: Queen to open JLR plant
    • Walsall Council: Library closures talks start
    • Listen: BBC WM
    Gales 'coincide with rush hour' 07:47:

    The Met Office said the gales would "coincide with the morning rush hour in places".

    Forecasters warn that fallen leaves could impede drainage, increasing the risk of surface water on roads and causing difficult driving conditions.

    Heavy traffic 07:41:

    John Pugh texts to say the A34 from Walsall to Birmingham is "very heavy" past the Scott Arms.

    That tallies with the latest information from BBC Travel, which reports stop-start traffic and delays on the A34 Birmingham Road southbound in Great Barr between the Scott Arms traffic lights and the A4040 Aston Lane junction.

    Keep up to date with the latest travel information here.

    Gales forecast 07:33:

    The Met Office has issued "be aware" warnings, with gales forecast for much of the UK, while BBC Weather said heavy rain was already spreading across many areas.

    Weather map
    Problems on Stafford Road 07:24:

    The A449 Stafford Road in Dunstall, Wolverhampton, is partially blocked at the Gorsebrook Road junction because of a broken down vehicle, says BBC Travel.

    M6 delays 07:19: Alex Homer BBC Local Live

    On the M6 there is a lane closed on the exit slip road and slow traffic southbound at J7, for the A34 at Great Barr, because of a broken down vehicle.

    For more information visit BBC Travel.

    Gale-force winds 07:13: Sara Blizzard Weather Presenter, BBC Midlands Today

    Today there will be gales for all parts. The rain from overnight will soon clear south-east, then colder and clearer conditions will follow.

    There will also be scattered squally showers, which bring a risk of hail and thunder, spreading across the region. Highs of 11C (52F).

    Travel disruption 07:09: BBC WM

    Thousands of people face travel disruption today, with 10% of flights being cancelled at Heathrow Airport because of strong winds and heavy rain.

    This is all down to the remnants of Hurricane Gonzalo.

    There's a Yellow Weather warning in place for the West Midlands but no word yet on disruption to flights at Birmingham Airport.

    Good morning 07:00: Alex Homer BBC Local Live

    I'm back in the BBC WM newsroom bringing you the latest news, sport, travel and weather.

    We've started the Local Live service an hour earlier today to update you with the situation as the remnants of Hurricane Gonzalo arrive. Get in touch with us today via email, Facebook and Twitter.



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.