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



14 °C 13 °C

BBC Local Live

    'Victimless' attacker jailed 12:38:

    A man's been jailed for over a decade after he admitted a "brutal assault" - despite his victim refusing to co-operate with police.

    Wesley Jones

    Wesley Jones, 29, was sentenced to 13-and-a-half years at Birmingham Crown Court following a so-called "victimless prosecution".

    West Midlands Police said Jones and two others attacked the 35-year-old man outside the Three Horse Shoes pub in Stirchley, leaving him with serious injuries.

    He was jailed on Friday when he changed his initial not guilty plea after officers showed him CCTV footage of the assault, police said.

    New home for The Heathens 12:28: Mike Taylor BBC WM Sport

    The Cradley Heathens are once again looking for a new home after being told that they will not be able to race at Monmore Green in Wolverhampton next season.

    The Heathens, who closed down after losing their own Dudley Wood track in 1995, were revived in 2010, racing mostly at Monmore Green while they looked for a site to build a new track of their own.

    However, no such site has yet been found, and now the owners of Monmore Green, Ladbrokes, have decided to allow only one night of speedway each week - Wolverhampton's traditional Monday slot.

    Speedway: Cradley Heathens 12:15:

    The Cradley Heathens have been informed that they will no longer be able to continue using Monmore Green Stadium as their home track from next season.

    The club says in a statement on its website: "Cradley Heath Speedway acknowledge this is a worrying time for supporters and riders alike and the management will make every effort to make alternative plans for the Heathens to be able to continue racing in 2015."

    A38 Selly Oak closed 12:05: Birmingham Mail

    The A38 Bristol Road was closed in both directions at the A4040 Oak Tree Lane (Selly Oak Triangle) junction.

    'Nag the council' 11:48: BBC WM

    The man who's been appointed by the government to improve Birmingham Children's Services has told BBC WM he is having to "seriously nag the city council" to do more to show the city is a good place to work.

    Lord Warner says social workers should be coming into the city to work, to fill shortages.

    Morning meeting 11:35: Hilary McConnell Producer, BBC Midlands Today

    We've had the morning meeting looking at some of the stories we're going to be featuring on the programme today.

    We're looking at what services Birmingham City Council could be cutting in their budget for 2015/2016. They have to save £150m but have prioritised spending on children's services, arts and museums over school catering and cleaning.

    Also, we're on shark watch - as Birmingham's sea life centre awaits the arrival of Albie a nursing shark who's being brought to the city as part of the breeding programme. They're a bit behind schedule as they've had a few problems catching Albie in his tank in Blackpool, but apparently he's now on the road!

    Trott signs deal to 2017 11:18: BBC Sport

    Warwickshire batsman Jonathan Trott has signed a new three-year contract with the county.

    Batsman Jonathan Trott

    Trott (pictured right) says: "Hopefully we can build on the success of this year by achieving greater success in the years to come."

    Savings 'don't go far enough' 11:08: Patrick Burns Political editor, Midlands

    With government borrowing rising again and its debt-reduction programme well behind schedule, the squeeze on public spending will almost continue until the end of the decade.

    What makes it even more difficult is that the savings so far achieved represent mainly "the low-hanging fruit".

    The next ones will be harder to reach, with some economists already warning that the savings made so far do not go nearly far enough.

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

    Shares in the supermarket chain, Tesco, are down by 6% after it announced a sharp drop in profits and sales.

    West Bromwich West MP Adrian Bailey is chair of the business committee and says the chairman, Sir Richard Broadbent, needed to step down. Hear more on this story and others in the news on BBC WM at 11:00.

    'Agonising decisions' ahead 10:51: Patrick Burns Political editor, Midlands

    As Birmingham City Council struggles to find savings of £150m in the coming year, its Labour Leader Sir Albert Bore admits his proposal to prioritise spending on the Arts and Museums will be controversial at a time when other services, especially child protection, are under unprecedented pressure.

    Agonising decisions like this, far from going away, will be an increasing feature of the years ahead, whoever wins next year's general election.

    Rowett favourite 10:37: Daz Hale BBC WM Sport

    Gary Rowett is now the bookies' overwhelming favourite for the vacancy at Birmingham City.

    Gary Rowett

    The Blues captain Paul Robinson says: "The most important thing is to pick up results. If a new manager comes in, he'll give us a boost and that's what we need now to move forward."

    Blues sought permission to speak to the Burton Albion boss earlier this week.

    QE Hospital changes 10:27:

    The head of the NHS has outlined changes he wants to see at Birmingham's Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

    Simon Stevens, the chief executive of NHS England is demanding above inflation increases in funding.

    But with that extra cash he says health care can improve in the city.

    Motorways 'safety risk' 10:15: Birmingham Post

    Shadow Transport Secretary Mary Creagh says £360m schemes designed to ease congestion on very busy sections of West Midlands motorways are a safety risk.

    Social services 'outrage' 10:06: Birmingham Mail

    Outrage as Birmingham social service workers make council funded trip to Chicago to make closer links with the University of Birmingham.

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

    Birmingham Sea Life Centre will be welcoming a Nurse Shark to it's aquarium today.

    In the news at 10:00 on BBC WM we'll hear from the curator as Albie is being brought over from Blackpool as part of a breeding programme.

    Bus service diversion 09:44:

    Network West Midlands tweets: Service 53 will have diversions in place today due to the closure of the Barclay Road, Bearwood. Further details here ow.ly/DcHS8

    At Risk buildings 09:29: Amy Cole Reporter, Midlands Today

    Furnaces - believed to be where the famous Ironbridge was cast - have been put on the English Heritage At Risk register.

    The Coffin Works in Birmingham's Jewellery Quarter

    English Heritage says Bedlam Furnaces in Ironbridge Gorge needs a roof to give it shelter from the weather and allow the structure to stabilise.

    The Coffin Works in Birmingham's Jewellery Quarter (pictured) have been taken off the list after being restored following years of campaigning.

    'Tram failure' 09:16:

    Midland Metro tweets: Following a Tram failure- Midland Metro are now running a full 10 tram service from Bham to Priestfield, we apologise for any delays

    From football to property 09:08: Express and Star

    He scored more than 200 goals for Wolves - but now club legend Steve Bull hopes to hit the back of the net with his first step into property investment. Read more online.

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

    Arts, culture and sports are to remain a priority in Birmingham despite the city council's unprecedented level of funding cuts.

    In the news at 09:00 we'll hear from council leader Sir Albert Bore about why the cultural offering is so important. Listen live to BBC WM.

    Happy Diwali! 08:44: Stephanie Barnard BBC Local Live

    Indians across the world are celebrating the biggest Hindu festival, by lighting earthen lamps, bursting firecrackers and distributing sweets. You can see photos of the celebrations on BBC In Pictures.

    Widows light sparklers in Vrindavan, in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh October 21, 2014

    You can share your photos too - email, tweet or get in touch via Facebook.

    Top headlines
    Council saving plans 08:31:

    Pest control and school crossing services may be cut by Birmingham City Council under latest spending plans.

    Both are listed as low-priority in the authority's 2015/16 budget green paper.

    Arts and museums and the budget for Marketing Birmingham - which the council said attracts business to the city - are listed as high priority.

    It said child protection is its highest priority, and will see a funding increase after "years of underinvestment".

    £150m council cuts 08:21:

    Birmingham City Council has announced £150m in spending cuts over the next year, but says it will continue its support of arts, culture and sports.

    Sir Albert Bore

    Services in the city have been ranked according to their priority to assist with the budget saving process.

    Council leaders say arts and culture are an important part of what puts Birmingham on the map as a great city in Europe.

    M6 delays 08:10:

    There are delays and queuing traffic on the M6 southbound near Corley Services, because of an accident.

    BBC Travel reports that all lanes have been re-opened but travel time is about 30 minutes.

    Showers likely 08:04: Charlie Slater Weather Presenter, BBC Midlands Today

    Some mist and murk to start with this morning on a mainly overcast and dull day where scattering of drizzly showers are likely on an otherwise dry day.

    BBC Midlands weather forecast Forecast for 16:00

    Breezy with slightly milder highs of 16C (61F).

    Good morning 08:00: Stephanie Barnard BBC Local Live

    I'll be bringing you the very latest news, sport, travel and weather updates for Birmingham and the Black Country.

    If you'd like to comment on any of the updates we're featuring email or tweet @BBCWM.



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.