'Trojan Horse': Calls for interfaith task force

Park View School Park View academy is one of the schools that has been inspected by Ofsted over the claims

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Labour MP Liam Byrne is calling for a new interfaith task force in Birmingham to defend the rights of Muslim families following the "Trojan Horse" claims.

Ofsted has inspected 21 schools over allegations of a hardline Muslim plot to take over some schools in the city.

Mr Byrne said ministers had treated Muslims as "second-class citizens" by branding those seeking education in line with religion as extreme.

The Department for Education said it would be "inappropriate to comment".

'Showing solidarity'

The Trojan Horse claims were made in an anonymous letter, made public in March, alleging a group of conservative Muslims was attempting to usurp school governing bodies in Birmingham.

Start Quote

The freedom and right of Muslim parents to bring up their own children in the faith is under attack because of the way this debate has been orchestrated by Michael Gove”

End Quote Liam Byrne Shadow minister for universities, science and skills

It has not been authenticated and some believe it to have been a hoax.

It has led to investigations by schools watchdog Ofsted, Birmingham City Council, the Department for Education (DfE) and the Education Funding Agency.

Former cabinet minister Mr Byrne, the MP for Birmingham Hodge Hill, told BBC News there would be an outcry if the kind of language being used to discuss Islam in the matter was used to describe the Catholic faith.

"The freedom and right of Muslim parents to bring up their own children in their faith is under attack because of the way this debate has been orchestrated by [Education Secretary] Michael Gove," he said.

"Common sense" needed to be restored to the debate, the shadow minister for universities, science and skills added.

Mr Byrne said he had spoken to the Bishop of Birmingham, the Right Reverend David Urquhart, about setting up the new group and would be issuing a letter calling for its formation.

He stressed that it must be "faith-led" and would be "first and foremost about showing solidarity with Muslim parents and defending their rights".

'Inadequate' rating

Ofsted's reports on the 21 schools will be published on Monday.

According to the Guardian, one of the schools, the Park View academy, will be downgraded from "outstanding" to "inadequate".

The paper adds that inspectors have concluded it failed to adequately warn pupils about extremism.

Mr Gove has said he wants parents with children at Park View academy to be consulted on whether it becomes a designated faith school.

Mr Byrne's campaign will focus on making sure people of all faiths have access to schools that specialise in educating children in different religions.

Start Quote

The allegations made in relation to some schools in Birmingham are very serious and we are investigating all evidence put to us in conjunction with Ofsted, Birmingham City Council and the police”

End Quote DfE

Last month, the Park View Trust, which oversees the academy, wrote to Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw saying it was "astonishing" that "the Trojan Horse dossier, though anonymous, unsigned, undated and being full of factual errors and malicious allegations has unfortunately received so much credence".

It said the inspections "could not have been carried out impartially and were prejudiced by assumptions around allegations made in some media".

It is expected that five of the schools that feature in Ofsted reports on Monday will be put into special measures, according to BBC Newsnight policy editor Chris Cook.

Also on Monday, Mr Gove will be quizzed by MPs over the alleged Trojan Horse plot.

Ministerial row

Meanwhile, the claims have led to a row between Mr Gove and Home Secretary Theresa May after sources close to the education secretary accused the Home Office of failing to "drain the swamp" of extremism.

Theresa May and Michael Gove The row between Mrs May and Mr Gove angered PM David Cameron, who ordered an internal investigation

In response, the Home Office released a private letter Mrs May had written to Mr Gove, accusing his department of failing to act when concerns about the Birmingham schools were brought to its attention in 2010.

Mr Gove has apologised to the prime minister and a Home Office official over the briefing war that ensued.

And Mrs May's special adviser has been forced to quit.

A DfE spokesperson said allegations made "in relation to some schools in Birmingham are very serious and we are investigating all evidence put to us in conjunction with Ofsted, Birmingham City Council and the police".

"It would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage, they added.

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