The Department for Education have now announced there next steps with regards to Birmingham schools. You can read the Department's press release and statement below as well my statement in response and the statement released by Chief Constable Sims of West Midlands Police.
Department for Education Press Release - 15 April 2014:
Government appoints Commissioner to investigate Birmingham schools
The Department for Education today, 15 April, appointed Peter Clarke to review evidence in relation to serious allegations that schools in Birmingham are being targeted by individuals wishing to push an Islamist agenda.
In his role as Education Commissioner, Peter Clarke will be accountable to the Secretary of State for Education. He will investigate the allegations to understand fully what has happened in the schools of concern and work closely with Birmingham City Council to analyse evidence of extremist infiltration in both academies and council-run schools. He will report back to the department this summer.
Mr Clarke’s appointment means allegations which have been the subject of intense speculation can be examined in a professional and dispassionate manner, based on established facts. He has substantial and much-respected experience in leading investigations at a high level.
Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove said:
“I am extremely concerned by the allegations made in connection to a number of schools in Birmingham.
“I have already asked Ofsted to inspect a number of schools of concern and these investigations are ongoing. But wider, more comprehensive action is needed. These allegations need either to be substantiated and firm action taken, or to be shown to be baseless. We cannot allow uncertainty for parents or pupils to persist.
“That is why I am appointing a Commissioner to oversee this work. Peter Clarke brings a wealth of relevant skills and experience, and is very well placed to lead a fair and thorough assessment of the evidence, and report back to me. We expect he will work closely with Birmingham City Council.
“No pupils should be exposed to extremist views or radicalisation while at school. I have tasked Peter Clarke with getting to the bottom of these allegations, so schools in Birmingham can continue the excellent progress that so many have been making.”
The Department for Education has maintained close contact with a number of parties since the allegations were first received, including the police and Birmingham City Council.
All schools are subject to a tough inspection regime and the government has been clear that it will not hesitate to take firm and swift action if pupils are being let down or placed at risk.
NOTES TO EDITORS
1. The Commissioner’s remit will cover both maintained schools and academies (including free schools, university technical colleges and Studio Schools). He will be supported by a small team of Department for Education officials, and will be able to seek expert opinion and advice as necessary, including from Ofsted. He is likely to be in place initially for three to four months before reporting back to the Secretary of State for Education.
2. This appointment, which is made under statutory powers, is separate to the Department for Education’s intervention in Birmingham’s children’s services. The department has already indicated its intention to appoint a statutory Commissioner to oversee these services, which successive Ofsted inspections have found to be inadequate.
3. Peter Clarke was an officer in the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) for 31 years and has held a number of executive and non-executive positions in the public and private sectors, including as a non-executive board member for the Serious Organised Crime Agency from 2009-2013. He rose to the rank of Deputy Assistant Commissioner at the MPS, heading up the Counter Terrorism Command. He received the OBE in 2006 for his work on the 7/7 bombings the previous year. He is currently a board member at the Charity Commission.
4. For more information call Rhiannon Spellman in the press office on 020 7340 8239 or the newsdesk on 020 7783 8300
In response Liam Byrne MP said:
"I'm sorry Mr Gove has ignored the advice of all ten of the city's MP's and the West Midlands Police and decided very, very late in the day to go it alone.
"We've been demanding action for weeks to get to the truth of what's gone on in Mr Gove's academies as well as local schools. Frankly we needed something far faster and a real team-effort between Mr Gove's department and Birmingham City Council.
'Some of the schools in question like Park View are delivering simply outstanding results - and nothing must be allowed to get in the way of outstanding teachers delivering outstanding teaching.
'So I genuinely hope that like us, Mr Gove is pursuing the truth and not an agenda and frankly, this mustn't be an attempt to duck the lessons Mr Gove needs to learn about toughening up the rules around academies and free schools.
"Despite the Secretary of State's prevarication we just need to get on with it, end the uncertainty and get in place any changes if changes are needed".
"There are now more and more questions that demand answers, like what Ofsted and Mr Gove knew and when and whether there are similar allegations being made elsewhere in Britain. Quite simply we need to know whether Mr Gove is able to run such a large school system from his desk in Whitehall."
Chief Constable Sims of West Midlands Police said:
"This is a desperately unfortunate appointment. Peter Clarke has many qualities but people will inevitably draw unwarranted conclusions from his former role as National Coordinator for Counter-terrorism.
"I am a strong supporter of open and inclusive education for all children in Birmingham and across the West Midlands and am committed to the process adopted by Birmingham City Council with educational and social inclusion at its heart."