Teachers complain about behaviour of Ofsted inspectors investigating ‘plot’
Teachers from Birmingham schools being investigated by Ofsted over an alleged Islamist takeover plot have reportedly been told their schools will be downgraded because they were “not teaching anti-terrorism”.
Other teachers were asked by Ofsted inspectors if they were homophobic, according to Roger King, the National Union of Teachers executive member for Birmingham, who said he had received complaints from members whose schools were being investigated in one of several inquiries into the alleged plot.
“You do question how objective Ofsted were when they went into those schools,” King said.
The claims come as Sir Michael Wilshaw, the chief inspector of schools in England, announced he was going to Birmingham to take personal charge of the investigation into 16 schools in the city, amid media reports that all the schools had been downgraded after visits by Ofsted inspectors.
According to King, inspectors have behaved inappropriately during visits to the schools in recent weeks, based on reports he has received from members of his union.
“The Ofsted team were going to the staff of the school and saying: ‘We’re going to fail you.’ And some of the staff were saying: ‘Why are you failing us?’ And [Ofsted] were saying: ‘You’re not teaching anti-terrorism and therefore there’s a safeguarding issue in this school,'” King said.
“That’s an inappropriate thing to do. That’s not what it seems Ofsted are in there for.
“There are a number of things like that, like asking the staff: ‘Are you homophobic?’, asking the girl pupils who didn’t happen to be sitting next to boys: ‘Are you made to sit in different places?'”
King described the inspectors’ queries as leading questions: “There’s a whole string of those things which the staff were really upset about and felt were nothing to do with the Ofsted inspection.”
Christine Blower, general secretary of the NUT, said Ofsted and Wilshaw needed to say whether its teams of inspectors were acting inappropriately. “That would be a legitimate question to ask,” Blower said. The NUT planned to make a formal complaint to Ofsted, she added.
In response to the complaints, a spokesperson for Ofsted said: “Inspectors are required to uphold the highest professional standards in their work and to ensure that everyone they encounter during inspections is treated fairly and with respect.”
King is also chair of governors of Springfield primary school in Birmingham, one of those mentioned in the “Trojan Horse” letter detailing the alleged plot. He said reports in the Sunday Telegraph that Springfield had been inspected by Ofsted and downgraded were wrong.
“Springfield has not been inspected. It looks in the report in the paper as if it has, but that’s rubbish. The last time we were inspected was two years ago,” King said.
The Sunday Telegraph claimed five schools were being investigated by Ofsted over allegations – including that school governors attempted to enforce strict Islamic religious principles on pupils and staff – were to be rated as inadequate and placed in special measures. The report said they included Park View secondary school, which was previously rated as outstanding.
But the report also claimed that several other schools including Springfield primary would be downgraded to “requires improvement” – which King denied. “We certainly have not had an inspection,” he said.
The education secretary, Michael Gove, has appointed a former counter-terrorism police chief to examine claims that an Islamic faction tried to gain influence over schools and remove staff who were unsympathetic, while Birmingham city council is undertaking its own investigation into 25 schools.
King said he had been approached by several teachers at schools in Birmingham about some allegations of school governors abusing their role before the Trojan Horse letter appeared in the media.
“I think there is a need to investigate,” King said. “There have been concerns that have been raised and brought to our attention about the governance of some schools in Birmingham. It hasn’t always been Muslim governors.
“But there have been concerns, and there are some headteachers who are concerned about what they would say was the territory that governors stray into.”
Blower said the NUT believed there needed to be an investigation to end speculation with “a proper and rigorous response”.
The Ofsted spokesperson said: “Sir Michael has made clear that he is taking a personal lead in agreeing the individual reports and ensuring that they fully address concerns that have been raised. We will be reporting our overall findings directly to the secretary of state early next month.”