The following is the council’s current position on the ‘Trojan Horse’ allegations, as set out by Sir Albert Bore at the education and vulnerable children scrutiny committee today.
• The Trojan Horse letter is defamatory. The Council has taken a clear line that it will neither comment nor pass on the letter. I do not intend to break this position.
• It is hugely difficult to investigate Trojan Horse, which is an anonymous collection of material. If these are the genuine concerns of a whistle-blower, we will afford the protection necessary to the investigation of those concerns. If however we find evidence that takes us to a motivation behind these claims which is not based on professional concern, we will act accordingly. We have received many comments following the press interest and will review all of the issues .There are a series of active investigations into various matters at present; these are led by the Strategic Director as they are operational matters and he will brief this committee later in closed session
• I do however make one very important promise. What matters here is assuring the parent who has chosen a school about the standards applied to the education of their child. In particular those parents who have chosen a non-religious school need an assurance that their child’s education will reflect the choice they have made. I will therefore ensure that we come back to this Committee to provide parents the assurance that they will be looking for.
• I am clear about the values that underpin this administration. We have put fairness, prosperity and democracy at the heart of what we do, and embedded this into our Council Business Plan. Anyone seeking to undermine that commitment to fairness and democracy in any aspect of our public life in this great City puts themselves at odds with what I and this city council stand for.
• I am certain about the commitment that I have to this diverse city and its cohesion. We are taking three actions to put this commitment into practice:
1. From the first receipt of an anonymous letter in my office, Birmingham Audit has been reviewing all our practice in schools management. Their review work to date shows no serious flaws in what we do, but plenty of opportunity to develop our systems to withstand the challenges now offered. We will continue this work and implement the highest standards of public administration in support of our schools.
2. The People Directorate is looking to recruit additional senior management with skills and experience in working with schools to review all the complaints we now have to develop a risk based action plan and implement some of the actions we need to take.
3. We already have an independent commission on the relationship between schools and the local authority as part of the work that the Children’s Society are doing with us in our service review. This panel of independent experts is in the process of being appointed. We have asked the Children’s Society if their work could consider the relationship between schools and the community in the context of our expectations for this city. The Children’s Society are in agreement with working with us on this point and we look forward to setting out with the best minds in the UK how we can become an excellent council in today’s educational and community landscape.
• Throughout all of the recent matters, we have maintained close working with key partners. As some matters relate to Academy Schools, this includes the DfE and I can assure this Committee that the working relationships are sound. We have a shared commitment to the highest standards of governance, leadership and teaching in our schools.
• Finally I have one important plea. As Bishop Sentamu used to quote “it takes the whole village to raise a child”. We all need to take an interest and a stake in the education of our children in the schools of our community. If small numbers of people of whatever faith, beliefs or of none are left to run our schools then we are all the poorer for it, and the education of our children suffers. We will work to increase the engagement with the community, but we need people to contribute too.
• It’s also about what our many good schools, not engaged or affected by the current claims and counter claims can do. The higher the standard of governance and openness set by the good schools the better for all. So I also ask for schools to address how they can play their part in the values of fairness and democracy so that we all play our part in achieving the city we want our children to grow up in.