Birmingham City Council response to Ian Kershaw review

Read the report here.

Sir Albert Bore, Leader of Birmingham City Council, said:

“After months of speculation, our independent chief advisor, Ian Kershaw, has now completed his review into the issues that relate to allegations made in the anonymous Trojan Horse letter. The city council has honoured its commitment to a full, independent process of investigation.

“Today I had intended to issue the key findings of Ian Kershaw’s report, however, as the report by the Department for Education’s (DfE) commissioner, Peter Clarke, has now been leaked to the media and is effectively published, I have made the decision to release the entire report.

“Ian Kershaw starts his report with a clear statement that we must remember the bigger picture. The vast majority of our 437 schools are well governed, with children and parents having no reason to fear about the way in which their school is run. The vast majority of the governors of schools in this city give their time as volunteers to make a positive difference to the lives of children.

“The good performance of Birmingham in raising school attainment has recently been recognised despite the level of deprivation seen in the city. There is much to be proud of in the success of our young people, and the hard work and commitment of our teachers and governors, that has been lost in the noise of recent months.

“So to the report:

“I would firstly like to point out that all evidence included in Ian Kershaw’s report can be substantiated and is not based on anonymous allegations.

“I must emphasise again that Ian Kershaw’s review states that ‘there is no evidence of a conspiracy to promote an anti-British agenda, violent extremism or radicalisation in schools in east Birmingham’. However Ian Kershaw found clear patterns of behaviour which supported ‘a determined effort to change schools, often by unacceptable practices, to influence educational and religious provision’. The leak from Peter Clarke’s report appears to have taken the conclusions further by emphasising the potential risks from the long term exposure to a narrow ideology.

“Nevertheless, we must acknowledge today that Ian Kershaw’s report shows we have serious governance issues in a small number of schools in east Birmingham, because of serious malpractice by members of governing bodies. This has been compounded by the inability of head teachers and other governors to counter this behaviour and by the failure of the city council to intervene to instil proper governance.

“The report highlights the ‘utter disregard’ for and ‘rejection’ of the basic principles of public life by some school governors. Over recent years we have seen the move to recognise schools as best placed to manage their own affairs. Independent and autonomous schools of all types now have considerable self-determination, so they must also take and own their responsibilities seriously. It is clear that a small number of governors in particular have had flagrant disregard for their responsibilities.

“In the recent resignations of governors at Saltley (local authority maintained) and Park View Academy Trust we have not heard a single apology, nor recognition of any misdemeanour. Blaming others for a failure to meet basic decent standards of behaviour in public life is simply not acceptable. We expect all parties in today’s education system to play their full and proper part, and with the increasing autonomy of all schools, that must include governors first and foremost.

“But as I will outline, the city council has not played its part in monitoring, identifying and dealing with these serious issues correctly, where this behaviour was destabilising schools.

“Seventy six people came forward to present evidence to Ian Kershaw, who has also worked closely with DfE commissioner, Peter Clarke. The council would like to place on record its appreciation of the diligent and determined nature of the work of Ian and his team.

“Although the leaked information from the Peter Clarke report states that the earliest reports were in 2012, Ian Kershaw’s analysis starts from 2007, when it is clear that there were already signs of some of the behaviour now at the centre of this inquiry. It is also clear that since 2007 issues have been raised with the council and also with the DfE. With the benefit of hindsight, opportunities to pull together an overview of what was happening in east Birmingham were missed.

“The provenance or motives behind the anonymous Trojan Horse letter are not the issue and were not within the remit of the review. No further information has come to light as to the letter’s origin. What matters are the issues that have now come to light as a result of the letter. These are serious and take this council to the point where a new approach is needed to ensure that all our communities are served by successful and sustainable schools. This will only work if the council, schools, governors and communities can get behind the effort that is now needed.

“However, we must also acknowledge this council’s failings.

“The report has highlighted areas where we have either taken no action, were too slow to take action, or have simply done the wrong thing. The report further states this has often been because of the risk of being seen as racist or Islamophobic. Our proper commitment to cohesion in communities sometimes overrode the need to tackle difficult questions about what was happening in a small number of schools.

“We share the aspirations of all parents to see their child get the best possible education. This is most likely to happen if schools are well run, financially sound and working to policies and a curriculum which will produce the finest education. Where this fails, we as a council must step in, working with Ofsted, DfE and others as necessary to get the outcomes we want for children. We accept therefore, that we must all play our part in the education system now in place.

“To this end I am now setting out our commitment:

• We will collaborate with all of the city’s schools, DfE and Ofsted to deliver a radically new way of working, developing the ideas set out by Ian Kershaw. The new model will be in place by early 2015.

• From this month, we will instigate new procedures for the appointment and training of local authority appointments to governing bodies. Henceforth we will work specifically with local authority governors to ensure they represent the highest possible standards and challenge governing bodies to do the same.

• We will publish clear action plans on every council maintained school identified in the report by September 2014 and will expect them to respond to assure parents of their position; we will also be giving the academies identified in the report the same opportunity.

• We will implement an audit system of good governance in line with the Nolan principles and we will verify this with a system of both announced and unannounced checks.

• From the autumn, we will be publishing school scorecards that include information beyond traditional attainment, including details of complaints, whistleblowing and staff and governor changes.

• We will encourage a culture which enables whistleblowing and improve our responses to it.

• As the Ian Kershaw report recommends, we will regularly report publicly on progress and be transparent on implementation.

“Finally, I want to apologise to the people of Birmingham for the way the actions of a few, including some within the council, have undermined the reputation of our great city, and particularly the Muslim communities for whom this has raised the spectre of Islamophobia. We have previously shied away from tackling this problem out of a misguided fear of being accused of racism. In a multi-cultural city, tackling the big issues together with all our communities is the only way of ensuring cohesion for all our citizens.

“I have always been clear that young people and parents will not go into the next academic year with the Trojan Horse issues unresolved. We also now have a clear basis to move forward and to ensure this will not happen again.”

Cllr Brigid Jones, Cabinet Member for Children and Family Services, said:

“It is a tragedy that the actions of such a small number of people have been allowed to tarnish the reputations of our children, teachers and city. I am particularly sorry that the achievements of our young people have become overshadowed by this. I am absolutely determined however that this council will play the fullest part in making sure that schools work effectively and properly, no matter what their status, for the benefit of our children.

“Where we spot that schools are not working well, we will ensure we tackle the abhorrent behaviours shown in this report and remove the culture of inaction that has festered in the council for too many years. I am absolutely determined to ensure that all children get a broad balanced and inclusive educational experience and in the process restore the reputation of this city’s schools.”

Mark Rogers, Chief Executive, said:

“This council is fully committed to making substantial change in order to play its full and proper role in tackling poor governance in schools and within the city council. We cannot do so alone. Those who refuse to learn lessons from this, who have no regrets, or more dangerously claim racism as we take action against schools, need to rethink their role just as much as the council. I ask all to commit to change.”

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