Graeme Paton, Telegraph (London), September 2, 2014
Pupils from a Birmingham school at the centre of the so-called “Trojan Horse” investigation were shown a jihadist promotional video in the classroom, it has been revealed.
Ian Kershaw, who conducted an inquiry on behalf of Birmingham City Council, said the film portrayed images of “violent extremism” had been played to children despite concerns it was “completely unacceptable”.
Giving evidence to MPs on Tuesday, he insisted senior staff at the school–which was not named–failed to discipline the teacher involved after the incident came to light.
Peter Clarke, the former Scotland Yard anti-terror chief, told how a similar film may have been “shown or copied” by a technician within one of Birmingham’s schools.
He also said it was likely that issues had spread beyond schools in the city and called on the Department for Education to “take a very careful look at whether the sorts of things that we found in Birmingham are indeed happening elsewhere”.
The disclosures–in evidence to the Commons Education Select Committee–will reignite concerns over alleged attempts to impose strict Islamic practices in the classroom.
Ofsted has already placed six Birmingham schools in “special measures” and said another 11 “require improvement” amid claims of a Muslim takeover of schools.
MPs are also carrying out their own overarching investigation.
Mr Clarke, who was commissioned by the DfE to investigate Birmingham schools, reported in July that evidence of an “aggressive Islamist agenda” had been found in some schools. This included a social media group called the Park View Brotherhood used by male staff to spread homophobic and anti-western messages.
Appearing before MPs on Tuesday, he said there was no direct radicalisation of pupils but insisted he found a “general air of intolerance towards other beliefs or ways of life” and evidence that people were “sympathetic to or do not challenge extremist views”.
This included “anti-Christian chanting being led by one teacher during an assembly” and children being “strongly encouraged” to join in prayers against their wishes.
Mr Kershaw, who carried out a separate inquiry for Birmingham Council, said there was no evidence of attempts to “coerce young people into extremist, violent, jihadist activity”.
But he admitted there were examples of “very bad behaviour by some individuals in schools that needed to be corrected and addressed”.
“I came across a couple of examples where that did not happen,” he said. “An example would be the showing of a film which is completely unacceptable to young people, that was known by a senior member of staff that it happened and that member of staff in a senior position did not address that as a disciplinary matter.”
He said the video covered “violent extremism” but failed to name the teacher or the school.
Asked by a senior MP if it was a “jihadist, violent extremist promotional video”, he said “yes” before adding: “Shown in one classroom at one moment and that should have been stopped and should not have happened.”
Mr Clarke told MPs: “There were some suggestions that that sort of film had been shown or copied by a technician within one of the schools, but I did not come across direct evidence of the promotion of violent extremism.”
MPs also asked whether the issues found in Birmingham had spread elsewhere.
Mr Clarke said he was “not a great believer in coincidence and I would find it very surprising if this was only happening in the few schools that we had the time and the opportunity to look at in East Birmingham”.
He added: “Some of the people who were involved in promulgating these techniques of gaining control and influence in schools have had national roles in various educational bodies and I know have lectured and taken part in conferences in other cities, so I think it is incumbent on the Department for Education and others to take a very careful look at whether the sorts of things that we found in Birmingham are indeed happening elsewhere.
“I don’t know, I haven’t looked, but I would I suppose in a way be surprised if there weren’t at least some symptoms elsewhere.”
In further comments, Mr Clarke said he was “surprised and shocked” at how frightened people had been to give evidence to his inquiry, adding: “I was finding people who were exhibiting signs of evident distress, anxiety and nervousness and what I could only interpret as genuine fear of the consequences should it become known that they had given evidence.”
He also appeared to criticise teaching unions, saying “two of the main unions have been pretty hostile throughout” his investigation, including arranging demonstrations.