Posted on November 20, 2014

East London School Probed over Links to Islamic Extremism

John Dunne et al., London Evening Standard, November 20, 2014

Parents today expressed their shock at a damning report accusing a London school of failing to protect children from extremism.

Sir John Cass’s Foundation and Red Coat Church of England school, where 80 per cent of pupils are Bengali Muslim, will be put into special measures by Ofsted for not monitoring the activities of an Islamic society set up by sixth-formers.

In a report to be published tomorrow, the secondary school in Tower Hamlets borough will be classed as failing.

In particular, it was criticised over a Facebook site set up by the society that contained links to hardline Islamist preachers–a move that could have made pupils vulnerable to radicalisation, it is claimed. Today headteacher Haydn Evans was holding an urgent meeting with staff to discuss the report, which has been leaked.

Six other Tower Hamlets schools–all independent Muslim faith schools–are expected to be failed by Ofsted. Sir Michael Wilshaw, Chief Inspector of Schools, has written a warning letter to Education Secretary Nicky Morgan.

Parents and teachers at Sir John Cass, in Stepney, called on the headteacher to give a full response to Ofsted. The report also  criticises the alleged lack of monitoring of a YouTube channel set up by the Islamic society, and playground segregation of boys and girls.

Sharon Chambers, whose 12-year-old daughter Georgia attends the school, said: “She has always been happy and I have not had any problems. I am concerned about reports of Facebook links with extremists. The boys and girls should also play together in the same playground, and they should change that.  As a parent I will express my concerns about this. But overall what Ofsted has said is a bit of a shock.”

Faruk Abdul, whose 11-year-old son is a pupil at Sir John Cass, said: “This is a good school and I do not think there is a problem with extremism. The boys and girls should have different entrances and playgrounds, I think.”

A teacher added: “This is a good school with a good head. These matters will be discussed this morning. There is no problem with the segregation we have found and the head will be looking at the Facebook claims. Claims about the sixth-formers are a surprise.”

Local education sources accused Ofsted of over-reacting. Sir John Cass has been on the list of the country’s most improved schools for years, and was ranked outstanding at its two last  inspections. A source told The Independent the situation was different to the “Trojan horse” affair in Birmingham: “There are no governors wanting to take over the school and introduce hardline Islamic practices.”

Tony Mullee, chief executive of school trustee Sir John Cass’s Foundation, said: “We are greatly concerned by the re-port. We remain committed to addressing the safeguarding issues and will be assessing the necessary action to return the school to an outstanding rating.”