Schools involved in an alleged plot to impose conservative Muslim teaching on pupils across Britain’s second city sought to deflect scrutiny by putting on hastily arranged “shows of cultural inclusivity”, officials said Monday.
One school in Birmingham arranged an assembly on Easter and a lesson on Christianity especially for a visit by education inspectors, according to Prime Minister David Cameron’s Downing Street office.
The finding is included in one of two official reports into allegations of a plot to take control of the leadership of schools in the city in central England and impose Islamic principles such as gender segregation.
The so-called “Trojan Horse” plot was first raised in an anonymous letter, which was leaked to the media earlier this year.
The government ordered inspections across 21 schools in Birmingham, a former industrial centre which has one of Britain’s largest Muslim communities.
Ahead of the publication of the official reports Monday, The Times reported that teachers and children at one school involved had been found to refer to Christians as “kaffirs”, a derogatory word meaning infidels or unbelievers.
Staff at the school, Oldknow Academy in the majority Muslim Small Heath district, also reported that a Christian assembly and timetabled lesson on Christianity was arranged for the benefit of inspectors, Downing Street said.
Following the investigation, at least three schools — not including Oldknow — have been declared to be failing, according to the trust that runs them.
However, the Park View Education Trust strongly rejected the findings, and vice-chairman David Hughes insisted the schools “do not tolerate or promote extremism”.
“Ofsted (schools watchdog) inspectors came to our schools looking for extremism, looking for segregation, looking for proof that our children have religion forced upon them as part of an Islamic plot,” Hughes said.
“The Ofsted reports find absolutely no evidence of this because this is categorically not what is happening at our schools. Our schools do not tolerate or promote extremism of any kind.”
Cameron called a special meeting of the government’s anti-extremism task force on Monday to discuss the results of the schools inspections.
“Protecting our children is one of the first duties of government and that is why the issue of alleged Islamist extremism in Birmingham schools demands a robust response,” the prime minister said.
The issue has revealed sharp differences of opinion between education minister Michael Gove and interior minister Theresa May over how to tackle extremism, which caused the resignation of one of May’s aides on Saturday.