England’s Chief Inspector of Schools is today accused of abandoning “objectivity and independence” in his handling of the Trojan Horse scandal and of “tarring” a generation of Muslim children with “the brush of extremism”.
In a coordinated attack city leaders, officials and businessmen in Birmingham said Sir Michael Wilshaw’s “ill-advised and ill-informed” approach to “isolated” problems in the city had damaged community relations and led to a teacher recruitment crisis. They suggest the Chief Inspector is attempting to deflect attention from Ofsted’s failure to identify problems in schools they previously judged “outstanding”.
“While we have no intention of belittling the serious issues at play, Sir Michael has crossed the line from [giving] independent advice on the schools system to a full-on attack on the city of Birmingham,” said Jerry Blackett, chief executive of Birmingham Chambers of Commerce. “The Chief Inspector of Schools should be motivated by overall improvement for the children of the city. His tirades appear to be motivated either by politics or self-publicity, or both.”
He went on to accuse the Ofsted head of deliberately trying to damage Birmingham. “Sir Michael forgets that these public and high profile attacks go way beyond supporting the city in improving schools performance, safeguarding or governance. He entirely ignores the numerous success stories and positive examples from the area to focus on the negative experiences of a minority.”
Until now, senior figures in Birmingham have remained diplomatic in their comments about Ofsted’s Trojan Horse investigation, despite private misgivings about its remit, method of inspection, and findings.
Last week, however, Sir Michael used an appearance before MPs to lay the blame for problems found in five Birmingham schools squarely at the door of the city council. Now senior local government officials and politicians have accused Sir Michael of deliberately misrepresenting problems with governance in a small number of schools by associating them with a wider threat of Islamic extremism.