‘Trojan Horse’ pupils had to teach themselves Christian RE
Thu, 24 Jul 2014
Students at a school in Birmingham had to teach themselves Christian RE for GCSE, an investigation into the ‘Trojan Horse’ affair has revealed.
The finding is among a number of startling episodes laid out in a report from Peter Clarke – former head of counterterrorism at the Metropolitan Police.
Children were encouraged to express vocal support for anti-Christian remarks, Christmas was banned and some teachers claimed serviceman Lee Rigby’s murder was actually a hoax.
The report, ordered by the Government, concluded: “There has been co-ordinated, deliberate and sustained action, carried out by a number of associated individuals, to introduce an intolerant and aggressive Islamic ethos into a few schools in Birmingham.”
Clarke’s study was sparked by an anonymous letter received by Birmingham City Council in November 2013 that spoke of ‘Operation Trojan Horse’.
The letter described a “five-stage process to remove headteachers and take control of schools”, Clarke said.
In his 129-page report Clarke gave numerous examples of what happened in more than a dozen schools, including:
- Five students at one school who opted to study the Christianity paper for GCSE RE sat separately in classes and had to teach themselves.
- In 2013 one school’s governors “agreed that the celebrations for Christmas, Diwali and Easter would not take place”.
- A teacher held an assembly where he reportedly said: ‘Jesus wasn’t born in Bethlehem, was he?’ and: ‘We don’t celebrate Christmas do we?’. In both instances, children were expected to reply ‘No’.
- At another school, staff “reported that a teacher leading prayers gave a sermon during which he said that Christians and Jews were ignorant”.
- There was an allegation that IT technicians recorded “what appeared to be Al Qaeda terrorist videos into a DVD format”.
- An online discussion group among teachers showed some “believed that the murder of Lee Rigby was some kind of staged event or hoax, and exhorted their colleagues to spread the conspiracy videos”.
Clarke commented that while not all the “behaviours and practices” are “present at every school”, there is a “consistency in the way they have been introduced”.
He also noted that the “ideological agenda” uncovered, “goes beyond the kind of social conservatism practised in some faith schools which may be consistent with universal human rights and respectful of other communities”.
Newly-appointed Education Secretary Nicky Morgan called the revelations “disturbing”, adding that the report sets out, “compelling evidence of a determined effort by people with a shared ideology to gain control of the governing bodies of a small number of schools in Birmingham”.
For the investigation, Clarke’s team gathered 2,000 documents and interviewed more than 50 people, including teachers, governors and local Government officials.