MORE than a dozen schools in Birmingham are now under investigation by the Department for Education (DfE) over allegations of financial mismanagement and the introduction of Islamic teachings and practices into secular schools.
The investigation, the biggest of its kind, initially focused on a number of secular state schools where non-Muslim staff claim they were sidelined by predominantly Islamic governing bodies, but has now been widened to include several faith schools.
Michael Gove, the education secretary, is understood to have demanded regular updates on its progress.
A source with knowledge of the investigation said: “Michael Gove has ordered an all-embracing investigation and has asked a number of department officials to drop everything and just focus on this. They will be going through financial records and interviewing staff members at more than 12 schools in Birmingham.”
The Education Funding Agency (EFA), an arm of the DfE that distributes funding and investigates alleged financial impropriety, is understood to be involved in the examination of a string of claims made to the department by whistleblowers.
“The DfE is especially interested in whether students are forced to wear religious clothing and whether any teachers have been hired because of their family connections to the governors,” the source said.
Park View Academy, which has been the subject of allegations of nepotism and misuse of public funds, is among the schools being investigated. A recent inspection by Ofsted, the schools regulator, is understood to have rated the school as “inadequate”
Golden Hillock and Nansen Primary, which like Park View Academy are part of the Park View Educational Trust, have been visited by DfE officials this month.
Oldknow Academy and Saltley School are also being investigated.
A spokeswoman for the trust said: “The trust and its three schools have co-operated fully with the EFA’s review and the visits to the schools have now concluded.
“Similarly the Ofsted inspection at Park View Academy has also concluded and we are waiting to receive their draft report. Once that has happened we will carefully consider all our options.”
Neither Oldknow nor Saltley responded to requests for comment.
The governing body at Saltley, which has about 950 predominantly Muslim pupils aged 11-16, has been accused of recently forcing out a non-Muslim head teacher after he opposed its plans to scrap sex education lessons and allow only halal food to be served on site.
The board has denied forcing out Balwant Bains, who is of Sikh origin. Five non-Muslim governors are also reported to have resigned in recent months.
The investigation follows claims that Islamic hardliners are seeking to take control of state schools in several northern cities.
Earlier this month, The Sunday Times reported the existence of a document entitled Trojan Horse that purported to be a blueprint of how to wrest control of the schools in Birmingham and apply the same methods to schools in Bradford and Manchester. There are suspicions that it was written by those opposed to the introduction of Islamic practices in state schools in an effort to trigger an inquiry.
A DfE spokeswoman said: “We are aware of serious allegations made in relation to a number of schools in Birmingham. Separately, Birmingham city council is investigating allegations made in relation to some local authority schools. Both investigations are ongoing.
“All schools are subject to a tough inspection framework and must meet the high standards and requirements rightly expected. We will not hesitate to take firm action if these are not being met and where we become aware of issues of concern we will move quickly to resolve these.”