Andrew Gilligan’s crusade against schools in deprived areas, which also happen to Muslim majority in demography, set off an almost comical sequence of events, starting with the fabricated Trojan Horse Plot and the “Islamist take-over of schools” hyperbole, resulting in three levels of investigations (Ofsted, Birmingham City Council and Department for Education (DfE)). This has resulted in reputations being tarnished, children being psychologically harmed by Ofsted inspectors, and a community feeling confused, downtrodden and comprehensively under attack by the “white elite”.
Gilligan’s latest charade resulted in Al-Hijra School in Bordesley Green, being smeared. His article, riddled with exaggerations, distortions and outright lies is a testament to his blatant lack of integrity as a journalist and as we shall see, leads one to a conclusion that Gilligan is a hype-whore.
Birmingham City Council’s Bullying Tactics
According to the Chair of Governors, Mr Waseem Yaqub OBE, Birmingham City Council (BCC) has been attempting to destabilise Al-Hijra School since November 2012; well before the “Trojan Horse” fabrication surfaced. Between April 2013 and May 2014, the BCC made four attempts at imposing an IEB (interim executive board) upon Al-Hijra School. On three occasions they were forced to withdraw because the governors demonstrated that the BCC had not followed regulations. On one occasion, whilst rejecting the local authority’s “takeover”, the HMI Regional Director for Ofsted stated,
“Birmingham City Council may not have acted lawfully in seeking to impose the package of support”.
The BCC has also been engaged in leaking selective, misleading statements to bodies through improper channels against the school to further their own agenda. In December 2013, the school was placed in Special Measures. Al-Hijra School drew up a “school improvement plan” (SIP), which was declared to be not fit for purpose by the HMI (Inspector) of Ofsted who visited the school.
Upon raising this with Chair of Governors, he stated that,
“this is true and we accept this however, the report fails to mention that the Inspect also complimented 90% of the school’s SIP.”
More damningly, what the BCC also failed to mention to the Inspectors was that the school did not have to provide a SIP. The Chair explained,
“When a school is in special measures the school does not have to provide a SIP. This was a voluntary gesture by the school leadership to demonstrate, in good faith, how we wanted to pro-actively cooperate with Ofsted and improve the school.”
In another words, the school was being condemned and punished despite the extra efforts it was taking to improve.
Birmingham City Council Procedural Irregularities
According to DfE regulations, when a school is placed in special measures, the local authority must produce a “statement of action” – an outline on how the BCC will support the school. According to a letter sent to Al-Hijra school from Ofsted, published on 16th of May 2014,
“The local authority’s statement of action is not fit for purpose”
The BCC had not fulfilled the regulatory requirement of providing a valid statement of action to assist the school. According to the Chair of governors, on the same day (of the publication), the BCC claimed it had received the power to take over the school from the secretary of state for education in the form of an IEB order.
The question is thus raised, how can the BCC which has been demonstrating its incompetence consistently and has failed to produce a valid statement of action for the benefit of the school, take over the said school?
Birmingham City Council Irrationality
In the deceptive Gilligan’s Telegraph piece, he highlights that the BCC said that the IEB went into the school on Thursday and decided to leave after the head teacher “instructed staff to refuse to work with them. We are writing to parents to tell them that the existing governing body has been disbanded.”
However what Gilligan, and the BCC failed to mention is that all existing governors were in fact appointed members of the IEB. On the 22nd of May, when, as the Chair put it, “a hit squad of six conducted a dawn raid on the school”, the BCC, as well as the report, claimed that the governing body had been removed. In a letter seen by myself, on the 19th of May, the Service Director (Education and Commissioning) Sally A. Taylor sent a letter to the Chair of governors officially appointing him and all existing governors as a members of the IEB board!
The deception of Gilligan is incredible and the BCC’s incompetence more so. However, the deception and incompetency do not end here. The BCC made another school-boy slip.
According to correspondences witnessed by myself, the Chair of governors, in the morning of 23rd of May, wrote to Councillor Sir Albert Bore informing him that the governing body had not received any written communication which evidenced the decision of the DfE to impose an IEB and requested him to investigate the matter. That same evening Peter Hay (Strategic Director for People), who is referenced in Gilligan’s article as having declared that, “the time for debate is over. The children in al-Hijrah need governors that govern the school properly,” sent a letter to the Chair of governors notifying him of the removal of the governing body.
In short the retrospective nature of the notification meant that the attempted IEB coup the day earlier was in fact an act ultra vires.
Another governor who I interviewed stated,
“They did not even have the basic courtesy to phone the school or email the Head Teacher, they came completely unannounced. This is against the DFE regulations and common decency.”
Gilligan’s and Peter Hay’s distortions become even more acute in the allegations of mismanagement of monies. Hyperbole and anti-Muslim sentiment has been whipped up by Gilligan, the BCC and Ofsted by associating Al-Hijra with the fabricated “Trojan Horse” plot. Peter Hay in his letter, according to Gilligan, stated that
“The BCC were concerned about this large amount of money demanded for rent and were not sure where it was going,”
An Ofsted source “closely involved” said:
“We are investigating the worrying possibility that the entire Trojan Horse plot was subsidised by public money.”
There is a saying amongst the wise that when you point a finger at someone there are three pointing back at you. According the paperwork witnessed by myself, the facts tell an entirely different story.
Firstly, Al-Hijra School is not a “cheque-book school”, which means that the BCC is the only body which signs all the cheques and makes all the payments for the school. It holds 100% of the funds which are allocated by the DfE for the school.
Secondly, Al-Hijra School did in fact have a deficit between April 1st 2012 and 31st of March 2013 of £416,000. However, the Chair of governors possesses factual evidence which demonstrates that £337,000 was wasted by the BCC’s direct actions and not the schools.
Thirdly according to data on the DfE website, the BCC spent on average £6133 on every school in its schools. However Al-Hijra School only received £4320 per pupil. Yet with nearly 30% less money this failing school achieved 72.4% A* to C grades in August 2013, while the local authorities, spent 30% more and only achieved an average of 59.9% for grades A* to C.
What is more perplexing is that, in a 75 mile radius of Al-Hijra Secondary school, only one school which is similar in size and type, performed better. The rest, which includes “Christian schools”, performed considerably worse. Al-Hijra primary school was the best performing of its size and type!
Ironically perhaps it is Al-Hijra School which needs to take over the educational responsibility of the BCC in order to improve the future of all students.
Given the fact that the BCC has acted ultra vires and irrationally, there are fertile grounds here for a judicial review.
Gilligan the Bully, Collusions and the “Burly Guards” Lie
On Friday 23rd of May, Gilligan rang the Chair of governors in Dubai about the article to be published. He said he had received leaked documents from the local authority, which had claimed that “burly guards” were used to throw BCC officials off the site. The Chair asked Gilligan to send the draft article to him to read through and then give an informed response. Gilligan said that he would send an email (which he never did), but he would need a comment now. The Chair replied, “no comment” to which Gilligan threatened, “I am going to write that you did not deny the allegations”. Shocked, concerned and feeling cornered, the Chair informed him,
“Andrew this is blackmail”
This conversation took place between 12.00 and 1.00pm on Friday 23rd May. That same evening, at 8.40pm, the Chair of governors received an email from Peter Hay’s office. Strangely, Gilligan claims in his article, that he had seen this email. If true, then there is someone very close to Peter Hay in the BCC who must have leaked it to him, suggesting a collusion with the media to smear the school. Another governor from the school commented,
“Was it to improve the education of the children? Was it because they felt they had a strong legal case against the school? Or was (sic) there any other motives?”
As for the “two burly guards” who “physically prevented” members of the IEB, the reality is that there was only one guard, approximately 5 foot in height and of Yemini background. According to CCTV footage I have witnessed there was no physical contact made nor any threatening advances. They IEB members were refused entry because the BCC had failed to act according to regulations, a point which clearly escaped Gilligan and his “sources”.
Andrew Gilligan the hype-whore, has waged a crusade of lies and distortions, referencing questionable sources with questionable motives. The comments at the bottom of his article are shocking. They are, inflammatory, extremely hate-inducing, stereotypically offensive, racist, call on schools with kids to be bulldozed, mosques to be destroyed and Muslims to be force-fed pork. They exemplify hatred against Islam and Muslims for completely illegitimate, falsified reasons spurred on by the propaganda of Gilligan and the Telegraph. Asking how the Chair of governors felt, he responded,
“I have made an official report of a hate crime based on Gilligan’s article to the metropolitan police. This article is an ‘incitement to violence’ and the comments are a testimony to this.”
“Those who have read this, the comments in the article and finds them offensive may also be a victim of the hate-crime. If you do [feel this way] then please contact the Metropolitan Police.”
When I asked him for any final comments, he made a passionate statement:
“This is a local authority which has for decades failed to educate the children and even this year, two out five children will leaving school without 5 GCSEs. This means that out of every class of thirty, twelve have been failed by this BCC. This is not about one school or one faith, this is about an abuse of power by the largest city council in Europe against all its citizens, all its children and all its parents.”