‘We don’t want non-Muslims here’: Protests break out at Islamic school embroiled in Trojan Horse scandal
Protests broke out yesterday at a Muslim school embroiled in the Trojan Horse scandal after they banned former governors from the premises following revelations of a missing £900,000 from their finances.
Birmingham City Council issued letters to all ex-members of the governing body at Al-Hijrah School, which went into special measures in December 2013.
It informed them they had been barred from the site with immediate effect after the newly-elected Government-approved interim board were refused entry.
Yesterday around 30 angry parents opposed to the replacement of its governing body staged a sit-in protest at the school.
One defiant ex-governor among the group said parents didn’t want non-Muslims running the school and claimed it had not been subjected to Islamist infiltration.
Sajida Jamila, 31, said: “The parents are concerned, they send their children here because it is a Muslim school, how can non Muslims be put in charge.
“The IEB (Interim Executive Board)have marched in here and told us the school is not being run properly, they refuse to listen, they tell us to get out of the way.
“The parents are happy with the way the school is run.
“This is all about the Department for Education wanting to fight against Islam.
“They are trying to push us in with this Trojan Horse nonsense.
“They could have done this months ago, the budget deficit was known in January, they could have come then, February, March or April.
“They deliberately choose to come now in the middle of the GCSE exams to cause maximum disruption so the schools results will go down and they can say it is failing.
“It is like animal farm, they tell us we are all equal, but in reality some are more equal and we are the ones who are not.
“This will only cause trouble for the government.
“They are alienating people, these parents are being targeted and are now going to be apathetic to help any officials when they ask for help.”
The interim executive board (IEB) at the school has issued legal letters to the former chair of governors and all other former governors barring them from the school site with immediate effect.
It is understood the letters warn that breaching the ban could be classed as a criminal offence under Section 547 of the Education Act, 1996, and could lead to enforcement action.
But yesterday chair of governors Waseem Yaqub, whose seven-year-old daughter attends the school, claimed he had received no such letter.
He added: “We have not been banned, there was no legal action, or process.
“The council released this statement claiming they had told us we were banned but we received no such notice.
“They cannot ban me from going, I am a parent, I have a right to see what is going on.
“To show you how barmy all this is, I am the elected representative to the IEB and they are trying to ban me.”
In a statement released by the city council, the interim board said its members had left the school to consider options available to them.
It added: “The IEB has three times in recent days tried to go about its lawful business but has been turned away each time by the school.
“The refusal of the previous governing body is unprecedented.
“Despite a year with five Ofsted reports and a lengthy improvement process working with the council the former governing body still has a complete lack of insight into the issues and their severity.
“This failure sits at the centre of the refusal to recognise the legal authority of the IEB.
“The council also has serious anxiety about the school’s financial position, with its deficit currently standing at #889,000.”
Al-Hijrah, based in Bordesley Green, is the city’s only Islamic school and caters for children aged from four to 16 and was once one of the most sought after schools in the country.
It is not directly involved in the Trojan Horse inspections, but became caught up in the scandal as the school which was to be the prototype for others to follow.
It was placed in special measures after an Ofsted inspection in December 2013 and a follow-up visit in April found “governance remains inadequate”.
Among the criticisms, inspectors said the governing board were “not addressing the key weaknesses across the school”.
Yet the governors apparently refused to co-operate when members of the interim executive board tried to move into the school to take charge this week.
The IEB statement added: “We would assure parents that we will not lose sight of the fact this is a school setting and children are sitting exams, and this ban will be enforced in a proportionate way.
“We would therefore repeat our call for those involved to ensure a smooth transition to the IEB so the task of improving this school is not delayed any further.’’
The chairman of the IEB, David Willey, has written to school staff and to all parents ‘‘setting out the commitment of the interim board to securing high standards in this faith school.”
In the letter he said: “We respect the Islamic ethos of Al-Hijrah and respect your decision to see your child educated there. Al-Hijrah was founded as an Islamic school and will remain so.”