Led by Sir Tim Brighouse, a former chief education officer in Birmingham, the 20 experts – unhappy at the way Ofsted has conducted inspections into schools allegedly infiltrated by conservative Muslims – say in a letter to the Guardian that it is at risk of compromising political independence by producing “tarnished reports”.
Their intervention comes days before Ofsted publishes results of an inspection of 21 schools ordered by education secretary, Michael Gove, after claims conservative Muslims were trying to infiltrate the governing bodies of Birmingham schools in a plot dubbed Operation Trojan Horse.
On Tuesday, further evidence also emerged of abrupt shifts in Ofsted’s inspection results, with a leaked inspection report showing that a second secondary school in the city that had been previously rated as good or outstanding in November 2013 is expected to be downgraded to inadequate when its new report is published next week.
Describing the mass inspection as “a landmark in the history of education in these islands”, Brighouse and the other signatories argue: “First-hand accounts of the Ofsted inspections that have emerged are disturbing. They suggest that inspectors were poorly prepared and had an agenda that calls into question Ofsted’s claim to be objective and professional in its appraisal of standards in schools serving predominantly Muslim pupils.
“It is beyond belief that schools which were judged less than a year ago to be outstanding are now widely reported as ‘inadequate’, despite having the same curriculum, the same students, the same leadership team and the same governing body. This is uncharted territory, with Ofsted being guided by an ideology at odds with the traditional British values which schools are meant to espouse, particularly fairness, justice and respect for others.”