More news on safeguarding and ‘Trojan Horse’
An update on two of the big issues of the moment.
You will know that one of the outcomes of the review by Professor Julian Le Grand was the appointment of a Commissioner, Lord Norman Warner, who – in his own words – is to be “the facilitator of a Birmingham-led renaissance in children’s services”. Whilst Lord Warner clearly has a direct line of accountability to the Secretary of State, we are reassured that he is also committed to working hand-in-hand with us in Birmingham to make a difference.
Initial discussions have now taken place and in my discussion with Lord Warner he focused on how to make rapid progress in the four priority areas identified in Le Grand’s report.
The priorities are:
- To complete the formulation of an ambitious and credible single improvement plan that will guide all our efforts – not just for the next 12 months of Lord Warner’s Commissioner-ship, but for a three-year period. In this way, we will ensure that we are planning the short term in the context of a longer term strategy, thereby future-proofing our improvement and transformation journey.
- To review leadership capacity and capabilities and ensure that we have both leadership and managerial strength in sufficient depth to deliver our three year plan with confidence.
- To bottom out the important concern that we have unmet need and, therefore, unmet demand and ensure that our plan sets out clearly what actions will be needed to ensure that all children are properly identified, assessed and, as necessary, safeguarded.
- To underpin all the above with a medium term financial strategy that acts as a guarantor of future ability to deliver for children and young people.
To ensure that there is the necessary, long term commitment to improvement, a quartet consisting of the Leader of the Council, the Lead Member for Children and Family Services, the Director for People and the Chief Executive will own, oversee and drive this agenda. Together we will be the core group that is accountable – and hold others to account. This is a very powerful and important alliance and is a clear and unequivocal statement of commitment and intent from the very top of the City Council.
There will be further, regular updates about the delivery of our single plan. For now, be assured that we are resolved to make the distinctive difference that our children and young people deserve – and Lord Warner is likewise determined to make that happen in partnership with us.
I would be surprised if you were unaware that a number of schools in the City have been inspected by Ofsted in the last couple of weeks, and we are expecting that there may be further inspections after the Easter school break. The school improvement service and school and governor support have provided – and will continue to provide – practical support and advice to schools.
Over and above this, on Monday 14th April Cllr Sir Albert Bore, Mark Rogers, Cllr Brigid Jones, Cllr John Cotton and Sally Taylor held a media briefing at which they outlined the further steps that Birmingham City Council will take to understand the issues that are being brought to our attention.
There will be 5 strands to this work:
- The appointment of a Chief Advisor on Trojan Horse for a 6 month period. This role will be carried out by Ian Kershaw who is Chief Executive for Northern Education Associates. Ian has a long association with the West Midlands as the Headteacher of Sidney Stringer School in Coventry. Ian will work closely with the existing Operational Group whose role will continue to be the co-ordination and oversight of the process of investigation and intelligence sharing. He will also work alongside a new Review Group.
- A Review Group, with a broad membership across the education, police, politics and faith sectors, will be set up this month to oversee the work of the Chief Advisor, Ian Kershaw, and the Operational Group. The Review Group will be chaired by Home Office Director General (currently on secondment to the West Midlands and based at the City Council), Stephen Rimmer, and will include MPs; representatives from the national bodies for school governors and heads; and Cabinet Members Cllrs Brigid Jones and John Cotton and the Chairs of Hall Green and Hodge Hill Districts, Councillors Habib Rehman and Ansar Ali Khan.
- The Chief Advisor, Operational and Review Groups will report back to the City Council’s own jointly convened Social Cohesion and Education Scrutiny Committees in May.
- We have also been in discussion with the Young People’s Parliament and it is to be commissioned to carry out a piece of work during the summer term to address the following questions:
- What does a good, inclusive education in Birmingham look like?
- What does a safe and resilient citizen of the future look like?
By the middle of July the City Council will publish a report setting out its findings and publishing any recommendations that may need to be implemented locally and/or for action nationally by the DfE and others.
All Headteachers who have had OFSTED inspections in the last 2 weeks have been invited to meet with Sally Taylor and Mark Rogers on Wednesday May 7th at 5.00pm in the John Peek room at Birmingham Midland institute.
If you wish to raise anything in connection with Trojan Horse, please continue to contact me and I will forward to Ian Kershaw.
In addition to the above arrangements, the DfE has announced the appointment of Peter Clarke as Education Commissioner to look into “Trojan Horse” for the Secretary of State.
In response, the following statement was issued by Sir Albert Bore;
“I have announced a comprehensive package of measures to strengthen the continuing commitment of this council to get to the bottom of the Trojan Horse allegations. Since the letter first came to light we have been working closely with the Department for Education in order to understand what might be going on in Birmingham schools – including academies accountable to the DfE – and to reassure parents, staff and governors who are understandably anxious about the impact of the claims being made.
Therefore, at first sight, today’s announcement of an Independent Commissioner is a missed opportunity to strengthen our co-ordinated approach to addressing these very serious matters. Peter Clarke will need to give careful consideration to building a strong relationship with us and, given his recent counter-terrorism responsibilities in London, ensure that his investigation does not undermine the confidence of our communities.
However, in the interests of the children and young people of the city, I will ensure that Peter Clarke and his team have every opportunity to add value to the work of our Chief Advisor, Ian Kershaw and the Review Group chaired by Stephen Rimmer”.
It is something of an understatement to say that his is a challenging time for the whole school community, but what is happening provides us all with the opportunity to reflect on our values and practice, share what works really well in Birmingham, and improve those areas where there is need to so that all our children and young people will benefit and fulfil their potential.
I hope that you all have a good Easter break and I look forward to meeting many of you sooner rather than later.
With best wishes