Andrew Gilligan of the Sunday Telegraph has been keeping an extremely close eye on events in Birmingham in relation to the alleged ‘Trojan Horse schools plot’ and has written extensively about events there in recent weeks.
Yesterday, Gilligan informed us that the entire Governing Board of the al-Hijrah Islamic school has now been disbanded by Birmingham Council following concerns about alleged mismanagement and the “potential diversion of public funds paid to run the school”.
According to Gilligan:
“…In a letter to al-Hijrah’s sacked chairman of governors, Waseem Yaqub, seen by The Sunday Telegraph, the council’s director of children’s services, Peter Hay, said: “The time for debate is over. The children in al-Hijrah need governors that govern the school properly.”…Mr Yaqub, the sacked chairman of governors at al-Hijrah, was seconded as a “consultant” to Saltley School at the same time as its respected non-Muslim head teacher, Balwant Bains, was removed, though he denies any involvement in Mr Bains’s departure.”
“Until around 2012, according to sources close to the school, the council paid only a peppercorn rent to the Al-Hijrah Trust, of £1 a year, for the use of the school buildings. Then, however, the rent was raised to £300,000 a year, above market value for Victorian premises in a run-down area of Birmingham. School sources said they were not told how the figure had been reached. Despite the huge sums extracted from the council, however, the school has a deficit of around £400,000, according to Mr Hay’s letter. “
““The council were concerned about this large amount of money demanded for rent and were not sure where it was going,” said one person closely connected with the school. “It certainly wasn’t all going to the school – it has a massive deficit. It is possible that it was going to Tahir [Alam’s] training academy, although I cannot prove that.”
“An official audit commissioned by the council found “a number of concerns about the way governors manage financial matters,” according to Ofsted. Another person closely involved in the issue said: “We are investigating the worrying possibility that the entire Trojan Horse plot was subsidised by public money.”
“Al-Hijrah has been visited by Ofsted five times in the past fourteen months, with the inspectors growing more deeply concerned each time. Mr Yaqub took unsuccessful legal action to prevent publication of their reports.
“At the school on Friday, two burly security guards were stationed outside the main entrance to the school building. The Sunday Telegraph was told not to take any pictures and was sworn at by the guards.
“Mr Yaqub described the action against the school as a “witch-hunt” based on racism and said that he had received no formal notification that it had been taken over, something the letter from Mr Hay appears to contradict.
“Mr Yaqub said that the rent to the Al-Hijrah Trust was paid “under a formal written tenancy agreement of which the local authority is aware”. He strongly denied mismanagement or dishonesty and said none of the rent had been paid to the training academy or to Mr Alam, who he said was no longer involved in the trust.”
The tale of the alleged “Trojan Horse schools plot” has been an extremely murky one with lots of very serious allegations being made but very few smoking guns being found to date.
The removal of the governors of al-Hijrah school is an interesting new development though. I have had very worrying personal dealings in the past with an individual who is now on the (sacked) board of governors and it horrifies me to think that he had anything to do with the receipt of huge amounts of public money.
Let’s hope that Birmingham Council are able to investigate fully and swiftly any allegations of possible financial impropriety.