A national teaching union has stalled plans to release the details of anonymous whistleblowers whose evidence exposed the notorious Trojan Horse scandal in Birmingham schools.
The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) has intervened over the Department for Education’s (DfE) plans to give the whistle blowers statements to lawyers acting for five ex-head teachers currently facing disciplinary action over their role in the Trojan Horse plot.
Members of the NAHT were among more than 50 staff and governors from inner city schools to talk to the official Government inquiry into the Trojan Horse scandal in 2014 on condition of anonymity.
The inquiry, led by former Metropolitan Police counter-terrorism chief Peter Clarke, found clear evidence of a plot to introduce ‘extremist views’ and a hard line Islamic ethos into classrooms.
NAHT general secretary Russell Hobby said: “There's no excuse for the DfE to back away from the assurances these individuals were given during the Trojan Horse inquiry.
“We have managed to prevent the publication of witnesses' names by making legal representations to the DfE's lawyers. However, it is essential that the DfE keeps its promise of anonymity completely. Many of these individuals came forward at great personal cost and would not have done so if they’d known that promises of anonymity could be broken.
“It is vital that where anonymity is promised it is kept. Without this, witnesses may think twice about coming forward, meaning that future cases might never be uncovered or investigated. And this creates risks for young people in our schools.”
Labour MP Liam Byrne, in whose Hodge Hill constituency a number of the former Trojan Horse schools are based, has accused the DfE of making a ‘dog breakfast’ of the issue and called on Education Secretary Justine Greening to intervene.
Mr Byrne said: “The Department for Education, I’m afraid, is making a dog’s breakfast of this and you have now got fear rippling through those witnesses who were brave enough to come forward and state the fact that there was a problem.”
He also recognised that those facing disciplinary action should be able to answer the allegations made against them.
However, he said: “But that then begs the question was Peter Clarke actually empowered to give the guarantees of anonymity which he gave to 50 witnesses, myself included by the way when I gave evidence, and second, if he wasn’t why did Department for Education lawyers put forward evidence to the tribunal that could have resulted in full disclosure of witnesses’ identity?
“This has been a pretty shambolic process and Justine Greening has now got to step in and sort it out pronto.”
Birmingham’s education chief Brigid Jones has also written to Ms Greening calling on her to intervene and guarantee the anonymity of witnesses.
The Department for Education has said it is not appropriate to comment on ongoing disciplinary cases.