Governors Defy Ban On Going Back To Failing Birmingham School

Former governors at who've been banned from a Muslim school in Birmingham have defied the council and gone back.

Birmingham City Council sent letters to the governors of the Al-Hijrah School yesterday but chairman Waseem Yaqub, speaking today at the school gates, said he had been ``too busy'' to read his post and did not recognise the "threats of a ban''.

Mr Yaqub and fellow board members have branded the attempts of the council-appointed interim executive board (IEB) to take over the Bordesley Green school "anti-Muslim''.

About 30 parents were outside the school's gates protesting against the council's action in issuing its "immediate effect'' ban, after the IEB was blocked on three occasions from getting on to the site.

Mr Yaqub said he was at the school "as a parent'' and questioned "under which powers or law'' the council was barring him and his colleagues.

The council has said Al-Hijrah, placed in special measures following an Ofsted inspection last December, needs the IEB to address serious and persistent failings at the school.

Although it is not one of the city's 21 schools currently under investigation over the alleged plot by hard-line Muslims to seize controls of governing boards - known as Trojan Horse - another governor protesting there today said she felt it was being "victimised'' because of its religious association.

Sajida Jamila, 31, a school trustee, said: "Parents fear the school has been put in with the Trojan hoax.

"The council could have taken these steps in January (2014), but instead they've waited until now when all these other (Trojan Horse) school reports are coming out.''

For its part, the council has said it has "serious anxiety about the school's financial position'', with a deficit of #889,000.

Ofsted said in its report last March that the governors "have not managed the schools' financial resources well''.

But Mr Yaqub claimed "we are not a chequebook school'' and all spending decisions were made by the council, adding he only recognised a deficit figure from the 2012/13 tax year of #416,000.

He further claimed that in that year, #343,000 had been from the council "forcing governors'' to house mobile classrooms on the site.

Mr Yaqub claimed that because the council was in charge of the finances, it still had the 2013/14 accounts and he could not comment on something he had not seen.

He also denied reports in the media that any money had been spent on "parent training''.

The council first told the school it would act earlier this year, but attempts by the IEB to get on-site have been met with barred gates.

In a statement yesterday, the council said: "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.''

But parents outside the school today questioned how Al-Hijrah could go from a previously good rating to special measures in two years.

Mrs Jamila, a former pupil at the school, said: "We have written to the council leader saying we want to co-operate 1,000% but could they just wait until the end of the month when the exams are finished.

"We've invited them to talk but they don't want to.''

She said the school had made changes, and - as the follow-up Ofsted report in 2013 stated, six governors ``left and were replaced'', with Mr Yaqub joining as the new chairman, while the headteacher "stood down''.

Mrs Jamila added that there had been "some issues'' with the governors who left.

"Some governors felt that the recruitment of teachers was an issue - parts were more conservative than others and wanted to employee Muslim staff, for example,'' she said.

"Over those tiny issues, some of those governors had resigned, but that was well before my time.''

Mr Yaqub denied there were any such issues and said "the (school's) trust asked some of the governors to step down because maybe they had been here too long''.

Yesterday, the council said David Willey, chair of the IEB, had written to school staff and all parents setting out the commitment of the interim board to secure high standards at the school.

In the letter, Mr Willey assured parents the intervention to put in place new governors would not in any way change the religious character of the school.

A meeting with parents and the IEB members has been scheduled later this month.

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