Sir John Cass Stepney school fails Ofsted over 6th-form Islamic Society links

Haydn Evans

Haydn Evans - Credit: Sir John Cass School

An award-winning secondary school in London’s East End is going into special measures over concerns about its sixth-form Islamic society’s possible links to radical preachers.

Stepney’s Sir John Cass Foundation, whose head teacher Haydn Evans (pictured) turned it from being one of the country’s worst state schools to one of its top establishments, has failed an Ofsted inspection for not safeguarding and monitoring pupils.

Ofsted was asked to carry out the unannounced inspections by the Department for Education in the wake of government concerns over the ‘Trojan Horse’ episode in Birmingham into allegations of fundamentalist Islamic groups infiltrating schools with their own a hard-line radical agenda.

Tower Hamlets council promised a “swift response” today to tackle issues raised by Ofsted.

“We have a strong track record of intervening swiftly and successfully to address any issue,” its education director Robert McCulloch-Graham said.

“We have responsibility for safeguarding all children and are working with Ofsted and the Department for Education to act on the findings of the reports, to address any issues, potential or otherwise.”

But the authority has “no jurisdiction whatsoever” with six independent Islamic schools in the East End which are also understood to be involved in the Ofsted operation.

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Concerns have been raised in Whitehall about private Islamic schools in the East End.

Tower Hamlets council denied claims in September that schools were being investigated for falling under the influence of Islamist fundamentalists.

A school in Shadwell was even raided in October by counter-terrorism police.

Sir John Cass, a Church of England school in Stepney Way with 80 per cent Muslim pupils, is the first state school in east London now facing special measures by the Department of Education because of Islamic links.

It follows the Sixthform Islamic Society’s Facebook link to hard-line preachers which was feared could have made pupils vulnerable to radicalisation, constituting what Ofsted calls “a failure to safeguard the pupils”.

It goes against the trend in academic progress headteacher Mr Evans has made in his 20 years at the school. He was awarded an honorary degree just this week by the University of East London for taking the school from being the lowest-performing in the country when he took over in 1994 to “outstanding” status today, and was also awarded a CBE in the New Year’s Honours.

His school was one of 22 awarded ‘Gold Club’ status by London Mayor Boris Johnson in October, for achieving academic success with disadvantaged pupils.

Gold Club schools like Sir John Cass, ironically, are asked to share their practice through seminars and hosting visits by other schools which would learn from their example.