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'We need child safeguard powers' over Islamic links, Tower Hamlets urges

PUBLISHED: 10:32 21 November 2014

Sir John Cass school in Stepney Way [Google Streetview]

Sir John Cass school in Stepney Way [Google Streetview]

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A call for more local authority powers has been made by a Safeguarding Children board to protect youngsters in the wake of today's critical Ofsted reports into Islamic fundamentalist links in schools in London's East End.

The reports on six Muslim independent schools and Stepney’s Sir John Cass state comprehensive follow government concerns about Islamic fundamentalism influencing children in the wake of the ‘Trojan Horse’ episode in Birmingham.

Tower Hamlets Local Safeguarding Children Board wants the government to give town halls more powers to deal with children’s safety in privately-run schools.

“We have some concerns about whether existing legislation gives sufficient authority for the council to take an active role in independent schools,” the Board’s chair Sarah Baker said.

“The Board requests that Ofsted and the Department for Education consider this carefully to improve these independent schools.”

Tower Hamlets’ education director Robert McCulloch-Graham has admitted to the East London Advertiser that Sir John Cass, which comes under Town Hall control, was “not robust enough” in tackling concerns about safeguarding pupils after the school’s sixthform Islamic Society was found to have Facebook links with extremist preachers.

The authority has now drawn up an action plan with the school’s award-winning head teacher Haydn Evans to improve safeguarding.

But the authority has little powers over the six privately-run Muslim faith schools in the East End that have also been inspected by Ofted over the ‘fundamentalist links’ issue.

A Town Hall spokesman said: “We have no jurisdiction whatsoever as a local education authority over teaching and standards at independent faith schools.

“We do have responsibility for safeguarding children, but our powers limit us to offering training and advice to schools. We have repeatedly offered this assistance to independent schools locally—but cannot compel them to accept.”

The council does intervene when safeguarding issues are raised “and robustly acts to the limit of our powers,” it assured.

But the authority insists there is no evidence of an attempted takeover in East End schools like Birmingham’s “alleged Trojan Horse’ scandal”.

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