From the Sunday Times, About Manchester. and the Mail on Sunday
Fears of a new “Trojan Horse” Islamic plot to take over a state school in Oldham have been raised by its head teacher, who says she has been concerned for her personal safety… has been forced to work from home by death threats from Muslim parents who hate her western values. It is feared they are making a ‘Trojan Horse’ attempt to Islamicise the school.
Trish O’Donnell, the headmistress of Clarksfield Primary School sent an e-mail to Oldham Council in December. In it she said she had “very strong reasons to believe that . . . a ‘Trojan Horse’ agenda [is] being played out” and that her position was becoming untenable. The head teachers’ union, the NAHT, said it was “supporting a number of members in the Oldham area with a variety of apparent Trojan Horse issues”.
A senior national figure in counter-extremism said there was a “significant problem” of Islamist infiltration in Oldham.
When Trish O’Donnell took the headship of Clarksfield Primary School — a vast Edwardian building rising amid the rooftops of east Oldham — one council officer told her that she had inherited the town’s “poisoned chalice”. That was, if anything, an understatement.
According to Ofsted, O’Donnell rose to the challenge of educating her almost entirely British-Pakistani pupils, many of whom were “at an early stage of learning to speak English” and so started school with “skill levels well below those typical for their age”. By the end of their time at Clarksfield the same children’s attainment had “risen sharply”, taking them to the UK average. There were outings to football matches and celebrations of the Queen’s birthday. The school is now graded “good” and inspectors praised “strong leadership that motivates staff and pupils to do their best”.
A confidential report on Clarksfield by Oldham council this month, seen by The Sunday Times, said O’Donnell had reported that she had been subjected to a long campaign involving “death threats”, “threats to blow up her car” and “aggressive verbal abuse”. She had even been physically attacked by one parent, the report said.
In 2013 a parent governor, Nasim Ashraf, hosted “Islamic teaching sessions” on school premises. His wife, Hafizan Zaman, ordered female staff to cover their heads. Ashraf, whose sister, Shasta Khan, is serving an eight-year sentence for her part in a plot to attack Jewish targets in Manchester, is friends on Facebook with Tahir Alam, who was named as the leader of the Birmingham Trojan Horse plot exposed two years ago.
The couple criticised the school for forcing their child to “worship the Hindu God”, according to the report, which turned out to mean that a song containing Hindi words had been played in a class. “Translation of the lyrics demonstrated that the content was not religious,” the report said.
It did not stop the pair lobbying local mosques to oust O’Donnell and organising 105 parents to petition against her. There is no suggestion that they were involved in the threats of violence.
Parents have complained the way she dresses is ‘unsuitable’ and that pictures of her daughters in her office are ‘offensive’.
O’Donnell was assaulted by one parent, Aatif Rafique, who was subsequently convicted for the attack. “I am certain he would have done much more had not other staff arrived on the scene,” she said in a chronology provided to the council.
Ashraf told The Sunday Times that he condemned terrorism, but added: “I would say the West is as bad as Isis. We are the terrorists here as well.”
He denied any plot and said he did want to “remove” O’Donnell, but “you don’t need back-door entryism to make a school better. You need to enhance people, empower people and push forward the ethos of morality.” He was no longer a governor at Clarksfield but said he knew Kausar, the new chair of governors, and discussed matters with her.
Saima Kausar replaced the longstanding chairman Phil Coombe. According to the report she has made what O’Donnell said were “highly offensive” and “unsubstantiated” professional allegations against her,
Clarksfield isn’t the only school causing concern. Horton Mill has recently hosted a dubious speaker (not named) who called for the killing of British troops. Oldham Academy North has donated money to an un-named organisation linked to extremists and has been investigated by Ofsted for failing to teach British values.