Ruling on ex-chair of governors at ‘Trojan Horse’ school kept under wraps

CREDIT: This story was first seen in Tes

Tahir Alam was chairman of governors at Park View School in Birmingham, Tes reports.

A tribunal ruling relating to a former chairman of governors at a Birmingham school which was embroiled in an alleged “Trojan Horse” Muslim takeover plot is to remain under wraps, judicial heads said.

Tahir Alam was chairman of governors at Park View School in Alum Rock, Birmingham, from 1997 to 2014, and chairman of a trust set up to manage the school. He was issued with a ban by the Department for Education in September 2015 after officials concluded he had engaged in conduct aimed at undermining fundamental British values.

Mr Alam challenged the ban at a specialist tribunal hearing in London in March. A three-strong care standards tribunal panel had reserved a ruling after analysing evidence. Early in December DfE officials revealed that the tribunal had upheld the DfE decision and ruled against Mr Alam.

But a spokesman for the judiciary said the full ruling will not be published – even though the hearing was staged in public. The spokesman said the tribunal had barred the publication of the identities of some witnesses called by the DfE. He said the tribunal feared that the identities of some of those witnesses might be revealed if the ruling was published – and described the decision not to publish as exceptional.

“Tribunal orders mean that the disclosure or publication of the names and identities of (a number of) witnesses, or any information likely to lead to their identification, is prohibited,” he said. “The final decision of the tribunal makes reference to those witnesses and sets out the evidence they gave, which the tribunal considers could lead to their being identified locally.”

He added: “It is only exceptionally that a public decision is not published on the tribunal’s website, although it is worth emphasising that all decisions are public decisions and in all cases each party in the proceedings will be provided with a written copy of the decision.”

The spokesman said a “summary” of the decision would be published on the tribunal’s website and went on: “The decision not to publish the decision on the website does not prevent any party from disclosing the decision to a third party, whilst making it clear reporting restrictions are in place.”

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Former Birmingham Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming said the decision not to publish was concerning.

“This ruling relates to a hearing staged in public and an issue of enormous public importance involving the government and a local authority,” he said. “The actual decision only emerged because a journalist asked a question. It’s concerning to now learn that the public are not now going to be given any idea of the thinking behind that decision. There may well be good reasons for not revealing the identities of some witnesses. Nevertheless, the principle of open justice underlies the British court system.

“People have a right to know what judges and governments and local authorities are doing in their name and with their money. It may be, for example, that the tribunal has criticised the DfE. If that’s happened the public ought to know. Surely it must be possible to make public parts of the ruling – for example, the tribunal’s summary of the issues, its analysis of the relevant law and the thinking behind its conclusions – without revealing identities which should not be revealed.

“Family court judges now regularly make their judgments public, without revealing the identities of children, after staging hearings in private. I would urge the tribunal to think again. There are big issues and big principles at stake here.”

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