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Employment tribunal rules in Trojan Horse school case

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An employment tribunal involving a school at the heart of the Trojan Horse affair has ended with judges upholding a claim for unfair dismissal by one teaching assistant while rejecting related cases by her three Muslim colleagues.

The tribunal heard claims by the four teaching assistants at Adderley Primary School who said they had been unfairly dismissed after forged letters of resignation were submitted in their names.

Judges have now agreed with only one of them – Hilary Owens, a Christian staff member at the school – while rejecting the claims of the other three, Yasmin Akhtar, Rehena Khanom and Shahnaz Bibi.

In its decision, the tribunal decided “on the balance of probabilities” that Khanom, Akhtar and Bibi were involved in the production of the resignation letters, but found Owens to be “a convincing and truthful witness”.

Details of the case involving the four women figure prominently in the Trojan Horse letter that surfaced in late 2013 – alleging a city-wide plot by religious extremists to take over schools – and was used by Adderley school in its defence against the women’s claims.

The letter, supposedly penned by one conspirator to another, set out a step-by-step plot by hardline Muslims to take over non-faith schools.

During the employment tribunal involving the four Adderley teaching assistants, it was claimed the women were part of a conspiracy by Salafi Muslim parents to try to Islamise the school and force out head teacher Rizvana Darr.

The judges were not convinced by the evidence from the Muslim staff members, saying they “gave incredible evidence about their knowledge of Salafi Islam”.

The lawyer for Ms Owens, though, welcomed the ruling in the unfair dismissal case against Birmingham City Council and the school’s governing body.

He said: “Ms Owens is delighted by the judgment which puts to bed the ludicrous suggestion by the governors of the school that she was part of the Trojan Horse plot.

“The tribunal accepted all of Ms Owens’ evidence and she is relieved that after three years the truth has been established and it is now accepted that she did not resign from her position at the school.

“It is disappointing to say the least that it has taken over three years and significant cost to reach this conclusion when the school was advised in March 2013 that Ms Owens’ resignation could not be relied upon by Birmingham City Council.”

Much of the evidence revolved around how and when the four letters of resignation were delivered, with Owens’ purported letter appearing a day after the other three.