Whistle-blowers’ anonymity hangs in the balance

News Article

School staff who acted as whistle-blowers to help uncover the Trojan Horse extremism plot in a number of Birmingham schools have been told that they will have their identities revealed to the five ringleaders at the centre of the scandal.

Initially the whistle-blowers had been offered anonymity in return for evidence. However, in an apparent U-turn, the Department for Education (DfE) reversed this decision and has now written to around 50 informants, telling them that their identities will now be revealed as part of a disciplinary hearing into the ringleaders’ conduct.

Razwan Faraz, Hardeep Saini, Arshad Hussain, Monzoor Hussain and Lindsey Clark are all due to face a National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL) hearing and could face a teaching ban if the allegations are upheld.

All face the principal allegation that on or before March 31 2014, they agreed to "the inclusion of an undue amount of religious influence in the education of pupils" at three Park View Educational Trust (PVET) schools.

If the DfE’s decision to overturn anonymity goes ahead, the whistle-blowers’ identities and unredacted transcripts of their accounts would be disclosed to the head teachers’ lawyers although the information would not be made public.

Birmingham City Council’s cabinet member for education, Brigid Jones, has demanded that the government acts to preserve the anonymity of witnesses. She said: ‘We’re extremely alarmed that the guarantees of anonymity given to the Clarke Report witnesses appear to no longer stand.

“Many of these witnesses only agreed to come forward under strong guarantees of confidentiality, and they and their families could be placed at significant personal risk should their identities and full testimonies be revealed.”

She added: "All three political parties on the city council are united in calling on ministers to intervene, as this has potentially serious consequences not just for the individuals involved in this case, but for whistle-blowers nationwide."

Lara Murray, an Associate and employment law expert with Palmers said: “It appears that the decision to name the whistle-blowers is still under consideration and as yet their names have not been disclosed to the defendants’ legal team.

“Ultimately, the decision could have implications for whistle-blowers in the future, not just in teaching but across the rest of the public sector.

“Until now guidance from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills in a 2015 document entitled “Whistleblowing: guidance for employers and code of practice”, says organisations should make “a commitment to take all reasonable steps to maintain the confidentiality of the whistleblower where it is requested”. Whether these implied protections will continue in the future remains to be seen.”

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