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The Trojan Horse Case

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  • 7 years later...


How a school at the centre of the Trojan Horse scandal has been ‘healed with love’

Executive Principal Herminder Channa OBE says that families are the starting line of policy at Ark Boulton Academy, which has become one of only two secondary schools in England to be awarded a Kitemark Plus for its character education

  • 05:30, 2 JAN 2022


A Birmingham school that was once at the centre of the Trojan Horse scandal has now become one of only two secondary schools in England to be awarded a Kitemark Plus for its character education.

It reflects the transformation that has been made by the teaching team at Ark Boulton Academy in Sparkhill, formerly Golden Hillock School, led by its ambitious executive principal Herminder Channa, who was awarded the OBE in 2020 for her services to education.

A government inquiry in 2014 found Golden Hillock’s school leaders had failed to challenge extremist views and forced ‘an intolerant and aggressive Islamic influence’ on staff.


Taking over as headteacher in 2015, Mrs Channa says she and her team healed the school ‘with love’ by changing how staff, pupils and parents communicate with each other.Herminder Channa, executive principal of Ark Boulton Academy in Sparkhill, which has been awarded a Kitemark Plus for its character education

Herminder Channa, executive principal of Ark Boulton Academy in Sparkhill (Image: Andrew Fox)

“When we moved from Golden Hillock to Ark Boulton in March 2015, there were around 190 angry parents, they felt very let down,” she said. “Some of their children had gone through three uniform changes. I was the fourth headteacher. It was daunting, there was a lot of work to be done.


“But when you have 190 angry parents, they just want to be listened to. You need the right person at the front to absorb what they are telling you.

“In 2015, we worked to brighten up the whole school and the streets around Sparkhill. There was an issue with bins not being collected at the time so we made a big effort to do a clean up in a half mile radius around the school to show what we could do to help the community.

“We started hosting coffee mornings on Fridays and parents would come to add their complaints.

“Then in 2017, we noticed a change. Parents wanted to come in just to chat, they just wanted to say hello and to thank us for the work we were doing.”

Ark Boulton Academy in Sparkhill has been awarded a Kitemark Plus for its character education
Motto on the wall of Ark Boulton Academy in Sparkhill

Mrs Channa is a Sikh headteacher at a predominately Muslim school.

“When I joined the school, I had just finished the free school project at Nishkam School in Hockley (a school with a Sikh ethos). I was asked if I would find it difficult moving from a Sikh school to a Muslim school. But I say that the fabric of what makes us human is not exclusive to our faith. The language of faith is the same - respect, empathy and tolerance - that language is universal.”

So, what did Mrs Channa do to make the changes at the troubled school?

“Firstly it was about working with adults in the right way before we did anything with the kids,” explained Mrs Channa, who has two daughters, aged 20 and 19.

“The first thing we really had to push was vocabulary when speaking to young people. I don’t believe in ‘zero tolerance’ or negative language. Instead it’s about positive reinforcement, building from policies right through to practice. It was about thinking of the behaviour and negativity as a by-product of what had happened before, thinking about the cause rather than reacting to it.

“There was a fair bit of damage to repair, especially in terms of attendance and disengagement from education and the local community. These pupils had been let down. It was about raising the profile and reinstating that with families, coming up with strategies in terms of behaviour and how to address that in the right way. We didn’t always get it right but we had that approach to upscaling.

“It was difficult. We are in one of the most deprived areas of the city.

“But we say we love our children as if they are our own. With your own children, you demand high standards when it comes to uniform and interaction with elders and peers and you tell them that it’s ok to make a mistake. All of this comes to us naturally as parents and it’s the same in school.

“Families are the starting line of our policy at Ark Boulton.”

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