FORMER MI5 spies are being recruited to root out Islamic fanatics in schools, Education Secretary Michael Gove said yesterday
Ministers are understood to be so worried about the influence of Muslim preachers of hate and other extremists in the classrooms that a new unit has been set up.
They have recruited former members of the secret service with expertise in the Islamist terrorist threat to investigate.
Mr Gove is concerned that comprehensive schools and the Government’s new generation of “free schools” may be targeted by extremists.
“We have been working with people who have been in the Intelligence Services in order to ensure that there is no-one from the wrong sort of background involved in education,” he said.
“And, I should add, not just with the free schools,” Mr Gove told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.
“There have been one or two disturbing cases with existing state schools where people have been trying to subvert them.”
“It’s more rigorous in the allocation of public money than any previous government department.”
Whitehall sources confirmed that a “due diligence unit” with former MI5 staff had been set up within the Department for Education to probe for extremists in schools.
Mr Gove insisted that he was determined not to allow anyone to establish a “free school” which are designed to be formed by local communities and funded by the Government. All applicants to set up the new educational establishments, which are free from local council control and can be run by parents or voluntary groups, would be vetted by the new investigation unit.
He said: “I’ve been crystal clear we should not have schools set up by extremists whether they’re Christian fundamentalists, Islamic fundamentalists or any other sort of outrageous and beyond-the-pale organisation
“We’ve set up a unit within the Department explicitly to monitor anyone who comes forward with a proposal for extremism.
“It’s more rigorous in the allocation of public money than any previous government department.
“In the last government, we had money going to extremist groups that was supposed to go to fight terrorism. Now we have a unit in place to prevent that.”
Mr Gove also said believers in fringe scientific movements such as “creationism” which rejects Darwin’s theory of evolution were banned from setting up schools.
He said: “I’m passionate about science and I’m determined to make sure our country becomes more cohesive. I’ve said we will not sign any funding agreements with these organisations.
“More than that, we are reviewing the science curriculum, the national curriculum overall, to make sure there’s no space for the teaching of wackoidal theories.”