Special Investigation: The Horrifying Campaign Of Abuse, Lies And Threats That Ruined The Career Of A Headteacher – And Her School

By Richard Pendlebury
Last updated at 3:42 PM on 28th March 2009

Aggressive campaign: Headmistress Erica Connor is no longer working in education after the ordeal

Rising up from the centre of the Surrey commuter town of Woking stands the magnificent Shah Jahan mosque. It was founded in 1889 by Dr Gottlieb Leitner, a Jew who converted to Anglicanism.

He wanted the mosque to be part of an Oriental Institute, promoting a greater understanding between religions.
What irony. One hundred and twenty years later, two officials from Shah Jahan pursued a ‘hidden agenda’ forcibly to transform a local, secular primary school into an Islamic faith school.

Their aggressive campaign of ‘anti-Christian’ lobbying and unfounded allegations of racism and Islamophobia managed to destroy what had been a model school. Its inspirational headmistress was reduced to a nervous wreck, to the extent that she has now left education altogether.

Last week in the High Court, Surrey County Council was ordered to pay headmistress Erica Connor more than , £400,000 compensation for having failed to support her. It is only now the full background to her case can be revealed.

Using statements of evidence and interviews, it is possible to piece together the extraordinary story of the downfall of New Monument school.

If there is one overriding lesson, it is that officialdom, anxious to maintain political correctness, will often kowtow to radical Islam – even if it does not reflect the wishes of the wider Muslim community.

New Monument is a maintained community school – state-run, with no religious affiliation. Mrs Connor arrived in 1994 and became headmistress four years later. Some 80 per cent of her pupils were Muslim, many with parents illiterate in English. Half were on the special needs register.

But under Mrs Connor the school showed the second most improved SATs results in the country. In 2001, she was invited to Downing Street in recognition of this.

However, these achievements began to unravel in February 2003 when Paul Martin was appointed as a governor – even though he did not have any children at the school.

Mr Martin, 57, who ran a clothes shop in the town, is a white Muslim convert (as is his Austrian-born wife) and, at the time, headed the education committee at the mosque.

Within months he proposed that Sofia Syed, another Muslim, join the school’s board. Mumtaz Saleem, 41, was also recruited as a Local Education Authority (LEA) nominated governor. Martin and Saleem and, to a much lesser extent, Syed, were to be the architects of the disaster which followed.

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