Education secretary Michael Gove
Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove leaves Number 10 Downing Street in London September 4, 2013. Reuters/andrewwinning

Former agents of the UK secret service, MI5, are among those being recruited to investigate the alleged infiltration of UK schools by suspected extremists.

According to Education Secretary Michael Gove, there is increasing concern about the influence of extremist Muslims in schools in areas of the UK.

Speaking to the Sunday Times, Gove mentions primary schools in Surrey and Birmingham whose governing body was being "taken over" by parents with radical views, possibly in the hope of radicalising pupils and staff.

Now Gove has established a counter-extremism unit to investigate schools where radical activity has been suspected. The unit includes two former MI5 agents, civil servants and academic experts. The unit will "weed out" schools whose practices do not conform to British values.

Gove cites Al-Madinah Muslim Free School in Derby, where non-Muslim female teachers were allegedly pressured into wearing headscarves. His department is investigating the school, which is outside local authority control.

Meanwhile it emerges that a state-funded school in Blackburn is insisting that girls wear a hijab (Muslim headscarf) both in and out of class.

According to the Sunday Times, students at Tauheedul Islam Girls' High School in Blackburn have been told they should wear the garment at home and are forbidden from bringing stationery to school featuring "un-Islamic images" such as pop star photographs.

In 2011 governmental adviser Haras Rafiq handed a dossier to the Department for Education (DfE) in which he expressed strong concerns about the organisation that runs the school, the Tauheedul Charitable Trust. Rafiq mentioned a visit to the school by a Saudi cleric, Sheikh Abdul Rahman al-Sudais, who has allegedly called Jews the "scum of the human race".

Despite Rafiq's concerns, the DfE allowed the trust to set up three free schools in the Blackburn area, which has a high Muslim population. However the school itself maintains that non-Muslims are welcome and that not all students choose to wear the hijab outside class.

Hamid Patel, the school's head, clams the school is over-subscribed and "challenged" more non-Muslims to apply to the school. He says the visit of the controversial cleric took place three years ago and insists that the trust wants to work with white working-class pupils in areas across the UK.