‘Faith schools’ – Ofsted tries to crack down (No.6)

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Another reason why I disagree with faith schools is that poor practice is used by right-wing elements to attack faith in public space when faith schools aren’t run to the nationally agreed standard. This edited report shows how when the Department of Education tries to shut down poorly run faith schools, they are stymied by the courts, which seem to side with Islamist Abu Hamza, who said: “We will use democracy to destroy democracy”?

An investigation (6 Nov) disclosed that the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted) want to close four Islamic schools. The schools’ heads launched a judicial review to obstruct this. According to the BBC (8 Nov) one of the schools, identified only as ‘School X’ for legal reasons, was supported by a High Court decision to block the release of Ofsted’s report, which criticizes the gender segregation in a co-ed school saying: ‘It isn’t preparing pupils for life in modern Britain.’

Mr Justice Jay in the High Court determined that such segregation does not constitute discrimination; but he did agree that Ofsted was correct to censure ‘School X’ as “inadequate” based on the ‘offensive books in its library’ and also administrative shortcomings.

In response Ofsted’s chief inspector of schools, Sir Michael Wilshaw has said:

‘We intend to publish a revised report for this school. We are, however, disappointed that the court determined the segregating of boys and girls in a publicly-funded mixed-sex school does not amount to unlawful discrimination. I do not believe that segregating children without an educational reason is in their best educational interests. Ofsted has obtained permission from the Judge to appeal this judgement.’

All four controversial Islamic schools are independent and require fees by parents. They will be permitted to remain open until the appeals are resolved. Last month, one of the four, a secondary boarding school Jamia Al-Hudaa (Community of Guidance) in Nottingham, was ordered to close due to the availability in its library of books written by authors banned from entering Britain. Ofsted also revealed that girls were being suspended for carrying a mobile phone.

A former student at Jamia Al-Hudaa in Nottingham who calls herself ‘Sara Adam’ to protect her identity spoke out describing it as ‘like a prison’ with the girls cut-off from any outside contact. She added: ‘We were basically trained to be mindless zombies who submit to their husbands’. Another school in Sheffield, of the same name but for boys, was shut down due to its inadequate curriculum and lack of cleanliness.

Other schools, such as Dar Ul-Uloom (House of Knowledge) in Birmingham and Leicester were deemed to merit closure by Ofsted for not shielding its students from Islamist radicalism; banning of music, dancing, and singing as ‘acts of the devil’; promoting ‘stereotypical views of gender’ and  barring access to television and the prohibition on using the internet.

In Manchester (Evening News 2 Nov) the government approved the opening of two more gender-segregated ‘free’ secondary schools, despite objections by the local community. These schools belong to the Tauheedul Educational Trust – a network of ten Muslim schools in Yorkshire, West Midlands, the North West and London; as well as buying a failing white school in Scotland.  Lucy Powell, Labour MP representing Manchester, cautioned: ‘We already have three single sex schools in the city. Two more such secondary schools are not what the area needs. The council and education leaders in the city are against it.

Ofsted has said that a greater number of young people than anticipated are in illegal or unregistered schools in Britain. Last year, they reported on nine illegal schools; three in Birmingham and six in East London, where there was squalid conditions and in some cases a study plan limited to Islam.

Ofsted is currently accumulating evidence for its first court proceeding against an illegal school. On 8 November Ofsted chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw told BBC News the UK needs more rigorous control to prevent abuses by ‘illegal schools’.

As in its attempts to close the four Islamic schools in Nottingham, Birmingham, Sheffield, and Leicester, the UK government appears stymied by judicial procedure as well as divided in its intentions when dealing with a genuine menace to Muslims and non-Muslims alike in Britain.




Irfan Al-Alawi 23rd Nov 2016, the original full feature appeared on Lapido Media www.lapidomedia.com

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