ANALYSIS Could do better: Ofsted is struggling in its attempts to crack down on illegal Islamic schools
by- 23rd November 2016
THE UK Department of Education has attempted to shut down four Islamic schools with radical curricula – but is being stymied by the courts.
As disclosed in a Daily Mail investigation published on 6 November, based on findings by the Office of Standards for Education (Ofsted), heads of the four institutions concerned have launched a judicial review to obstruct the effort to close the schools.
According to the BBC, reporting on 8 November, one of the Islamic schools, identified only as ‘School X’ because of court procedures, was supported by a High Court decision barring release of an Ofsted report.
According to the Mail, the report criticized the facility for ‘boys and girls… being taught separately and kept apart for other school activities, a practice which the inspectors said did not prepare pupils for life in modern Britain.’
But Mr Justice Jay in the High Court determined that ‘segregation in this School on the ground of sex does not constitute discrimination’.
The court found that Ofsted was correct in censuring ‘School X’ as inadequate, based on ‘offensive books in its library’ and administrative shortcomings.
Ofsted representatives stated they would amend their report to reflect the decision holding that gender segregation in schools does not violate the law.
Responding to the court’s denial that gender segregation is ‘inherently discriminatory’, Ofsted’s chief inspector of schools, Sir Michael Wilshaw, expressed disappointment.
Wilshaw said, ‘It is our intention shortly to publish a revised inspection report for this school.
‘We are, however, disappointed that the court has determined that the practice of completely segregating boys and girls in this 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 of the controversial Islamic schools are independent and require payment of fees by parents.
They will be permitted to remain open until their appeals are resolved.
The Mail noted that last month, one of the four, a girls’ secondary boarding school named Jamia Al-Hudaa (Community of Guidance), located in Nottingham, was ordered to cease operations based on the availability in its library of books written by unnamed authors who are banned from entering Britain.
Ofsted revealed further that at the Nottingham school, girls may be suspended for carrying a cellphone.
The school, with 237 enrollees, was told to end its boarding programme and not to accept any new students.
Jamia Al-Hudaa in Nottingham responded with a vigorous rejection of the orders, including an appeal for ₤300,000 in donations to its legal defence.
In reports, a former student at Jamia Al-Hudaa in Nottingham, who calls herself ‘Sara Adam’ to protect her from retaliation for speaking out, described 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’.
Ofsted ordered a shutdown of another school with the same name, Jamia al-Hudaa, a boys’ boarding school in Sheffield, because of its inadequate curriculum and lack of cleanliness.
But the Sheffield school, like the Nottingham establishment, continues to function; it also acts to separate its students from the wider society.
Two other schools with identical names, Dar Ul-Uloom (House of Knowledge) in Birmingham and Leicester were determined by Ofsted to merit closure.
The UK agency said Dar-Ul-Uloom in Birmingham, a boys’ secondary school, did not shield its students from Islamist radicalism.
There too the condemnation of music, dancing, and singing as ‘acts of the devil’ was prevalent.
Ofsted has declared that at Dar Ul-Uloom in Birmingham ‘pupils’ safety is at risk’.
Dar Ul-Uloom in Leicester, a boys’ boarding school, has been criticized by Ofsted for failing to prepare students for life in Britain, leaving ‘stereotypical views of gender’ unchallenged, and barring access to television altogether, with limited use of the internet allowed.
In Manchester, as described by the local Evening News of 2 November, the UK government has approved the opening of two more gender-segregated ‘free’ secondary schools, against objections by community leaders.
The schools belong to the Tauheedul Educational Trust, which maintains a growing system of ten Muslim schools in Yorkshire, the West Midlands, the North West, and London. They are also buying up a failing white school in Scotland.
‘Tauheed’ is an Islamic theological term for ‘monotheism’. The Trust has successfully avoided accusations of radicalism, despite shifting the gender interaction norm, and has big plans for Britain.
Its Chief Executive, Mufti Hamid Patel CBE, is described by a Lapido source as ‘the best strategist by far I’ve ever met.’
While sex-segregated schools have a long history in Britain, gender separation within schools has changed the benevolent standing of the practice.
The Manchester schools are projected to serve 800 students from each gender, boys and girls.
Lucy Powell, Labour MP representing Manchester, cautioned, ‘We already have three single sex schools in the city. Two more single-sex secondaries is not what the area needs at all. The council and education leaders in the city were against it’.
Ofsted has stated that a far greater number of young people than the agency anticipated are now in illegal and unregistered schools in Britain.
Last year, they reported on nine illegal schools, three in Birmingham and six in east London, with squalid conditions and, in some cases, a study plan limited to Islam.
BBC reporter Branwen Jeffreys depicted an example of the problem, in an unidentified location she visited a year ago.
At ‘a large former pub,’ she wrote, ‘an Islamic education for primary school aged children was being advertised.’
An Ofsted inspector told Jeffreys ‘they had previously discovered more than twenty children being educated there, saying: “The building, was cold and unkempt, and unhygienic.”’
That structure has, meanwhile, been turned over for use as an adult religious education centre.
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 and divided in its intent when dealing with a genuine menace to Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
The state agencies appear to be groping for a solution which has so far eluded them.
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