Minister threatens Derby's Al-Madinah Muslim free school with closure

Al-Madinah headteacher Dr Stewart Wilson: "They are treated equally and fairly"

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A Muslim free school in Derby will be closed unless "unacceptable" teaching standards improve and discrimination against female staff and pupils stops.

In a letter to the chair of the Al-Madinah Education Trust, Education Minister Lord Nash laid out 17 issues.

These included forcing female teachers to cover their hair and failing to carry out background checks on staff.

The interim principal said its pupils were treated equally. The school's trust said it was seeking legal advice.

Dr Stuart Wilson, the acting head teacher, said there were areas the school needed to address and it was co-operating with Ofsted.

When asked if staff and children are treated equally at the school, Dr Wilson replied: "Yes, they are treated equally and fairly."

The Al-Madinah School Education Trust said in a statement on the school's website that "the letter had come out of the blue" and while it intended to co-operate fully with the Department for Education, it would also be speaking to the school's solicitors.

Lord Nash's letter stated if urgent steps were not taken by 15 October, funding will be pulled.

The school was closed for a week on the first the day of an Ofsted inspection on 1 October citing "health and safety issues".

Free Schools

  • State funded
  • Funded on a per-pupil basis
  • Answerable to Department of Education
  • 174 in England
  • Can be set up by anyone, once a business plan and demand is demonstrated

Ofsted released its statement to "clarify media reports" about why the school had closed.

In it, HM Inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw said: "Inspectors discovered that staff records showing whether they were cleared to supervise children were either missing or incomplete.

"The school remained closed until yesterday [Monday] when inspectors made a return visit to satisfy themselves that the necessary safeguarding arrangements were in place and that there were sufficient numbers of adults with the necessary clearance for the school to function safely."

A full Ofsted report is expected soon, he added.

Discrimination problems

Addressing chair Shazia Parveen, Lord Nash wrote: "The trust has manifestly breached the conditions of its funding agreement by:

  • Failing to ensure the safety of children at the school
  • Delivering an unacceptably poor standard of education
  • Discriminating in its policies and procedures towards female staff
  • Failing to discharge its duties and responsibilities in respect of the governing body

"I will not tolerate breaches of the commitments you gave when entering into the funding agreement," he added.

He has urged the school's trust to take five "urgent steps" by 15 October, including providing written confirmation that "you have ceased any practices and procedures that have as their reason, cause or effect that women and girls are treated less favourably than men and boys".

The school has been given a deadline of 22 October for nine further action points and must provide a plan setting out a clear management structure by the start of November.

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