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Al-Madinah school has one week to improve

11 October 2013

By a staff reporter


"Lack of safeguarding": a sign notifying of an Ofsted inspection at the entrance to the Al-Madinah school, on Wednesday of last week

"Lack of safeguarding": a sign notifying of an Ofsted inspection at the entrance to the Al-Madinah school, on Wednesday of last week

A MUSLIM Free School accused of forcing women to wear headscarves and segregating pupils by gender (News, 4 October) will have its funding stopped unless it complies with a list of government demands, an education minister has threatened.

In a strongly worded letter to the Al-Madinah Free School, in Derby, Lord Nash, the minister responsible for free schools and academies, said that the school "had 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".

He said that he "would not tolerate" these breaches, and gave Al-Madinah only one week to meet a list of demands, including meeting assurances that the school complies with equality legislation and tells all staff that they are not required to cover their hair. He also wants assurances that, by next Tuesday, all Criminal Records Bureau checks on staff have been completed, and written references for every employee have been taken up.

The school reopened on Monday, having been closed temporarily last week. The school said that it had closed because of "health and safety issues", but OFSTED issued a statement on Tuesday saying that the reason was inspectors' concern about a lack of safeguarding checks on staff.

"Inspectors discovered that staff records showing whether they were cleared to supervise children were either missing or incomplete," said the chief inspector, Michael Wilshaw. "The school remained closed until yesterday 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."

The full OFSTED inspection report is expected to be published in the next few days.

Shazia Parveen, who chairs the Al-Madinah Education Trust, said: "To say the letter [from Lord Nash] came out of the blue is an understatement." The school was now consulting solicitors over the next course of action.

"The trust and governing body remain fully committed to doing what is in the best interests of our pupils, their parents, and the community as a whole," she said. "However, at this point, the school is struggling to see how we are being treated comparably with other schools. Consequently, while we intend to co-operate fully with the Department for Education, we have also sought the advice of the school's solicitors."


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