AL-MADINAH, the Muslim Free School in Derby, was condemned as
"dysfunctional" and "in chaos" in an OFSTED inspectors' report
published on Thursday.
The school has been open just a year, but OFSTED inspectors (the
group visiting the school included one Muslim) have ruled it
inadequate in every category: "This is a school which has been set
up and run by representatives of the community with limited
knowledge and experience. Leadership and management, including
governance, are inadequate and have been unable to improve the
According to OFSTED, the governing body has failed to ensure
children are safe in school by carrying out proper safeguarding
checks, and the performance of both pupils and teachers is
inadequate. Poorly qualified and inexperienced teachers were
In a damning conclusion, inspectors said: "Despite their
commitment to the vision of the school, the governors have failed
the parents of this community who have placed their trust in them."
The school will now be put into special measures.
OFSTED brought forward its inspection after complaints from
former teaching staff emerged in the local press, alleging that all
female staff, including Christians, were required to wear a hijab
and a long skirt, and that girls were routinely seated at the back
of class, behind the boys. The inspectors said that they saw no
evidence of gender segregation in class, though the girls and boys
Speaking to BBC Radio Derby on Thursday, the Prime Minister,
David Cameron, said that the report should not be used as "a stick
with which to beat the whole free-school movement. There are now
hundreds of schools which have set up as free schools, and on
average they have more outstanding and good ratings than
He said: "If they don't take immediate action to deal with these
things then I think it is right it should close and I think it's
absolutely right to intervene rapidly when these things aren't
The OFSTED report praises Dr Stuart Wilson, the interim
principal, who was "striving in difficult circumstances, to keep
the school going".
On Thursday, Dr Wilson said: "We fully accept the report. It
does match our judgement of where the school is.
"Obviously the report doesn't make pleasant reading for anybody
- we don't want to be in this position - we wish we weren't in this
position - but what we need to do now is to accept the report in
full and use it to move the school forward."
The Schools Minister, David Laws, told the House of Commons on
Wednesday that the Government had taken "swift action" to deal with
the school's failings. A Department for Education spokesperson said
on Thursday: "This report provides further evidence of Al-Madinah's
failings. We are now even more convinced of the need for decisive
and urgent action. Ministers had already put the school on notice
that its funding will be cancelled unless there are major
The Al-Madinah Free School has about 400 pupils aged between
four and 16. It opened in September 2012 with a grant of £1.4
million. Its first head teacher, however, resigned after less than
A Roman Catholic school this week was made to back down
after two 14-year-old Muslim pupils were barred from classes for
breaking the school's dress code, as they refused to shave off
The pupils at Mount Carmel RC High School in Accrington
said that it was part of their faith to keep their facial
After talks with Muslim leaders, the school's governors
said that one boy could return, but the policy has not changed. The
case of the second boy is understood to be unresolved.
A third Muslim student, who had a moustache, was also
reported to have been barred from the classroom, but he shaved and
returned to his classes.
The head teacher of Mount Carmel, Xavier Bowers, said in
a statement: "[There] will be no change to the school rule which
requires boys to be clean shaven.
"However, following discussions with leaders of the
local community, exemptions will be made in certain clearly defined
"The school is advised that it is part of Muslim
tradition and religious belief that a beard is a sign of commitment
to the Islamic faith, but it is ultimately down to personal
"Having said all that, as governors of voluntary aided
schools we have to comply to the European Convention on Human
Rights, as do all schools. As part of this legislation all schools
must make reasonable adjustments to school uniform on genuine