The Daily Mail is reporting that a failing independent Muslim school in East London has lost an appeal against being shut down. During the appeal, the school claimed that if it were forced to close, pupils would be at risk of radicalisation through being home educated instead.
This line of argument was not successful.
The Mail quotes Tribunal Judge Laurence Bennett as saying “we are not persuaded that there is a binary consequence, that is attendance at Ayasofia, a school judged to have significant failings, or home schooling with attendant risks” adding that “parents’ religious views cannot override fundamental requirements appropriate for the safe and effective delivery of education to their children whilst attending school”.
Ayasofia Primary School, in Whitechapel has failed a series of Ofsted inspections
As outlined in the Tribunal judgment, Ofsted inspected the school in March 2015 and found failings. The school then submitted an Action Plan. Ofsted inspected again in July and the Government rejected the Action Plan. Ofsted carried out further inspections in September and December 2015 and at the end of December the Secretary of State advised Cityside Trurst of her decision to remove the school from the independent schools register.
Ayasofia then appealed. Home education was mentioned in the judgment.
The suggestion that home schooling, possibly unregistered with the Local
Education Authority is the likely alternative to pupils’ attendance at Ayasofia is not
accepted as alternative schools are available. Even so, whilst risk factors were put
forward in evidence and attention drawn to research, we observe as stated by the
Secretary of State that home schooling is not unlawful and is an option open to
parents. It was not purported that attendance at Ayasofia is a requirement of
religious observance or belief that could not otherwise be satisfied. We note the
contrary in that Ayasofia has introduced elements that might not usually be found
within a conservative religious curriculum, such as girls learning the Koran and
visits to non-Islamic places of worship. On that basis we consider home schooling
to be a less likely option for this subset of parents notwithstanding their previous
We are not persuaded that there is a binary consequence, that is attendance at
Ayasofia a school judged to have significant failings or home schooling with
attendant risks. The Borough has many schools and evidence was given of
alternative independent faith schools.
Full-time independent schools providing education to 5 or more children (or just 1 child with a statement or EHCP) are required to register and submit to regular inspections.
Part-time schools are NOT currently required to register.
Being registered as a full time independent school means complying with the rules concerning the welfare, health and safety of pupils, the breadth of the curriculum – including lessons in written and spoken English, the quality of educational provision, the suitability of teaching staff and proprietors, having appropriate premises, and keeping detailed records on pupils’ progress.
The law also says that independent schools must actively promote “fundamental British values” and ensure that there is political balance in teaching and other activities.
More about the requirements for independent schools here
References in the media to “illegal schools” are talking about schools which meet the criteria for registering as independent schools but where the proprietors have opted NOT to register.
NB some long-standing Charedi Jewish schools in East London were in the news earlier this year because they had NEVER registered and the Ofsted visits were all “pre-registration inspections” which is completely different because THOSE schools were operating illegally.