30/Jul/2014 - Last News Update: 17:04

Muslim free school allegations prompt Labour questions

Category: England

Published: 6th Oct 2013 00:26:27

Michael Gove is coming under pressure to explain what checks his department carried out on a Muslim free school which has been closed since Tuesday.

Al-Madinah, in Derby, cited "health and safety concerns" when it shut last week. It is due to reopen on Monday.

But Labour called on the education secretary to "reassure the public" amid persistent concerns over the school.

The Department for Education was already investigating allegations against the school, a spokesman said.

Free schools - which can be opened by anyone - are state-funded but not overseen by the local authority.

Al-Madinah says it has a "strong Muslim ethos" and when it opened last year claimed to be the first such school in the country for pupils from reception age to 16.

Preliminary findings from an Ofsted inspection into the school gave it the lowest possible rating.

The inspection was brought forward after allegations that staff and pupils had been told to follow strict Islamic practices.

Former staff have claimed non-Muslim female teachers came under pressure to wear the hijab head-scarf.

It has also been reported that girls were made to sit at the back of class.

The school denies pupils have been segregated and says its dress code was made clear to anyone wanting to work at the school.

Sources have told the BBC the closure was due to incomplete records of child protection checks being done on all staff.

But ahead of the school re-opening to pupils on Monday, shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg said the situation must be "urgently clarified in order to reassure the public".

In a letter to Mr Gove the Labour MP said: "This is, of course, not the first time that there have been questions surrounding your department's oversight of a free school.

"While I understand that there is an ongoing investigation, the reports concerning this school are of extreme concern to parents and the wider community.

"Given the confusion as to why the school has closed, and that pupils may be returning to the school on Monday, I would ask that these matters be clarified urgently in order to reassure the public."

He called on the department to say what "due diligence" was carried out when the school was approved.

And he asked whether there had been "appropriate vetting" of staff and what oversight ministers had had since it opened.

Interim principal Stuart Wilson closed the school after Ofsted inspectors shared their preliminary findings with him.

"While unfortunate, my decision to close the school related to a short-term health and safety issue that has now been completely resolved and will not reoccur," a statement on the school's website read.

The school "will be open as normal on Monday," Mr Wilson added.

A Department for Education spokesman said: "We were already investigating this school before the allegations became public.

"We discussed the problems with Ofsted and it launched an immediate inspection. We are waiting for Ofsted's final report and considering all legal options."

Mr Twigg also questioned what would happen to children at the school if it did not reopen on Monday or had to close again.

Source:
BBC News External Link Show Citation

Latest News

Harvard Citation

BBC News, 2013. Muslim free school allegations prompt Labour questions [Online] (Updated 6th Oct 2013)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/1513455/Muslim-free-school-allegations-prompt-Labour-questions [Accessed 30th Jul 2014]

News In Other Categories

  • France Paris: Louvre rat run shocks the French

    The Louvre in Paris has called in the pest controllers after picnickers in the museum gardens encouraged an infestation of rats.
  • Fire rips through Eastbourne Pier

    A huge fire is ripping through Eastbourne Pier.
  • Bristol Academy extends reach overseas with first foreign students

    With the doors to its brand new £1million training centre officially open, one of the UK's leading apprentice training providers, Bristol based S&B Automotive Academy, is showcasing its world-class facilities by launching a series of foreign student exchanges for the first time in its 41-year history. To get a flavour of what life is like as an apprentice in the UK, the Academy hosted 16 apprentice engineers and bus drivers from the G9 Automotive College in Hamburg, Germany, as part of a Europe-wide vocational training initiative called the ‘Leonardo Programme’ with support from the European Social Fund. In a reciprocal arrangement, S&B will be sending nine apprentices to Germany during February 2012 so that they can get an appreciation of life in the automotive industry on the Continent. A further three German exchange groups are being planned for next year. Designed to assist the development of vocational skills and training across Europe, including work placements for trainees, the Leonardo Programme has a budget of €1.75bn, which is helping to encourage UK organisations to work with their counterparts abroad. In what is expected to be another challenging year for employers in the UK automotive sector, S&B’s Chief Executive, Jon Winter, claims that the exchange initiative will bring many benefits to the Academy and its apprentices: “In a world of global automotive brands, it’s important for our learners to understand the international context of the industry they have chosen to make their career. This new exchange programme will enable apprentices and Academy staff alike to achieve a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities within the automotive arena in Europe. With the Academy’s influence also extending to the USA and Asia, there’s every possibility that this initiative could move further afield in the future.” Continued Winter: “The need for skilled technicians across the world is on the increase and we actively encourage our apprentices to look at broader horizons during their training. Many of them have already learned the phrase ‘Vorsprung durch Gelehrtheit’, quite simply, ‘Advancement through learning.” In the 2010/11 academic year, S&B doubled the number of successful Apprenticeships over the previous year with some 350 apprentices graduating from the Academy. At the same time, achievement levels reached an all-time high with an overall success rate of 85%. For those learners on the Advanced Apprenticeship three-year programme, success rates were even higher, at over 98%. PHOTO CAPTION: As part of their exchange visit, S&B Automotive Academy arranged for the German apprentices to visit Hampshire bus operator, Bluestar, at its Barton Park depot. The students are pictured with S&B’s Andy West (3rd right) and Steve Prewett, Bluestar’s Area Engineering Manager (2nd right). Ends http://www.sandbaa.com
  • Airbus says aircraft market 'still strong' despite cancellations

    Airbus has said that the market for commercial aircraft is "still very strong" despite a wave of cancelled orders.
  • Ed Balls attacks 'never had it so good' prime minister

    Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls has accused David Cameron of trying to ape one of his predecessors in No 10 by pretending people have "never had it so good".
  • Nintendo posts larger than expected loss despite Mario Kart

    Nintendo has reported a bigger first-quarter loss than expected, causing its share price to tumble.