Unregistered religious schools are promoting intolerance
The British Humanist Association has praised a move by UK education watchdog Ofsted to shut down unregistered schools operating outside the law in England.
After Chief Inspector of Schools Sir Michael Wilshaw, above, was reported here as saying there is a serious and growing threat to the safety of children of schools run mainly for Muslims, the BHA said it was glad the problem of unregistered schools –” the majority of which we know are religious” – is finally being tackled.
Every year that these schools are either allowed to stay open, or else are able to evade detection, thousands more children are subjected to indoctrination, to abuse, and to an education so limited and blinkered that it can scarcely be described as an education at all.
Ofsted says it found a narrow Islam-focused curriculum in the latest three schools it investigated in Birmingham. In the three Birmingham settings, 94 children were being subjected to hardline Islamic indoctrination.
In one, conditions were described as unhygienic and filthy, with staff who had not been screened for their suitability to work with children. Inspectors also found books described as inappropriate, with texts including:
Misogynistic, homophobic and anti-Semitic material.
The three places visited by Ofsted at the end of November brought the total of unregistered education centres inspected in recent months to 18.
Of these, the only one to have been named is Bordesley Independent School, in Birmingham.
Writing formally to the education secretary, Sir Michael says he believes the number of children in unregistered schools could be far higher and warns that Ofsted’s work to promote British values is being undermined by the growth of these unregistered schools.
Sir Michael told the BBC:
While most of the places visited by Ofsted so far have been in Muslim communities, inspectors may also turn their attention to similar unregistered tuition centres operated by other groups.
It will apply across the board, to any religious group whether Muslim group, Jewish group, or Christian group who wants to operate this sort of provision in unsafe accommodation, in unhygienic and filthy accommodation.
It will apply to all religious groups, I want to make that absolutely clear.
Meanwhile an employment tribunal in Birmingham has heard evidence that a teaching assistant at the Trojan Horse-linked Adderley Primary School in Saltley was left with a stammer over taunts she wasn’t a “good Muslim”.
Shakila Hussain claimed that colleagues taunted her and said she wasn’t a “good Muslim” as she refused to wear a headscarf.
Hussain said the bullying by fellow Muslim teaching assistants Rehena Khanom, Yasmin Akhtar and Shahnaz Bibi left her feeling so stressed she developed a stammer.
Hussain was giving evidence at a tribunal in which the three teaching assistants from the school are claiming unfair dismissal – along with a fourth teaching assistant, Hilary Owens.
They allege that resignation letters they purportedly signed and sent to headteacher Rizvana Darr at the end of 2012 were forgeries .
Visibly emotional while giving evidence, Hussain said:
They were always making disrespectful comments about me, about the way I was dressed, telling me I couldn’t bring my daughter up properly because I wasn’t a good Muslim and I wasn’t a good role model.
Hussain, who has worked at the school for almost 15 years, said in her witness statement:
The claimants questioned the strength of my faith and alleged that I could not be a good Muslim as I chose not to cover my head.
I felt extremely intimidated by this confrontation and personally offended by the nature of their comments.
She said Khanom and Akhtar targeted her as soon as she returned from maternity leave in April 2006.
They would regularly visit me and ask if I had yet become a good Muslim. I was always so taken aback at the rudeness that I rarely responded.
And she claimed a group of Salafi Muslim parents also critcised both her and Mrs Darr for they way they dress.
Last week the tribunal heard evidence that Darr demanded all images of pigs be removed from the school’s library books, as well as instituting Islamic assemblies and bringing in an imam to conduct Friday prayers with male pupils.