The British Government is to take over a state-funded Muslim school following the death of a child and revelations of offensive Islamic books found in the library.
The Al-Hijrah School in Birmingham is set to become an Academy and the Department of Education has appointed an interim board to oversee problems identified by a damning report by Ofsted, the education watchdog, The Times reported.
The watchdog said earlier this year that the school has endemic problems including bullying and sub-standard teaching. It said that students weren’t “sufficiently” safe as the staff didn’t know what to do in medical emergencies. Ofsted gave the school the lowest ranking possible.
Books claiming a husband is allowed to beat his wife and may insist on having sex with her were also found in the school’s library.
The education watchdog investigated the school following the death of Mohammad Imaeel Ashraf, aged 9, who collapsed in March reportedly due to an allergic reaction to fish and chips.
The Islamic institution isn’t new to controversy. An earlier Ofsted report criticized the school, which was the first Muslim school in Britain to secure state funding in 2001, for segregating girls and boys in all lessons from the age of 5 to 16, claiming the policy violates the Equality Act.
The Al-Hijrah School fought to suppress the damning report for more than a year. Last week, appeal court judges were told to make a ruling in the case. If the segregation based on gender is found illegal under the Equality Act, around 20 faith-based schools will need to change their teaching policies.
Chief Ofsted inspector Amanda Spielman said it’s “deeply frustrating” when courts are used to “delay things that in our view urgently need to happen. It is rare for schools to go to court to challenge a report but sometimes the stakes are high.”
“I am deeply concerned about the idea that total segregation of children within a mixed school is acceptable,” Spielman said. “The master of the rolls said it was a very important case and I think that is right.
“Segregating boys and girls in a mixed school feels as though it is depriving both boys and girls of a big part of the benefits of a school.
“We have single-sex schools and I am not challenging that but the idea that you have . . . a mixed school and yet you do not have social development, stimulation, all the things that come from mixing the sexes, makes me uncomfortable.
“What pupils were missing out on in Al-Hijrah was the chance to interact with the opposite sex, to prepare them for adult life.”