An emergency report by School inspectors Ofsted has revealed that some pupils at a school in London do not know the difference between British law and Sharia Law. At Mazahirul Uloom School in Tower Hamlets, they found that the curriculum “focused solely” on Islamic themes.
It comes only days after another Ofsted report criticised a school in rural Lincolnshire for being ‘too English’.
The investigation by Ofsted included six small Muslim private schools in the London borough.
Sir Michael Wilshaw, Ofsted’s chief inspector, said that pupils attending were at risk of extremist views and radicalisation and their “physical and educational welfare is at serious risk.”
He wrote to the Education Secretary Nicky Morgan with his findings and told her all six schools focused too heavily on Islamic teachings. And he was not certain that the required changes to bring the schools in line with national standards would happen, telling Ms Morgan:
“I am not convinced that the leaders of these schools have sufficient capacity to bring about the necessary improvements to safeguarding, the curriculum and the quality of teaching and learning.
“Given the evidence gathered from these inspections, particularly in relation to the narrowness of the curriculum, I am concerned that pupils in these schools may be vulnerable to extremist influences and radicalisation.”
Ms Morgan told the BBC the schools would be closed down if the changes aren’t made.
“We asked Ofsted to carry out these independent school inspections and the findings are very concerning. While there is no suggestion of a co-ordinated plot, it is clear that these schools are failing children and this is unacceptable.
“All schools must prepare children for life in modern Britain.”
At Mazahirul Uloom School the pupils were told it was wrong to learn about other religions and did not get the opportunity to take part in sports, arts, drama or music. They were also taught a mysoginistic view of the role women should play in society, with one student telling the Inspector:
Women stay at home and clean and look after the children. They cook and pray and wait for us to come back from school with homework” setting him up for disappointment in married life.
Another school which was previously marked ‘outstanding’ has been downgraded to inadequate.
Jamiatul Ummah was found to provide good opportunities to study and practise the Islamic faith but there was no balance in the curriculum.
The report said: “The narrowness of the curriculum means that students’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural education, in particular their understanding of the fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance, is underdeveloped.”
Students also lacked opportunities to learn about music and art, or to be creative in PE.
Jamiatul Ummah school responded to the report, saying that Ofsted had “given disproportionate emphasis to certain issues which do not reflect the real characteristics of the school and has not portrayed accurately the school or given appropriate weight to the varied educational experiences.”
Tower Hamlets council responded to the report, saying it had no jurisdiction over independent faith schools.
“We can – and we do – intervene when individual safeguarding issues are raised” they said.
They said they had “repeatedly offered” assistance to schools in the local area to make sure they comply with national rules and teach a wide and varied curriculum but these offers were rarely accepted.
Independent schools, academies and free schools already have to adhere to the Independent School Standards (ISS), which demand that schools encourage pupils to “respect” British values.