A £1,500-a-year Muslim girls’ school has been given the lowest grading after a series of failings including not providing toilet paper for “cultural reasons”.
Government regulator Ofsted identified a range of concerns at Park Avenue Girls’ High School in Stoke-on-Trent, including hygiene, safeguarding problems, and the discovery of sectarian material on the premises.
On the issue of toilets, staff insisted loo roll was available at reception on request, but not provided as a matter of course “because [the pupils] are Asian.” However, some pupils told inspectors they avoided the toilets for this reason.
Inspectors also criticised the fact there was a lack of soap in the lavatories. There were also no showers on the premises.
“At the time of the inspection, it was not the school’s common practice to provide soap for pupils’ hand-washing, toilet roll in the toilets or suitable drinking water,” the inspectors wrote in a report published last week.
“Toilet paper is available from the school office when pupils request it. Pupils told inspectors that they sometimes avoided using toilets for the whole school day because of this.”
Abdul Ghafoor Salloo, the head teacher, defended the policy by arguing they were catering to the cultural needs of children. He told The Telegraph:
“The children they do use the toilets and traditionally, because we are Asian, we wash, not only wipe. There are facilities for pupils to clean themselves,” he said.
“Some pupils, they avoid using toilets because they don’t like going in there. There are facilities for cleaning yourself in the toilet — it might be hard for someone who doesn’t traditionally wash to understand and washing is better than wiping clean.
“The Ofsted inspector said there has to be toilet rolls, we said there are always toilet rolls but they are not always out — so what?”
School taken over by government https://t.co/EIEEVWFWed
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The Ofsted report also revealed the “inspectors found published sectarian material” on the premises. Mr. Salloo denied knowing about it, promised to destroy it, and vet literature entering the school in future.
Attainment was also a problem as pupils were not “consistently challenged” and were said to have “too few opportunities to discuss and develop their ideas”. There were further concerns about the safeguarding of pupils and the safety of the premises and playgroup, with broken windows reported.
There are 177 Muslim schools in England, with 148 being independent and 29 state-funded. Of the 139 independent Islamic schools inspected since 2015, 57 per cent were rated less than good, compared to 11 per cent of all schools. Many were marked down for failing to uphold British values.