A Luton Islamic School which segregated staff by gender and hosted radical speakers has been slammed by the Charity Commission and accused of misconduct.
The Rabia Educational Trust caters for 128 pupils, charges up to £2,300 a year, and has the stated ‘charitable aim’ of advancing “the single sex Islamic faith based education of girls and boys.”
It was found to have poor management, mismanaged accounts, and failed to protect pupils from potentially harmful views in the past, the regulator claimed in an inquiry report.
Concerns were first raised in 2012, and Ofsted has inspected Rabia Girl’s and Boy’s School four times since 2014. Although progress has been made there were still failings, the report said, and the institution remains under regulatory action by the school’s inspectorate.
In a report from April 2016, Ofsted noted that “Leaders and governors, through their actions, undermine the school’s work to promote fundamental British values”, and, “school leaders acknowledge that some guest speakers to the school have not been vetted with sufficient rigour”.
In response, the school’s trustees had promised to not allow foreign or religious speakers to address the students, but this did not go far enough, the Charity Commission said.
The school had also “insisted on segregating men and women through the use of a dividing screen across the middle of the room [at a meeting with the inspectors]”.
They later claimed this was a one off as the meeting was held in a prayer room. The Charity Commission accepted the excuse and insisted the meetings were moved.
The Commission has also criticised the trustees for being unable to “demonstrate sufficient accounting record to explain all the charity’s financial transaction” and there were reports of a series of dodgy property-related deals.
It emerged the trust had rented space to a private nursery linked to its chairman without permission from the Commission, claiming the rent was set above the market rate to address concerns about conflicts of interest.
They also disposed of a gym they operated to a not-for-profit company connected to one of its trustees and gave another charity a 99-year lease on a building without telling the Land Registry.
A statement from the Rabia Education Trust said that the trustees “have fully cooperated with the Charity Commission and will ensure that all recommendations are fully implemented”.
In reference to the charity sector generally, the Commission said, “there have been occasions when terrorists, and those with extremist views… have used charity events to make those views known”, and urged more to done to stop this.