Muslim Headteacher Faces Prison for Failing to Promote ‘British Values’ in Unregistered School

Students attend a Koran study class at the European Institute of Social Sciences (Institut Europeen des Sciences Humaines, IESH) in Saint-Leger-de-Fougeret, central France on October 28, 2020. - The IESH Institute,inaugurated in 1992, was the first of its kind in France, on the electoral grounds of François Mitterrand, who already …
PHILIPPE DESMAZES/AFP via Getty Images

The headteacher of an unregistered Islamic school in London is facing jail time after it was revealed she has continued running the school after a government watchdog found that it failed to uphold ‘British values’.

Nadia Ali, 40, who established the Ambassadors High School in Streatham with her father Arshad Ali, 74, was convicted in 2019 alongside her father for running an unregistered school, which charged pupils £2,500 per year.

The Magistrates’ court heard that the Islamic school had failed to uphold ‘British values’ or fully carrying out background checks on their teachers, the Daily Mail reported.

Despite the school being ordered to close, Ali refused to do so, telling the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire a month after the conviction: “I’ve been teaching for 15 years and I’ve seen how children need a different approach and that’s what we’re trying to do at Ambassadors.

“This is why I believe in what we’re trying to do because we’ve seen a lot of results within our children. They’re happy learners.”

Appearing by video-link, Ali was told by Deputy Chief Magistrate Tan Ikram that she faces prison time for failing to shut down the school.

“In defiance of your previous conviction you gave an interview in which you said you intended to carry on,” District Judge Ikram said.

“I find that very serious, and contemptuous. I have already indicated what I’m thinking on sentencing you,” he added.

The headteacher said argued that she was not violating the law, claiming that the school only operated on a part-time basis for 18-hours per week. Ali also said that the Islamic school had applied for Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) registration, yet it was denied on the grounds of not sufficiently safeguarding children from harm.

An investigation in 2018 found that teachers in the South London school had books encouraging parents to hit children if they did not pray and that a wife had no right under Islamic law to deny her husband.

The investigation did not find that children had access to the materials, which were claimed to have been donated from a local mosque.

Ms Ali did admit to breaching provisions of the Education and Skills Act 2008 and has been released on bail until her sentencing.

The requirement for schools in the UK to “actively promote” British values, such as the rule of law, individual liberty, and religious tolerance were introduced by the Department for Education in 2014. The guidance was based on the government’s anti-radicalisation Prevent Strategy.

Then-Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Schools Lord John Nash explained at the time that the purpose of the regulation was to “tighten up the standards on pupil welfare to improve safeguarding, and the standards on spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils to strengthen the barriers to extremism.”

Ofsted has flagged some 300 alleged unregistered schools since 2016, yet very few have resulted in actual prosecutions due to the limited ability of the government watchdog to investigate.

While the intended purpose of the regulations was to combat extremism, Christian schools have also been targeted under the rules. In 2015, for example, the Durham Free School was forced to close down after the children at the school were branded by inspectors as bigots for not being knowledgeable about Islam or LGBT issues.

Follow Kurt Zindulka on Twitter here @KurtZindulka

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