Failing Muslim school shut down by Ofsted

Ayasofia Primary School with its shutters down
Closed: the shutters were down at the school today. Photograph: Josh Loeb

A Muslim school in Whitechapel is to be shut down by Ofsted, despite a warning from bosses that pupils are in danger of ‘radicalisation’ from illicit home schooling.

Premises used by Ayasofia Primary School in Cavell Street appeared abandoned today, but a notice on its website stated it was closed only “temporarily” after facing “an unprecedented level of external pressure”.

Ayasofia, formed in 2009, is to be struck from the register of independent schools after several inspections revealed serious failures.

Regulators found that boys and girls were treated differently and all pupils were ‘ill-prepared for life in modern Britain’. Teachers also failed to properly mark students’ work and the curriculum was ‘poorly-planned’.

One Ofsted report states that pupils had no access to clean drinking water and the toilets were in a state of disrepair.

Former Education secretary Nicky Morgan told the trust that owns the school last year that Ayasofia was to be deregistered. According to Cityside Primary Trust, the decision effectively sealed the school’s fate as it meant it could not continue operating without facing possible fines or legal action.

The Trust lodged an appeal with the Care Standards Tribunal, warning that pupils could face ‘radicalisation’ during illegal home schooling if they were forced to leave. It also claimed the school had addressed many of the complaints raised by Ofsted, and called the closure ‘disproportionate’.

But a judge has now rejected the appeal and given the go-ahead for the school to be shut down.

Judge Laurence Bennett said that despite having “no reason to doubt the good intentions” of the school’s leaders, the “failings are continuing”.

He dismissed the Trust’s argument that pupils, particularly girls, would be unable to find other schools in the area.

Judge Bennett said: “We are not persuaded that there is a binary consequence, that is attendance at Ayasofia, a school judged to have significant failings, or home schooling with attendant risks.

“The borough of Tower Hamlets has many schools and evidence was given of alternative independent faith schools.”

Ayasofia premises appeared to be abandoned
Abandoned: the school premises appeared empty. Photograph: Josh Loeb

Ayasofia, an independent school for pupils aged between four and 11 earlier, this year issued an emergency fundraising appeal to help it find a new site. It stated it was the “most popular” and longest serving Muslim primary school in Tower Hamlets.

A strongly-worded statement on behalf of the school’s owners stated: “The Cityside Primary Trust has made an immediate application to appeal the decision of the First Tier Tribunal.

“Therefore, the school will be temporarily closed until the outcome of the appeal has been further determined.

“As a charitable community organisation, it is our moral responsibility to ensure that our pupils are receiving adequate support in the temporary arrangements that have been made by our parents’ support network.

“We strongly feel that the school has been offering valuable educational services to young and vulnerable children throughout London and has progressively gained popularity over the last seven years.

“Over the last 14 months the school has resisted an unprecedented level of external pressure from the Department for Education (DfE), Ofsted and several other governments departments working alongside senior council officers from Tower Hamlets to close the school down at all costs.

“The aim behind these concerted efforts was to overstretch the school as all other legal avenues had been exhausted by the DfE to close the school down.”

A spokesperson for Tower Hamlets Council said: “The council has no control over independent schools like Ayasofia. The establishment and ongoing viability of these schools is a matter for the Department for Education and Ofsted.

“We offered all parents of Tower Hamlets children at the school a place at a council-maintained school near to their homes after Ayasofia failed its last inspection and we are in the process of updating those offers.

“We will continue to do everything we can to ensure that these children are offered a place at our schools for the new school year.”

Commenting on the tribunal’s decision, a Department for Education spokesperson said: “We welcome the ‎court’s judgment and will now work with the local authority to ensure the children involved are offered a school place as swiftly as possible.”

1 Comment

  1. Mikael Ilyas on Wednesday 7 September 2016 at 4:22 pm

    This school was targeted for taking on stranded pupils from homeschooling backgrounds…very political


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