Originally published at Gatestone Institute.
A taxpayer-funded Muslim school in England that was recently exposed for operating according to Islamic Sharia law has been condemned by government inspectors as being “dysfunctional” and “in chaos.”
Ofsted, the official agency for inspecting British schools, launched an urgent investigation into the Al-Madinah School in Derby, an industrial city in central England, after it emerged that Islamic fundamentalists running the school ordered all female teachers — including those who are not Muslim — to cover their heads and shoulders with a hijab, an Islamic scarf.
In addition to the strict dress code, pupils at the school, have been banned from singing songs, playing musical instruments, or reading fairy tales, activities deemed to be “un-Islamic,” according to non-Muslim staff members at the school.
When teaching children the alphabet, staff are prohibited from associating the letter ‘P’ with the word “pig.” Female staff are banned from wearing jewelry and are instructed to avoid shaking hands with male teachers to prevent “insult.”
The revelations about the un-British goings-on at the Al-Madinah School — the working conditions at the school have been compared to “being in Pakistan” — have fueled outrage over what some are calling underhanded attempts to establish a parallel Islamic education system in Britain.
The Ofsted inspection of Al-Madinah, which was originally scheduled to take place in late 2013, was brought forward to October 1-2 after it emerged that Muslim fundamentalists had taken control of the school.
On the first day of the inspection, officials found so many problems that they closed down the school entirely while the investigation continued.
Inspectors found, for example, that a one-hour-long arithmetic lesson consisted almost entirely of pupils cutting out and pasting different shapes. Inspectors also found that the only subject which taught crucial literacy skills was Islamic Studies.
Inspectors, however, cleared the school of allegations that it had been discriminating against girls by placing them at the back of the class. Inspectors also found that boys and girls had different lunch sittings due to the small size of the dining room.
The Ofsted inspection report, which was published on October 17, states: “This school is dysfunctional. The basic systems and processes a school needs to operate well are not in place. The school is in chaos and reliant on the goodwill of an interim principal to prevent it totally collapsing.” The report continues:
This is a school which has been set up and run by representatives of the [Muslim] community with limited knowledge and experience. Leadership and management, including governance, are inadequate and have been unable to improve the school.
Staff have been appointed to key roles for which they do not have qualifications and experience. For example, most of the primary school teachers have not taught before and the head of the primary school is experienced in teaching secondary-aged pupils only.
The hard-hitting report rates the Al-Madinah School as “inadequate” in all four inspection categories — achievement of pupils, quality of teaching, behavior and safety of pupils, and leadership and management. It concludes:
In accordance with the Education Act 2005, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector is of the opinion that this school requires special measures because it is failing to give its pupils and acceptable standard of education and the persons responsible for leading, managing or governing the school are not demonstrating the capacity to secure the necessary improvement in the school.
A school that is placed in special measures is subject to regular subject to regular short-notice Ofsted inspections to monitor its improvement. If conditions at the school do not improve within one year it may be closed. In the interim period, the school is eligible to obtain a significant increase in taxpayer money to help implement changes recommended by Ofsted.
The Al-Madinah School opened in September 2012 as a so-called free school, which is similar to a private school in that it operates beyond the control of local authorities, but is different from a private school in that its operations are paid for by British taxpayers.
Free schools were introduced by the ruling Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government in 2011 based on the argument that such schools would create more competition for public schools and thus drive up educational standards.