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Humanists UK welcomes first conviction for illegal religious school

Humanists UK has welcomed the first successful prosecution of the proprietors of a religious school for operating it illegally and hopes it will lead to a wider crackdown on other unregistered schools.

At Westminster Magistrates Court, the director and headteacher of the Al-Istiqamah Learning Centre in Ealing, a Muslim school, were yesterday convicted of running an unregistered independent school which had attempted to present itself as offering part-time tuition but Ofsted inspectors actually found more than 60 children of compulsory school age were attending the centre during school hours.

According to the Telegraph, the school had also taught that ‘only Muslims were saved on Noah’s Ark.’

Humanists UK leads the national campaign for action on unregistered religious schools and has consistently called for tougher regulations to help shut down unregistered illegal schools. Earlier this year a joint BBC/Humanists UK investigation on BBC News at Six and Ten exposed something of the scale of abuse and neglect that is occurring in illegal Charedi Jewish schools in and around London.

Welcoming the conviction, Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Ruth Wareham said:

‘We welcome this prosecution and hope it will lead to a further crackdown on other schools operating illegally so that all children get to receive a rounded, decent, and broad education that properly prepares them for life outside school.

The education provided in many unregistered religious schools is known to be narrow in scope, predominantly scriptural in content, and deeply conservative, intolerant, and extreme in outlook. This presents a hugely worrying problem for the education that children receive, and their own wellbeing, and for the wider ramifications on society.’

The learning centre has been temporarily closed. The school’s Director Nacerdine Talbi and Headteacher Beatrix Kinga Bernhardt were each given a three-month curfew and ordered to pay a total of £970 towards costs. The school was also fined £100.

Humanists UK is aware that a significant number of unregistered, illegal schools are operating throughout England, many of which are religious. Such settings serve a variety of different religious communities, including Muslim, Jewish, and Christian communities – all of which in some respect tend to be fundamentalist, extreme, or isolationist in their outlook.

Notes

For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson on richy@humanism.org.uk or 07815 589636.

Read more about our campaigning on illegal faith schools:

https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/schools-and-education/faith-schools/illegal-faith-schools/

Read Humanists UK’s previous news item ‘Ofsted calls for home education regulation to tackle illegal schools’: https://humanism.org.uk/2017/11/06/ofsted-calls-for-home-schooling-regulation-to-tackle-illegal-religious-schools/

At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.

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