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Government to close private Muslim school that segregated pupils and teachers by sex

The Government has issued an enforcement order to de-register a private Muslim school following repeated failures to comply with the Independent School Standards (ISS) and the launch of a second investigation into mismanagement and misconduct by the Charity Commission.

According to the Charity Commission, the Rabia School in Luton – which has previously segregated pupils and staff by sex through the use of dividing screens in the middle of classrooms – has ‘persistently failed’ to meet the ISS, including with relation to safeguarding and pupil welfare. As a result, it was banned from admitting any new pupils. In May 2020, the Rabia Educational Trust, which is responsible for running the school, was also convicted of breaching charity law after the schools inspectorate Ofsted found it was defying this ban.

Most independent schools are charities and, alongside setting out the basic standards of education and welfare the pupils who attend such schools should receive, compliance with the ISS is a condition of this charitable status.

Last week, the Charity Commission announced that it had launched a second investigation into the Trust to ‘examine the trustees’ compliance with their legal duties around the administration, governance and management of the charity, and whether the charity can be placed on a firmer footing for the future.’ However, as a consequence of the investigation, a DfE spokesperson said the school had been issued with ‘an enforcement order to de-register them’ meaning the school will close.

The school’s most recent Ofsted report notes an array of serious failings at the Rabia school, including an overly narrow curriculum that did not adequately include ‘aesthetic and creative’ subjects, poor quality teaching, an out of date safeguarding policy, and an incomplete register of pupils (with names left off in order to hide the fact the school had been admitting more pupils).

Humanists UK’s Education Campaigns Manager Dr Ruth Wareham commented: 

‘As far back as 2014, Ofsted raised concerns about the Rabia school offering a narrow curriculum and treating girls and boys unequally. Over the years there have also been repeated problems with safeguarding and health and safety which have not improved over time. Indeed, rather than focusing on addressing these problems, the trust responsible for the school has instead chosen to breach its operating conditions and admit yet more pupils.

‘As the fact the DfE has now issued an enforcement order to de-register the school illustrates, the launch of a second serious Charity Commission investigation into the Trust demonstrates that it is not fit to be in charge of the education of children. While the decision to close a school must always be treated with gravity, it is clear that the Rabia School is seriously failing its pupils and urgently needs to be shut down’.

Humanists UK is currently fundraising for the salary and resourcing costs of its dedicated education campaigner. The appeal was recently launched by Humanists UK patron and children’s rights activist Alf Dubs. Supporters of Humanists UK’s vision for a fairer education system are urged to donate at www.justgiving.com/nofaithschools.

Notes:

For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Ruth Wareham at ruth@humanism.org.uk or phone 020 7324 3000 or 07725 110 860.

Read more about our work on faith schools.

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Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by over 100,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.

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