State-funded Islamic school launches legal challenge to Ofsted report

1st August 2016 at 17:27
high court, Islamic faith school, ofsted
Judge blocks publication of inspectorate's report while legal action continues

A legal battle has been triggered over a controversial Ofsted report on a school with an Islamic religious ethos, with school leaders being accused of failing to keep pupils safe from extreme views.

The schools watchdog states that the school – which cannot be named under an order from the court but is referred to as "School X" – is an "inadequate school" and criticises its policy for the segregation of boys from girls.

It also says the school's leaders have "failed to keep pupils safe from extreme views that undermine fundamental British values".

But the school's governing board is disputing the findings and is seeking a judicial review in a bid to have the report quashed.

A senior High Court judge in London today upheld an earlier ruling that the report must stay under wraps until the legal challenge takes place, probably in September.

Mr Justice Stuart-Smith said allowing it to be published would be likely "to generate a media storm and tensions and fears for parents and the local community".

The judge said if the school's legal challenge failed the interim order could be lifted and the report published.

He said the school was a voluntary-aided school for boys and girls aged between four and 16, with a policy of segregation of the sexes from Year 5.

Books 'incited violence towards women'

The judge said the Ofsted report states that books in the school library "contained derogatory views about, and incited violence towards, women".

It states that boys and girls were segregated in all lessons and at social times from Year 5 onwards and the policy "limits opportunities for pupils' social development".

The judge said the report calls for a review of "the content of all books and other materials in the school" to make sure pupils are not exposed "to extreme and intolerant views".

It calls on the school leadership and management to ensure all necessary steps are taken "to keep pupils safe and improve their welfare".

It also recommends that all books and other materials should support equality of opportunity and promote "fundamental British values of tolerance and respect, particularly in the role of women in modern Britain".

Ofsted's proposal to publish the final report in July, on the last day of the summer term, led to the school board launching its application for judicial review.

Blocking publication of the report, pending legal action, the judge said he accepted that "publication of the report has the capacity to affect social and community cohesion".

He added: "It also has the capacity to be seen as an unwarranted attack on aspects of the school's Islamic religious ethos which have in the very recent past been acceptable to Ofsted, because the nature and effect of the school's segregation policy have not changed since previous (Ofsted) reports."

The school is accusing Ofsted of "irrationality and inconsistency", and it points to an absence of evidence for the latest findings.

The treatment of the school is also alleged to be inconsistent with the treatment of other schools.

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