Ofsted raises safeguarding concerns at six independent faith schools in Tower Hamlets

Six independent Muslim faith schools have also been hit with “serious concerns” from Ofsted over the safeguarding of their pupils, after a wave of inspections carried out at the request of the Department for Education (DfE).

Inspection reports for the schools in Tower Hamlets have been published alongside that of a maintained school, Sir John Cass, which was downgraded from outstanding to ‘inadequate’.

Four of the independent schools received standard independent school inspections and were judged to be inadequate. The other two independent schools received emergency inspections, which do not result in an overall effectiveness grade.

All six of the independent schools were found not to be offering a sufficiently broad and balanced curriculum, and put too much focus on developing Islamic knowledge, Ofsted said.

In an advice note to the Education Secretary, Ofsted head Sir Michael Wilshaw wrote: “In all schools, inspectors noted very limited opportunities to learn about history and geography other than those aspects relating to Islam.

“Music, drama and art were rarely taught and pupils were not given adequate opportunities to develop their creativity and aesthetic appreciation.”

The six schools were: Ebrahim Academy; the East London Islamic School; London East Academy; Al Mizan Primary School; Jamiatul Ummah; and Mazahirul Uloom.

Teaching was also found to be inadequate in all six of the schools, and one of the schools was found to have moved premises without permission from the DfE.

The Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, said: “We asked Ofsted to carry out these independent school inspections and the findings are very concerning. While there is no suggestion of a co-ordinated plot, it is clear that these schools are failing children and this is unacceptable. All schools must prepare children for life in modern Britain.

“We will now be demanding urgent action plans from the independent schools and expect to see improvements within weeks. If changes are not made then we reserve the right to force the closures of the schools involved.”

A spokesperson for Tower Hamlets Council said: “As a local education authority, we have no jurisdiction whatsoever over teaching and standards at independent faith schools.

“We do have responsibility for safeguarding children in the borough but our powers limit us to offering safeguarding training and advice to schools. We have repeatedly offered this assistance to independent schools locally but we cannot compel them to accept this help.

“We can – and we do – intervene when individual safeguarding issues are raised.”

Another maintained school in Tower Hamlets, Marner Primary, was also subject to an Ofsted inspection “at short notice” in September.

The inspection found no concerns over the school’s safeguarding arrangements.