Ofsted: Private school fined thousands for breaking new pupil ban

Ofsted has secured an “unprecedented conviction” against a private school found to be admitting pupils despite being banned from doing so – fining its trust and leader thousands of pounds. 

Rabia Girls’ and Boys’ School in Luton has become the first registered independent school to be prosecuted by the government after years of failings.

However, Ofsted confirmed today that the school remains open following the landmark prosecution.

This unprecedented conviction sends out a strong message

In 2018, it was revealed the Department for Education was finally taking enforcement action against the Islamic school, which charges annual fees ranging from £1,950 to £2,300.

The school had been graded “inadequate” in four full Ofsted inspections – the highest number of any private school in the country. 

Rabia has been in the ‘inadequate’ category since 2014, previously only holding a “satisfactory” rating. 

Under enforcement action, the DfE has powers to forbid schools from taking on new pupils, close a building and even order the full closure of a school.

The school’s punishment was confirmed last year, when it was listed as one of seven private schools banned from accepting new pupils in 2019 for “persistently” failing to meet independent school standards. 

However, during a monitoring inspection in September 2019, an Ofsted inspection team found evidence the school was still admitting pupils. 

The inspection also found the school’s safeguarding policy was “out of date” and that several of the independent school standards were still not being met.

At the request of the Department for Education, Ofsted prepared a case for submission to the Crown Prosecution Service, which was heard at Luton Magistrates’ Court on May 27.

Magistrates found the school was in breach of its operating conditions, with Rabia Educational Trust receiving an £8,000 fine and the trust’s chair Zafar Iqbal Khan fined £4,000.

OfstedOfsted’s chief inspector Amanda Spielman said: “This unprecedented conviction sends out a strong message. 

“If schools have a restriction imposed on them because of their repeated failure to meet basic standards, they must comply with it. If not, they are liable to prosecution and significant financial penalties.”

The DfE previously closed the Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley in Hertfordshire, despite it failing standards fewer times than Rabia school.

Rabia did not respond to request for comment.

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  1. Dr Richard House

    Re “…The DfE previously closed the Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley in Hertfordshire, despite it failing standards fewer times than Rabia school.” Indeed – and Wynstones Steiner School, too. And the three Steiner academies in Frome, Bristol and Exeter – all CLOSED. Methinks Ofsted-DfE just can’t countenance the free-thinking young people that Steiner Waldorf schools produce. Heaven forbid that any of England’s schools turn out free thinkers who can see through class society’s power-games and who haven’t been conditioned and cowed by the Audit Culture into obedient subservience to “the system”. And what a clever pretext to choose for closing down these schools – the indiscriminate scatter-gun attack of “safeguarding”. (Quite the cleverest orchestrated concoction since the anti-semitism assault on Jeremy Corbyn.) But of course they won’t close Rabia because they mustn’t risk being labelled “racist”. I wonder who it really is that isn’t “fit for purpose”?

  2. Akhlaqur Rahman

    This is very good job been done they deserve it and all should learn good lesson from this

    I would like to say thank you for your all professional work

  3. Mark Watson

    “the free-thinking young people that Steiner Waldorf schools produce”

    Would you be the same Dr Richard House that’s a Steiner Waldorf teacher?

    I only ask, because if you are then you may be able to give us a view from inside the Steiner system.

    You, and others, have a fairly lengthy history of campaigning against Ofsted. However, my reading between the lines seems to indicate it could be more about campaigning against any form of oversight. In a letter you co-wrote last year you quoted Rudolf Steiner himself saying “The State will tell us how to teach and what results to aim for, and what the State prescribes will be bad.” Such a statement, which dismisses any Government of any colour (yes, even one led by Jeremy Corbyn), sounds worrying to me. It seems to be saying “we know what’s best, no-one else does, and therefore no-one can question what we’re doing”.

    So my question is do Steiner Waldorf schools think they should be held to account – those funded privately and/or those funded from the public purse – and if so who should they be regulated by, seeing as “the State” clearly don’t have a handle on it.

    There is also then the question of safeguarding. I can completely understand the difference in opinion about the approach to learning, and how the Steiner philosophy and way of doing things runs contrary to the more mainstream approach taken by most schools. I don’t profess to be knowledgeable enough to be able to comment intelligently on this. But the safeguarding of children is surely universal isn’t it?

    From what I read a lot of the criticisms levelled at Steiner schools relate to safeguarding. When Ofsted stated that in a number of Steiner schools “inspectors witnessed inappropriate physical handling of children and a failure to make appropriate referrals to the local authority when pupils were clearly at risk of harm”, I don’t see this is being about a philosophical difference in the approach to teaching, or about “respecting pedagogical difference”.

    In the case of Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley, is it true that parents raising concerns about a particular teacher were issued threatening legal letters? And that when that teacher was eventually dismissed in January 2017 for gross misconduct, parents took their children to his house for lessons after this date because the school didn’t inform them of his sacking for seven months?

    You see the issue I have is that I see a lot of Steiner supporters talk about the the Steiner ethos and pedagogy, and how Ofsted doesn’t understand it, and that’s understandable. But I don’t seem to see any discussion about the safeguarding concerns.

    • Arthur Edwards

      Interesting comments and questions from Mark Watson. Two themes I would pick up on. 1) “Should schools be held to account?” This is a loaded way of framing the question, another perspective might be should teachers be considered professionals or just as employees who are told what their job is by political agencies? Why shouldn’t they be responsible for their own professional ethos and ‘standards’? What kind of world would result if we assumed that politicians knew better than engineers how to build bridges? Surely it is better to let 1000 flowers bloom than force every teacher and school into an arbitrary and externally imposed politicised standard. Let’s see what happens if we trust teachers as professionals to know how to teach, rather than thinking that politicans know better how to do the job. 2) The issue of ‘safeguarding’ – the who concept of safeguarding is about making teachers into social workers who are forced to report according to certain criteria, as if child welfare were just a matter of ticking boxes and following criteria. That is obviously nonsense! Teachers are expected to solve the problems created by society at large while at the same time not trusting them to exercise their professional judgement. When a school ‘fails’ on safeguarding that does not mean the school was not safe, or that the teachers were not exercising their duty of care, it means that the rigid and arbitrary framework that some people think would make the world safer has not been fully adhered to … or in some cases that the school has been intentionally been tripped up in the Catch 22 of hindsight.

      • Mark Watson

        Thank you for engaging.

        I agree “holding to account” is a loaded statement, and was probably a clumsy choice of words on my behalf. Your point about engineers knowing how to build bridges better than politicians is, of course, inarguable. However, to take the example of building more generally (I’m afraid I’m not very knowledgeable about bridges) let’s consider someone building me a new house that I’m then going to sell to you. They are the professional, and I am the (very) inexperienced amateur. I tell them what I want, and rely on them to build it in the best manner. I see this as akin to teaching, where the Government sets the broad targets (curriculum etc), and the teachers actually get on and deliver it. But back to my house – when the builder comes to me and says he’s finished building it, I don’t simply take his word for it – I get a building regulations certificate. A building regulations inspector (cf Ofsted) comes in to check that the work carried out by the builder (cf the school) is up to standard. If they’re happy with the job, the certificate is issued. And when you (cf a prospective parent) come along to buy the house, you don’t go the builder and ask him if he did a good job – before you part with your money you want to see the independent report that confirms the builder did a good job.

        I know that education is infinitely more nuanced and complicated than building a house. but the same principles apply. I’m sure most reasonably minded people would think that the vast majority of schools do a good job. Despite how they’re portrayed it seems Ofsted also agree with this. If memory serves haven’t they rated 85% or so of school as Good or Outstanding? But surely, with 24,000 schools and hundreds of thousands of teachers we must agree there are going to be individuals and schools which are failing their children and communities. If so, are we going to rely on them to recognise this and turn it around? I would suggest not.

        You refer to “letting 1000 flowers bloom”, and if all the checks and balances were taken away from teachers I have no doubt that the majority (probably the vast majority) would indeed bloom. But what about the ones that didn’t, and what about the children who suffered as a result?

        Back to the original bridges analogy – if you let 1,000 engineers design and build bridges without oversight and regulation, I’m sure you would get some amazing, innovative and wonderful feats of engineering that would inspire us all (I love the Millau Viaduct!). I’m also pretty sure though some of them would collapse whilst being used. How many bridges would we as a society be prepared to see collapse before we said that trying to ensure minimum standards were achieved was fundamental, even if that ended up restricting creative flair?

        There’s no easy answer, and the balance between trusting someone to do the best job and checking they are is an issue faced by every employer out there. Some do better at it than others, but the best ones will freely admit they’re not perfect.

        • Arthur Edwards

          Mark Watson, I appreciate your efforts to give a full answer, I don’t really have the time to engage in detail but would like to pick up this comment: “I know that education is infinitely more nuanced and complicated than building a house. but the same principles apply. ” – It is not just a question of it being more nuanced and complex, education is categorically different, so the same principles do not apply. Education cannot be commissioned, it is a voluntary process. Schools are only related to education in the way that hospital are related to healing, they may or may not be. You can commision a hospital but you cannot commission healing. The point of the analogy is that engineers are the arbiters of engineering standards – no one else is qualified to comment. Similarly in education, standards (in itself a problematic term because standardisation should not be the goal of education but respect for diversity) should be a matter for teachers as independent professionals. Just as I cannot educate your children better than you can (and me knowing better what you should be doing is not helpful) so too in education, teaching has a concrete specificity – its not about what in abstract intellectual terms people ‘ought to be doing’ according to external criteria, but about the aims and capacities of concrete individuals who are actually responsible. I might be able to help you to do a better job of parenting (possibly without you even noticing that I did or even that I was doing it) but it is very unlikely that you will become a better parent by me turning up at your house and throwing my weight about, issuing threats and acting as if I am the authority. In this respect humanity divides into distinct paradigms, not necessarily consciously so, those who seek external authority and want to impose it on others, and those who take sovereign responsibility, which includes being liable for its consequences. The results of the kind of education that you appear to be advocating (the anglo-saxon model of performance management) are now coming in throughout Britain and America, so if one is going to employ terms like ‘failure’ this is probably where one should start.

          I won’t say much more on the safeguarding question beyond that it is really questionable whether it does more harm than good – a large number of safeguarding cases have nothing to do with keeping children safe and a lot to do with arse-covering and malicious complaints.

          On both the above points many people seem to think and act as if there is a ‘system’ for improving society which the intellect can take hold of and apply – in my view that perspective arise from a very limited view of the human being. It might be more fruitful to start not with an abstract intellectual system but with the idea of the human being taking responsibility and exercising judgement – no system can instil character which is a question of moral substance, only other human beings can nurture and evoke it.

      • Mark Watson

        As for the safeguarding question, this really is one which could be debated ad infinitum. I agree that there are many times when hindsight makes a decision seem wrong and indefensible, when in reality it would have been impossible to make that call at the time. That balancing act is unfortunately always going to be there for teachers, as it is for social workers, doctors and nurses etc.

        But just as in those areas, we now as a society expect more from professionals. The devastating examples we’ve had of instances like Victoria Climbié means that as a society we can no longer accept the non-reporting of concerns. It’s not necessarily that we don’t trust the individuals trying to deal with it, it’s recognising that they might not see the big picture. So as a parent, and using my own position, I trust my boy’s teacher implicitly and believe 100% she would do her best for him if there was ever a problem. But part of that trust is because I believe that whatever she thought was the best way forward, she would also follow the guidelines and procedures when it came to reporting her concerns.

        It’s akin to the bigger question on personal responsibility. If I hear my neighbour physically abusing their child, do I have a duty to report it and should I be punished if I don’t?

        Apologies if I’ve gone off on a tangent. To bring it back to earth, I do agree with you that a lot of safeguarding issues identified by Ofsted are probably not example of where it’s gone wrong but where it might possibly go wrong in the future. It’s tough to be blamed for something that hasn’t happened, but as a parent I’d rather it was identified and dealt with before something bad happened rather than after.

        And all of this doesn’t apply to the situation as outlined above and what I have read happened at Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley. If true, this wasn’t a hypothetical safeguarding breach that could be argued either way – I would suggest no rational person would agree with the actions taken by that school.