School branded 'inadequate' over Islamic leaflet launches legal challenge

An Islamic girls’ school has launched a legal challenge after being rated ‘inadequate’ because inspectors discovered an “inflammatory leaflet” advertising a conference in 1994 on a bookshelf in the library.

Birchfield Independent Girls’ School, in Birmingham, insisted they had no idea the leaflet was there and it “has no place in our teachings, curriculum or ethos”.

The leaflet dates from 1994, and advertises an Islamic conference held in Wembley stadium that year.

Ofsted found pupils were “not safe from potential radicalisation” and rated safeguarding “ineffective”.

But a spokesperson for the school said: “Sadly, we are not the only faith-based independent school to fall victim to Ofsted’s draconian and inconsistent inspection practices.

“It remains a growing and dissatisfactory issue which must be addressed.”

The inspection report, published today, said it was a “seriously inflammatory leaflet that encourages radicalisation”. The leaflet dates from 1994, and advertises an Islamic conference held in Wembley stadium that year.

The report said the leaflet included warnings that “the sons and daughters of Islam are under continuous attack by the forces of non-Islam” and promotes the Khaleefah, or “total rulership of Muslims over the world”.

“A web-based search of the meeting could lead pupils to views promoting the proposed supremacy of Muslims in the world,” inspectors warned.

The report said the sentiments expressed in the leaflet “did not reflect the views of pupils” who are “taught to accept everyone, whoever they are” and learn to “build and strengthen bridges” with other religions as part of the inter-faith forum.

It said staff are quick to respond to any safeguarding concerns, but the presence of the leaflet itself “means safeguarding in the school is ineffective”.

Leaders at the school were not able to explain the presence of the leaflet or why it was “openly displayed on a library shelf”.

The report commended the school for delivering an improved and broad curriculum in “fun and interesting ways”, strong GCSE results, “mutual respect” between staff and pupils and good behaviour. It was rated ‘good’ for quality of education and personal development.

However, it said the school, which charges annual fees of £2,250, had not met all independent school standards because the inflammatory leaflet meant pupils “are not being adequately protected from the dangers of potentially extremist material”.

A spokesperson for the school said they were “deeply disappointed” with the judgements which “in no way reflect the paramount importance that we place on safeguarding, nor the evidence base collected by inspectors”.

“It is simply unacceptable for Ofsted to undermine all of the hard work put in by staff and pupils when coming to wholly inaccurate judgements of schools.

“We continue to challenge the decision-making which led to our inspection judgements and await Ofsted’s legal response.”

Ofsted’s annual report, released on Tuesday, found that just 61 per cent of independent faith schools were judged ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ at their most recent inspection, compared with 80 per cent of non-faith independent schools.

Sixty-one per cent of Muslim schools reached the top grades, compared to 76 per cent of Christian and 39 per cent of Jewish schools.

Last year, 40 per cent of the 158 warning notices issued to underperforming private schools went to faith schools. Islamic schools alone received 27 per cent.

A spokesperson for Ofsted said: “Our inspection handbook makes it clear that a setting will be rated inadequate if it is considered that safeguarding is ineffective.”