Birmingham Islamic school sues Ofsted after being failed for leaflet

Nazia Parveen
Photograph: Michael Heath/Alamy Stock Photo/Alamy Stock Photo

An Islamic school in Birmingham has mounted a legal challenge against Ofsted after it was failed by the educational watchdog over a 25-year-old “inflammatory” leaflet.

Birchfield independent girls’ school in Aston was rated as “inadequate” by Ofsted after inspectors found a leaflet about a 1994 Islamic conference in the library.

The school was predicted to get a “good” judgment until the discovery during the second day of the inspection, the Birmingham Mail.

Inspectors said: “The leaflet states: ‘Today we find that the sons and daughters of Islam are under continuous attack by the forces of non-Islam.’”

It also promoted the Khaleefah, which is defined as “the total rulership of Muslims over the world”.

The watchdog found the school was providing a “good” education for pupils but safeguarding was ineffective owing to the contents of the leaflet. This result in Birchfield been given an “inadequate” rating.

The leaflet advertised a Muslim conference at Wembley stadium in 1994 and inspectors said it “could lead pupils to views promoting the proposed supremacy of Muslims in the world”.

Birchfield has launched a legal challenge, saying it had been a victim of Ofsted’s “draconian and inconsistent inspection practices” against faith-based independent schools.

In a statement, the school said: “The leaflet identified has no place in our teachings, curriculum or ethos. We work hard to promote fundamental British values and the rule of law at our school.

“It is simply unacceptable for Ofsted to undermine all of the hard work put in by staff and pupils when coming to wholly inaccurate judgments of schools. We continue to challenge the decision making which led to our inspection judgments and await Ofsted’s legal response.”

In the report Ofsted inspectors said they were “confident the sentiments [in the leaflet] did not reflect the views of pupils”, but its presence in the library showed the school “was not adequately protecting pupils”.

Therefore, they concluded, Birchfield failed to meet independent school standards rating the quality of education and pupils’ personal development as “good”, but that safeguarding and pupil attitudes was inadequate.

The report says: “The arrangements for safeguarding are not effective. This is because of the serious nature of the inflammatory leaflet found in the school library, dating from 1994.

“Leaders have not made sure that pupils are protected from inflammatory and unsuitable literature. Therefore, pupils are not safe from potential radicalisation.

“School leaders could not say how the leaflet that was found got into the library, nor why it was openly displayed on a library shelf. Leaders could not say why staff had not spotted and removed the leaflet.”

Birchfield’s headteacher, Rehana Mogra, said she was deeply disappointed, adding that it was indicative of a negative attitude towards faith-based school.

“[The judgment] in no way reflect the paramount importance that we place on safeguarding, nor the evidence base collected by inspectors. Our pupils are safe, well cared for and our school has robust systems in place to safeguard our pupils,” she said.

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.”