"Birmingham Muslim School in Small Heath was repeatedly criticised by Ofsted. Headteacher, Janet Laws, was temporarily banned for posing a 'potential risk'. Husband denied any links to terrorism and was removed from the US funding list. Inspectors also found staff hadn't protected pupils from risk of radicalisation.
A private Muslim primary school has been shut down after pupils were deemed under threat of radicalisation and its owner, the head teacher’s husband, was once accused by the US of funding Al Qaeda-linked terrorism.
Birmingham Muslim School in Small Heath had been repeatedly criticised by Ofsted and its headteacher, Janet Laws, was temporarily banned from interacting with pupils because she was a ‘potential risk’ to them.
An inspection in 2017 found two unaccompanied adults walking around the site, while officials also discovered teachers had not logged one welfare concern about a pupil in 16 years, a situation deemed ‘inconceivable’.
The £2,000-a-year school had a long history of being criticised by Ofsted and its owner, the Albayan Education Foundation Ltd, is now being investigated by the Charity Commission for not telling them about the negative reports.
An inspection in 2017 reported that Janet Laws, also known as Aisha Abdrabba, had named the school’s owners as the Albayan Education Foundation Ltd, which took in a mixed intake of pupils aged four to 11.
However, Ofsted said Albayan had not been registered as the owner of the school while the headteacher’s husband, Ghoma Abdrabba – also known as Ghunia Abdrabba – was identified as proprietor with the Department for Education database of schools.
In February 2006, Mr Abdrabba’s was named on a US Treasury list as a fundraiser for the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), a ‘brutal terrorist organisation’ organisation that had been in partnership with Al-Qaeda.
Mr Abdrabba successfully appealed to have his name removed from the list and has always denied terror links. He told Ofsted in 2017 he had ‘nothing to do’ with the Birmingham Muslim School but was still officially listed as a proprietor.
The 2017 inspection also identified a ‘weak culture of safeguarding’ at the institution, including a lack of awareness by staff to ‘the risks of pupils being radicalised’ and a failure to properly maintain registers.
The report continued : ‘Consequently, there is the potential for pupils to be exposed to extremist views through contact with older pupils or adults out of school, such as when on school trips.
‘As a result, the school is not taking all reasonable steps to protect pupils from exposure to partisan political views.’
In July 2019, Ofsted reported that Mrs Abdrabba had been temporarily banned from teaching after she was deemed at risk of ‘promoting views that undermine fundamental British values’.
The order was issued by the Teaching Regulation Agency in February 2019.
Mrs Abdrabba insisted to Ofsted that she had since been in a ‘non-teaching role’ – but inspectors could find no clear evidence that this was being regularly checked. It is understood that the ban is no longer in place.
The headteacher’s husband, Ghoma Abdrabba – also known as Ghunia Abdrabba – had been named as a fundraiser for a terrorist group. This was denied and he was removed from the list.
Following the Department of Education’s order for the school to shut down in November last year, Ofsted inspectors visited the site that day to find no pupils were present and the empty classrooms were being cleared of rubbish by staff.
Attendance registers showed there were 64 pupils still enrolled at the school when it closed on December 13.
Mrs Abdrabba told inspectors that parents had protested the closure and were reluctant to send their children to other local schools, so many would now be educated at home.
Birmingham City Council said it would help families find new places for their children.
‘Our officers have been supporting all the families of pupils from Birmingham Muslim School since the decision was taken for the independent school to close and will continue to do so,’ a spokesman said.
‘Children have either moved to other local schools or some families have opted to educate their children at home.
‘As with all families in Birmingham who electively home educate their children, these families have been allocated an education mentor to support them and ensure the education the children receive is suitable and appropriate.’
A Department for Education spokesperson said : ‘Safeguarding our children and young people throughout their education is paramount, regardless of the setting in which they are being taught.
‘Where any independent school fails to meet the independent school standards, we will take robust action. In December 2019, Birmingham Muslim School was removed from the register of independent schools.’
The Charity Commission, which is still investigating the school’s owners, said : ‘In September 2019 we appointed an interim manager to the Albayan Education Foundation.
‘We are aware of Ofsted’s report (about the closure). As our inquiry remains ongoing we are unable to comment further at this time, so as to avoid prejudicing its outcome.
‘We intend to publish a report on conclusion of our inquiry, setting out our findings.’
The charity’s most recent financial returns submitted to the Charity Commission, for the year up to June 2019, reveal it received an income of £305,800 and spent £290,900.
Most of its income was from donations, including through a charity shop and drop-off point it runs in the city. Its headquarters is listed as the same address as the school.
It also runs a charity shop and a donation point and office. The charity’s primary activities are listed as ‘provision of relief to needy from hardship, distress, assistance for medical and educational help and communal help for supply of fresh water.’
Its charitable work is primarily carried out abroad, in Syria and Yemen, though it also lists activities in the UK including support for the homeless and refugees.
During the year up to June 2019 the charity received school fees totalling £94,745 and charitable donations of £211,104.
Of its total income, only £70,203 is listed in the accounts as going to ‘donations and charitable projects’.
The rest appears to be for running costs, including £100,066 on ‘rent, rates, water and insurances.’
A total of £74,096 is listed as staff wages and social security costs for 16 employees.
It describes its future plans for this year including to ‘carry on supporting the projects that are already in existence, open another charity shop in Birmingham, and to open a sewing factory that will benefit the refugees so they can make their own clothing and a prospect of earning for the family.’
The school has been contacted for comment. “
Source : dailymail.co.uk, “Private Muslim primary school is closed down after head teacher ‘put pupils as young as four at risk of radicalisation’ and whose husband was once accused by US of funding Al Qaeda-linked terror”, published on February the 11th 2020. By Rory Tingle. https ://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7990389/Private-Muslim-primary-school-closed-radicalisation-fears.html