Give Muslim free school more time … PLEAAASSEEE!

We’ve been hearing a lot recently about a certain failing Free School set up in Derby. Well, a new parents’ group set up to support Derby’s failing Muslim free school is to petition the Government for time to turn the school around.

The Parents and Friends of Al Madinah School has been formed following a meeting of mums and dads last weekend in the wake of a damning report by Ofsted. It called the school, which has sites in Nelson Street and Friar Gate, “dysfunctional”, “in chaos” and “inadequate”, placing it in special measures.

Schools Minister Lord Nash had already given the school until November 1 to come up with an action plan to make improvements or face having its funding cut and closure.

Parent Abdul Ghafar said: “We feel very much let down by the Government. It seems our children are not being treated like children from other state schools in the area, which are also in special measures. We request that the Prime Minister shows he really does care about our children and gives this school more time and support to get things right.”

Parents will be attending meetings over the next few days to launch a campaign based on giving the school time and support to deliver the changes required.

Mr Ghafar said: “We expect more than 200 parents to attend and we aim to have a petition with thousands of signatures of support. We are not prepared to let this school close.”

The petition reads: “This is a petition by the parents and friends of Al-Madinah Free School, Derby. We strongly believe that this school should be given the same opportunities and support to improve as other state schools locally and nationally, when they are under special measures. We have confidence in the governors and staff to achieve this, God willing. We believe this free school, given time, has the potential to become an outstanding school.”

The school, which has 412 pupils aged four to 16, hit the national headlines after it was revealed on September 20th that non-Muslim female staff were being forced to cover their heads with a hijab – an Islamic head scarf.

Lord Nash ordered the school to stop the practice and it is no longer a requirement of staff dress. He also imposed two interim deadlines by which the school needed to supply him with information ahead of November 1st. One expired last Tuesday and the other, which required the management to satisfy Lord Nash it was fit to run the school, was yesterday.

The school and the Department for Education remained tight-lipped about whether or not the deadlines had been fully met. A DfE spokesman said: “Information has been sent to us but we will not be formally commenting on what we have received.” He declined to comment on the petition.

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