In the latest of our most high profile troubled school in Derby, the Chief of Greenwood Dale Foundation Trust, who recently sponsored the Al-Madinah Free School, has argued that their trust will turn this school around.
Derby’S failing Muslim free school has been thrown a lifeline by the Government.
After being threatened with closure because of its poor academic standards and dire financial situation, Al-Madinah School could become part of a 22-strong academic trust.
The school’s three founding trustees – Shazia Parveen, Shahban Rehmat and Ziad Amjad – have said they will step down, paving the way for new sponsors. Greenwood Dale Foundation Trust, which runs the City of Derby Academy, has been confirmed as Schools Minister Lord Nash’s preferred sponsor.
Trust chief executive Barry Day said they were keen for a successful outcome and would examine what needed to be done.
He said: “We have taken on many challenging schools and we believe we can help Al-Madinah. We have still to look at the accounts and talk to everyone involved before we make a final decision to step in. It has to be right for everyone.”
Mr Day expects to meet with parents and staff within the next 10 days to discuss the school’s future.
He said: “I want to talk with parents, trustees, staff and the wider community to get a clear sense of where they want to go with the school.
“I particularly want to build relationships and I am convinced that, by meeting, we can move the situation forward in a good and purposeful way.
“I am happy to involve everyone who wants to be involved in any discussions that will take place in the next few weeks.
“The bottom line is that we are not taking over the school immediately, rather we are exploring what benefits we can bring to the school and if the situation is right for the school and for us.
“This is not a formal consultation but a chance for us to hear from the people involved and as quickly as possible.
“I always lead on potential new projects and will be heading up any meetings which take place.
“I want people to be honest about what they want to happen with the school, particularly parents, for whom the education of their children is extremely important, because they made an active choice to move them out of a mainstream school into this one.”
Parents may be wondering whether or not the school will stick with its Islamic ethos in the future.
Lord Nash appeared to think it would when he wrote to the retiring trustees about Greenwood Dale.
He says: “An important factor in making my decision is delivering your original vision for an inclusive, all-through school with a Muslim ethos, serving the local community.
“The Greenwood Dale Foundation Trust has a track record of providing a high-quality education to children from a Muslim background.”
There are concerns about this school though. Not everyone is pleased that Al-Madinah free school could remain open. Also, the Government’s free school programme has come under fire in the House of Commons regularly in the past few weeks.
Mike Lake, of the Derby Campaign for Inclusive Education, said: “This bad decision was predicted from day one. The Government has too much to lose by admitting failure with one of its flagship free schools. The school will still not be answerable to local people.”
The Derby Community Education Forum, formed in 2012 when proposals for the school were put forward and concerns were raised by forum members, is pleased the trustees have resigned. Spokesman Zafer Iqbal said: “The community had concerns over a year ago. The school has become stigmatised and needs new leadership, rebranding and collaborative partnerships with excellent schools if it is to survive. Importantly, current and potential parents as well as the local community have to be part of the process moving forward and this is not happening. There needs to be greater transparency in the future than there had been in the past. The entire leadership at the school has to go – it is not acceptable that only some people are asked to step down. Meetings behind closed doors are unacceptable, as are unilateral decisions imposed on the community.”
The Labour-led Derby City Council has been at loggerheads with the Government over academic standards for more than 12 months. Last year, the city council unsuccessfully applied for a judicial review into the Government’s decision to turn Sinfin Community School into an academy, under the Greenwood Dale Foundation Trust. City councillor Martin Rawson said: “I will continue to have grave concerns about the standard of education at this school.”