Six Muslim faith schools in London are expected to be branded inadequate today over fears that they are not preparing pupils for life in modern Britain.
In a memo to Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, Ofsted inspectors are expected to highlight ‘serious concerns’.
They will also criticise a leading state school in the same east London borough after it emerged that sixth-formers used a Facebook page to post references to Sheikh Omar Suleiman, an Islamic preacher who has called homosexuality a ‘disease’ and a ‘repugnant shameless sin’.
The problems at Sir John Cass Foundation and Redcoat CofE School in Stepney have echoes of the recent Trojan Horse affair, which engulfed schools in Birmingham, said to have been infiltrated by Islamic extremists.
Sir Michael Wilshaw, the head of Ofsted, will publish a series of reports on schools in Tower Hamlets today alongside the advice note to Mrs Morgan.
Ofsted is expected to say it has ‘serious concerns’ over Sir John Cass and the six private Muslim faith schools. The watchdog will claim that the lack of a broad and balanced curriculum in the six faith schools was preparing pupils poorly for life in modern Britain, according to the advice note leaked to Channel 4 News. In all six schools, pupils’ physical and educational welfare were also at serious risk, inspectors said.
The schools focused intensively on developing Islamic knowledge at the expense of other important subjects on the curriculum, it is claimed.
Inspectors noted very limited opportunities to learn about history and geography other than those aspects relating to Islam. Music, drama and art were rarely taught.
Ofsted will today condemn the Sir John Cass school, which was previously rated as ‘oustanding’, for failing to protect pupils from extremism.
Inspectors are expected to accuse staff of failing to act on police warnings about social media sites produced by a sixth-form Islamic society at the school. They are likely to warn that Islamic society Facebook pages are linked to individuals associated with extremist activity.
Pages still available online show that pupils cited Sheikh Suleiman, an American preacher who has voiced explicitly anti-gay views.
On his own Facebook page, Sheikh Suleiman, a scholar at a conservative Islamic teaching institute, asked followers: ‘When Allah describes homosexuality as a repugnant shameless sin and details his punishment of a people that practised sodomy, how can anyone who believes in Allah not find it immoral?’
He also said: ‘If as Muslims we don’t take a clear stance on this, we will be forced to conform and watch this disease destroy our children.’
In a separate posting, he said: ‘Practising homosexuality is a sin like adultery, drinking, etc. The sin should be condemned, and the sinner should be called to the path of the Most Merciful.’
It does not appear that pupils at Sir John Cass quoted these particular comments but referred to the sheikh in a different context.
Quotes posted from the sheikh refer to how the Islamic faith can ease the pain of grief.
Ofsted is expected to criticise a lack of monitoring of a YouTube channel set up by the Islamic society. Further criticisms are expected to centre on playground segregation of boys and girls, which the school says is an historical arrangement.
In 2008, Ofsted estimated 93 per cent of the school’s intake was from ethnic minority groups, with two-thirds from Bangladeshi backgrounds. About 80 per cent of students were classed as bilingual.
The school, once one of the lowest-performing in the country, was transformed into one of Britain’s most successful inner-city comprehensives by head Haydn Evans.
It was graded ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted in its last two inspections, but it will be put into special measures for failing to safeguard pupils.
There were claims from local education sources last night that Ofsted was ‘over-reacting’ to problems in Tower Hamlets, which they said were different from the Trojan Horse affair.
‘There are no governors wanting to take over the school and introduce hardline Islamic practices,’ said one.
Robert McCulloch-Graham, director of education at Tower Hamlets Council, said: ‘Where any issues in our maintained schools do occur, we have a strong record of intervening swiftly and successfully to address them. We will work with the leadership of this school to address any issues identified by Ofsted.’