Blacks-only school fights closure order

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The Independent Online
THE NATION of Islam is fighting to stave off the closure of an unregistered school that it runs in West London. The NoI operates the Star Chamber Academy school, based in three rooms at the Simba community centre in Shepherd's Bush. It is attended by 60 pupils aged between five and 16.

But Hammersmith and Fulham council, which owns the centre, has ordered the organisation to leave. A council spokeswoman said the school occupied space needed by legitimate black community groups. "It is not an appropriate place to run a school - even the NoI accept that," she said.

An NoI spokeswoman said the group was the victim of council racism. The council gave the school a month's notice in August, but hundreds of NoI supporters protested last month. Last week, the NoI was negotiating with the council over a new eviction date.

Problems for the school are also looming in the shape of the Department for Education and Employment (DfEE). A spokes- man for the department confirmed it had launched an inquiry into the legitimacy of the school. It has not been registered with the DfEE and is operating in a legal grey area. He warned that if the school does not meet the required standards in terms of its accommodation and instruction it would be closed down.

Meanwhile, lessons continue at the makeshift premises. The recognised curriculum is taught, but is combined with African history, black historical figures and Muslim practice.