Troubled Islamic free school in Derby to close its secondary school

Al-Madinah free school has caused controversy in the past with claims that it was imposing strict Islamic practises

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The Independent Online

A troubled free school is to stop teaching pupils of secondary school age from September.

Schools Minister Lord Nash, the man responsible for free schools and academies, announced that the Al-Madinah free school in Derby would close its secondary school because of the poor quality of teaching.

In a letter to Barry Day, the new chairman of the trust which runs the school, he said: “I am particularly concerned at the poor quality of secondary teaching and the lack of breadth in the secondary curriculum.

“I have come to the conclusion that it would simply not be in the interests of parents or pupils at the secondary school to continue to fund provision which has failed them in the manner now apparent.”

The decision is the second free school closure announced by the Department for Education following the decision to close the New Discovery free school in Crawley, Sussex, from Easter.

Teachers’ leaders and Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt said the decision exposed the flaws in the Government’s flagship programme.

“This is more evidence that David Cameron’s free school programme is damaging education standards in this country,” said Mr Hunt.

“Ofsted [the education standards watchdog] judged that Al-Madinah is completely dysfunctional.”

Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, added that the decision to scrap secondary schooling “will come as a shock to parents and pupils”.

“Once again Education Secretary Michael Gove has a lot of questions to ask about his flagship free school policy.

“It is becoming increasingly apparent that the process for approving groups to open free schools is inadequate and that in his haste to open these schools, procedures for ensuring that providers deliver the highest standards of education are not in place.”

The Al-Madinah school opened in September 2012 but there were later claims that it was imposing strict Islamic practices such as forcing women to wear headscarves. Ofsted ordered a temporary closure on health and safety grounds as adequate checks on staff had not been carried.

The Government replaced the Trust’s governing body and Lord Nash said yesterday he was confident the school would deliver “high quality” primary education.