ISF run schools back in the news
Categories: Latest News
Friday March 21 2014
The Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph this week both covered a report by the British Humanist Association on schools in receipt of public funding which it claims are cause for concern. Among Muslim schools singled out for criticism by the BHA is the Islamic Shakhsiyah Foundation (ISF).
An FOI by the BHA on state grants to schools revealed that the ISF had received public funding for nursery school places as part of the Government’s “free early education” scheme. The charity’s latest published accounts show it received a total of £300,472 in grants in 2011-12 including an “early years grant” amounting to £71,154.
In news coverage both papers highlight David Cameron’s allegations against the schools when Leader of the Opposition. In a botched Prime Minister’s Questions in 2009 Cameron claimed the charity was a ‘front’ for Hizb-ut-Tahrir and ridiculed the then Labour Government for providing funds under the Preventing Violent Extremism programme to a school which, he claimed, was part of the problem of Muslim extremism. Mr Gove, then Shadow Education Secretary, also accused the charity of having links to HT which “run deeper than personnel.”
The BHA on the back of its FOI has called on the Department of Education to “urgently” review the “appropriateness” of the funding saying “Two of the schools involved have been repeatedly dogged by accusations of extremism and five years ago Michael Gove and David Cameron made a big stand about how they should not be getting funding, yet nothing has changed since – despite four years of Coalition Government.”
The BHA’s intervention is about as accurate as the misinformation fed to Cameron in 2009 when the false claims about the ISF were first raised. The Charity Commission in 2010, which both the Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail acknowledge towards the end of their respective articles, cleared the ISF of any links to HT stating the ‘issues identified and considered [by the regulator] did not give rise to regulatory concerns.’
Moreover, in a detailed rebuttal by former Education Secretary, Ed Balls, Cameron’s accusations were given short shrift with Balls noting that allegations on the teaching of extremism at the schools were utterly unfounded and that this had been verified by Ofsted inspectors. Balls said:
“The question is: were these schools promoting terrorism or extremism? We have sent in Ofsted advisers, who have gone in and said ‘No’. I looked across the curriculum and the evidence was ‘No’. In the last few weeks…Haringey and Slough looked at the facts and there was no evidence that extremism has been promoted.”
Balls further criticised Cameron’s misplaced and unfounded remarks, adding, “The issue here is that a very divisive allegation was made about two schools which splits communities, which divides our country, on the basis of false allegations.
“The responsible thing for David Cameron to do was to check the facts with me before he made smears and allegations which divide our communities.”
It is remarkable that allegations refuted in 2009 could be rehashed by the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph on the back of poor verification of factual evidence by the BHA. The BHA’s claim that ISF run schools “have been repeatedly dogged by accusations of extremism” is certainly true. That it is responsible for some of the misinformation is also true.