Pupils at six Muslim independent schools could be “vulnerable to extremist influences and radicalisation”, Chief Schools Inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw has warned.
In a letter to Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, the head of Ofsted said he believed “pupils’ physical and educational welfare is at serious risk”.
Ms Morgan contacted the schools in Tower Hamlets, London, and warned them they would be closed if they failed to draw up action plans to deal with inspectors’ complaints “within weeks”.
All six schools failed their inspections along with the state Sir John Cass Red Coat Church of England School, in Stepney, which The Independent revealed earlier this week would be criticised for failing to safeguard pupils from Islamic extremism.
Sir John Cass has previously been declared “outstanding”. The school and local authority were also told to draw up an action plan and face an inspection visit within six weeks.
The reports revealed a range of failings – including pupils at one school being unable to distinguish whether it was more important to follow Sharia or British law. At another, girls were kept waiting for their lessons to resume every day while the boys and their male teachers went to visit a local mosque.
In his letter to Ms Morgan, Sir Michael said: “I am not convinced that the leaders of these schools have sufficient capacity to bring about the necessary improvements to safeguarding the curriculum and the quality of teaching and learning.”
Other key issues identified included history and geography only being taught through the history of Islam, one school where all the library books were in Arabic, and a teacher ignoring a student expressing extremist views in school work.
Sir Michael said: “All schools focused intensively on developing Islamic knowledge and understanding at the expense of other important areas of the curriculum.
“In all schools, inspectors noted very limited opportunities to learn about history and geography other than those aspects relating to Islam… The lack of an appropriately broad and balanced curriculum was preparing pupils poorly for life in Britain today.”
Ms Morgan said: “The findings are very concerning. While there is no suggestion of a coordinated plot, it is clear that these schools are failing children and this is unacceptable. All schools must prepare children for life in modern Britain.
“We will be demanding urgent action plans from the independent schools and expect to see improvements within weeks. If changes are not made then we reserve the right to force the closures of the schools involved.”
Tony Mullee, chief executive of Sir John Cass’s foundation, said it was “greatly concerned” by the report, adding: “We remain committed to addressing the leadership, management and safeguarding issues raised in the report and will in future weeks be assessing the necessary action to return the school to an ‘outstanding’ rating.”
Leaders of Jamiatul Ummah School said they were “profoundly disappointed” by the report, adding that they believed Ofsted had “disproportionately emphasised” certain issues.
A joint statement from London East Academy and Al-Mizan School said they were “working hard together to make the required improvements”.
Numerous failings: Ofsted’s concerns
Ebrahim Academy “It does not prepare students for life in modern Britain. There is no provision for developing students’ creative skills or aesthetic appreciation.”
East London Islamic primary “Male teachers and boys make a daily visit to the East London mosque. Girls are required to wait for their return before lessons can resume.”
Mazahirul Uloom School “When discussing Sharia law and English law, [students] were unable to tell inspectors which laws they should follow and which were more important.”