Muslim free school proposal put on hold over concerns about extremism

30 April, 2013

A proposed Muslim free school that had been ‘pre-approved’ by the Government to open from September has had its plans put on hold while an investigation is conducted by the Due Diligence and Counter Extremism Division of the Department for Education (DfE). Concerns were recently raised about the proposed Northern Lights Primary Free School by the British Humanist Association (BHA) and others after the Sunniyy School, a private school with links to Northern Lights, wrote to parents telling them that attending a meeting in support of the Free School was ‘more serious than death’.

Following on from this incident, Calderdale Council learned of wider concerns about Northern Lights, with a letter from the Council’s head of learning saying that ‘The local authority is led to believe that there are close links between the Sunniyy School and the proposed free school and therefore the potential risk of a negative impact on community relations within the area is high.’ The letter also said that the police’s PREVENT team have investigated allegations around both schools, and the police ‘have confirmed to the local authority that it is their view that the two organisations are inextricably linked and that a potential negative impact on the local community could result from the creation of the free school in question.’

Following the previous revelations, Halifax MP Linda Riordan wrote to the DfE and asked them to launch an investigation into the allegations. Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Schools Lord Nash has now written back to Ms Riordan, informing her that  an investigation will take place, and saying that ‘If these allegations are substantiated, we will not hesitate to take appropriate action. You are right that no decision has yet been taken to allow the Northern Lights Free School to open, and we will not take the project further until we have completed our investigation.’

BHA Faith Schools Campaigner Richy Thompson commented, ‘We welcome the news that the allegations around this Free School proposal are being taken seriously by the Government, and look forward to the outcome of the investigation.

‘We do not think that the state should fund religious schools as we believe that all schools should strive to be equally welcoming of every pupil, regardless of their religion or belief. However, while funding for “faith” schools continues, it is vital that there is sufficient diligence to ensure that funds do not go to groups that hold extremist views, as this would do serious damage to community cohesion.’


For further comment or information, please contact Richy Thompson on 020 7324 3072.

Read the previous BHA news item, ‘Group tells parents that attending meeting in support of proposed Islamic Free School is “more serious than death”’, 12 April 2013:

Read the Yorkshire Post’s coverage of the story:

Read more about the BHA’s campaigns work on ‘faith’ schools:

View the BHA’s table of types of school with a religious character:

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.