UPDATE: On 25 March 2020, Folami and Daniah were each sentenced to four weeks in prison (suspended for 12 months), 120 hours unpaid work, and ordered to pay court costs. This is the first time the proprietors of an illegal school have been given a custodial sentence. The Advance Education Centre, the trust responsible for the school, was found guilty of conducting an unregistered educational institution and fined £1,890.
Humanists UK has welcomed the latest successful prosecution of the providers of an illegal school. Suleyman Folami and Mujanet Daniah were found guilty of running an unregistered school on the floor above an independent Islamic primary school called Advance Education Centre which they also manage but is legally registered as a school.
This is the fourth prosecution for running an illegal school and the third to involve a school with religious character. The charitable trust responsible for the school has also been prosecuted, with the former chairman, Mohammad Dauhoo, found guilty of neglecting his duties. Folami, Daniah, and the current trustees will be sentenced in due course.
Advance Education Centre describes itself as ‘a one-form entry faith-based independent school’. It is currently rated as ‘requires improvement’ by Ofsted and, when it was inspected in 2018, failed to meet the independent school standards on safeguarding and quality of education. The providers claimed that the illegal school operating on the floor above the primary school was a supplementary setting offering additional tuition for home educated pupils. However, inspectors found that it was, in fact, teaching up to 66 pupils of secondary school age for over 25 hours per week, as well as setting homework and issuing detentions. This means it was operating as a full-time school and was legally required to register.
Humanists UK has long campaigned for additional regulations – including additional powers for Ofsted, a register of home-educated pupils and better legal definitions of full-time education – to prevent illegal schools from operating. Investigations into these schools have found that, when they have a religious character, they often provide an extremely narrow faith-based curriculum, in inappropriate, dirty, or unsafe settings. There is evidence that pupils in some of these schools have been exposed to homophobic, sexist, and extremist literature, and, in some cases, physical abuse.
According to Ofsted, the providers of the school at the centre of this case did attempt to register the ‘supplementary’ setting in April 2019 but a pre-registration inspection raised concerns that the site was unsuitable. When giving her verdict, magistrate Emma Arbuthnot, said the case was ‘the most serious example of an offence of this kind [she had] presided over’.
Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Ruth Wareham commented: ‘We are pleased to learn that another successful prosecution of the providers of an illegal school has taken place. However, since we raised the alarm on this issue over six years ago, this is only the fourth such prosecution to go ahead and we know that, in at least one case, providers have vowed to continue to teach pupils regardless with loopholes in the law allowing them to do so with impunity.
‘For this reason, we need to see a raft of changes to the law in this area, and we need them to happen fast. The Government has consulted on a register for home-educated pupils and has said it intends to strengthen Ofsted’s powers and tighten up the legislation around which settings have to register as schools. But until this happens, thousands of children are at risk in unsafe, unsuitable settings and this is completely indefensible. Action must be taken now to ensure that all children receive a broad and balanced education in an environment that keeps them happy, healthy, and safe.’
For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Press Manager Casey-Ann Seaniger at email@example.com or phone 020 7324 3078 or 07393 344293.
Read our most recent article on Government proposals to tackle illegal schools.
Read more about Ofsted’s frustrations around their inability to act on illegal schools.
Read more about Humanists UK’s response to Ofsted’s 2019 illegal schools report.
Read more about our work on illegal schools.
Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by over 85,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.