Al Madinah free school: Michael Gove’s “moderate Muslim experiment” exposed

Al Madinah Free School, Derby

Following last week’s allegations regarding the al-Madinah School in Derby (whose trustees were allegedly promoting extremism whilst financial irregularities were being investigated), the school has today been shut down, writes Zafer Iqbal.

The headteacher is citing a temporary closure due to health and safety concerns whilst reports are circulating that many of the staff had never been Disclosure and Barring Service checked.

Whilst Ofsted – the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills  – has been asked to investigate the school and its practices, Education Secretary Michael Gove and his department’s role in all this has been largely ignored by the media.


So exactly why did the Department for Education (DfE) ignore the concerns and complaints preceding the opening of al-Madinah School?

Prior to the opening, the local press, union leaders, and the Muslim community raised a number of concerns surrounding the founders, their backgrounds, the lack of transparency in the application process, deception of community members in supporting their application, and alleged intimidation.

Whilst all of these matters were brought to the attention of local councillors, the police, and the DfE, no serious steps were taken by any of these bodies. Later, the school was approved and funding released.

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Unanswered Questions

The founders of al-Madinah school comprised of a group of ex-committee members of a local institution, supported by a former council worker who facilitated PVE funds for controversial projects.

In the application process, this close-knit group portrayed themselves as a diverse group of “local parents, teachers, and business owners.” They omitted to highlight whilst acting as committee members, they spent over £70K of funds on a crèche, which Ofsted failed on virtually every point, reporting:

Ofsted ordered the school's closure
Ofsted ordered the school’s closure

“The leadership and management of the setting is not effective… Systems to monitor and evaluate practice within the setting have not been appropriately devised… Interaction is ineffective in supporting and guiding children’s learning… Staff demonstrates an awareness of the range of policies and procedures. However they do not always successfully implement them which potentially impacts on children’s welfare… Additionally, some of the written policy documents do not reflect practice within the setting. ”

Worryingly Ofsted had highlighted a concern that has now resurfaced:

“Recruitment procedures are not sufficiently robust to ensure that adults are safe to work with children, as there are significant gaps in the information gathered from some applicants and insufficient checks undertaken.

“Additionally, the risk assessment does not include all of the relevant information and identify potential risks and hazards to children in all aspects of the environment…”

In addition, financial auditors repeatedly refused to sign off the accounts over their entire tenure at the charitable institution due to concerns about financial irregularities – with similar allegations now being raised.

Loans were taken to purchase a property for a school project, which came to be ultimately rejected as an unsuitable location for a school.  The new committee had to dispose of this property and spent considerable time and effort rectifying the crèche, whilst bringing the financial situation under control.

Inappropriate Delegation

As part of the application process, the founders appear to have designated the school as “faith ethos” as opposed to “religious character.”

The latter designation was historically maintained in law as it permitted Christian schools to adopt a religious ethos and implement religious tests to appoint, remunerate, promote, and discipline/dismiss teachers – something that may be useful for conduct but which is incompatible with Islamic precepts.

It also permitted schools to discriminate admissions on religious grounds and opt out of controversial subjects that conflicted with their values and ideals.

It is puzzling why the “faith ethos” designation was chosen for an Islamic School, since had they chosen otherwise, many of the current allegations could have easily been avoided with new staff clear about expectations before even applying.


In meetings with parents, the founders were asked why the website and brochure stated al-Madinah school would be a “multi-faith” school rather than an “Islamic” one, as per their verbal claims and assurances.

Parents were informed the communications material was for government consumption, with plans to discretely “Islamise” the school. When told this was potentially fraudulent, dishonest, deceptive, and would bring the community and Islam into disrepute, the founders claimed a local Imam had endorsed their approach.

What they ignored was this endorsement was negligent, unprofessional, and foolish if not illegal – something they were advised at the time.

Lack of Transparency

The founders repeatedly pressured community organisations to endorse the school. Given community concerns relating to deceiving community members in providing support for their application, lack of community representation, and lack of transparency, organisations asked for copies of application paperwork including minutes of meetings with the DfE and the security services. Nothing was provided.

Members of the community who requested the same were stonewalled – at meetings they would be told to leave, the head would be asked not to answer questions, and the police would be called.

Concerns were raised to local councillors, the police, and the DfE – none seemed interested in investigating, despite millions of taxpayers’ monies being used to fund it.

Michael Gove

It then begs the question, why would Michael Gove, Secretary of Education, approve such a school and provide it with millions in funding?

Beginning life as a journalist, Michael Gove authored the controversial “Celsius 7/7,” having “discovered” Islam was a secular religion with no say in social, political, or economic matters – views adopted by members of the government after receiving a copy.

Education secretary Michael Gove
Education secretary Michael Gove

Gove has no expertise in Islam or Islamism however as ex-chairman of the Policy Exchange, a UK-based think tank, he published an infamous book “The Hijacking of British Islam,” which made claim that masjids were selling extremist literature to the public.

The BBC’s Newsnight later revealed that many of the receipts the Policy Exchange had shown as proof of purchases had actually been forged.

Ken Livingstone said:  “People like Michael Gove and others have been stridently Islamophobic for some time, and they assume there are votes in this.” When asked to justify this statement, he replied: “Just look at his writings and the general tone he takes is to depict Islam as genuinely a threat. He’s at the extreme end of this.”

This dislike is reflected in his speech to the Policy Exchange in relation to free schools, where Gove stated: “…we are determined to ensure that those who receive public funding – and especially those who are shaping young minds – do not peddle an extremist agenda… we have set up a dedicated team within the Department who will rigorously police any application for public money, including Free School applications.

“And we make it explicit in the application guidance that we will reject any proposers who advocate violence, intolerance, or hatred, or whose ideology runs counter to the UK’s democratic values.”

Trojan Horse

It is then not really a mystery as to why Gove and his department repeatedly refused to investigate claims of duplicity, fraud, and intimidation by the al-Madinah founders.

I believe he was attempting to recruit stooges that would further his Trojan horse ideological agendas through the vehicle of a so-called “Islamic school.”

Perhaps his new apprentices assured him they would promote his dubious version of Islam and his department in turn promised them the opportunity of setting up a series of such schools across the country.

Many members of the community reported that the founders had meetings with members of the Department of Education including Gove himself, meetings were held in their homes behind closed doors and all attempts at determining what was discussed have been blocked.

Not only that the founders are alleged to have told community members that the Department of Education allegedly took all objections from the community and threw them in the bin in one of their meetings with Gove; they told the founders that Derby is an extremist hotspot and the school will need to counter it, (a Derby Evening Telegraph article was even released stating the school will be an “anti-extremist school”).

Serious concerns if they turn out to be true.

As the Rand Foundation had recommended, governments should conceal the shortcomings of their advocates and publically expose the shortcomings of their enemies.

It is for this reason no investigation was ordered and little information has ever been revealed despite freedom of information requests having been made to the department.

Welcome to the hijacking of schooling by Gove to promote his nefarious ideologies.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect those of 5Pillarz. Michael Gove and the founders of al Madinah school will have a full right of reply if they wish to have it.

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