A Scottish nursery has been accused of offering school places to white children while at the same time denying them to Muslim kids.
The Daily Record conducted an investigation into Little Scholars Nursery in Broughty Ferry, Dundee, after Scotland’s Health Secretary Humza Yousaf alerted them to possible discrimination.
During a probe by his wife, Nadia El-Nakla, the nursery’s headteacher Michelle Mill said it had no space available for three applicants who had ethnic, Muslim-sounding names, including the couple’s daughter Amal.
However, responding to fake inquiries from three mothers with non-ethnic names, the Dundee nursery said spaces were available.
The Daily Record then made its own inquiries using fake names. Under “Aqsa Akhtar” they asked Michelle Mill for any afternoons free for a three-year-old daughter Amira. Five days later after prompting, on July 12, Mill replied there was “no availability for a three-year-old.”
That evening, they emailed under the name “Susan Blake” about a couple of afternoons at any point for Sophie – a three year old. The next day, Mill sent a registration form and leaflet.
She said she wanted to see where Sophie “would fit in on our registers” and to “let you know of availability and arrange a suitable time for a show round for you.” This was in contrast to her statement the day before that there was resolutely “no availability for a three-year-old.”
This week Humza Yousaf lodged a complaint with the Care Inspectorate calling for an explanation over the contrasting responses from the Little Scholars Nursery .
He pressed the watchdog to establish whether there had been discrimination on grounds of “either ethnicity or religion” – claims which the nursery vehemently denies.
Yousaf said: “Nadia and I really want an explanation why there are such contrasting responses to the emails, sent from ethnic and white Scottish-sounding names. Yet despite being given plenty of opportunity to clarify their position, the nursery has refused to explain the differing email responses. I find that disturbing and consequently have turned to the Care Inspectorate to get answers.”
A spokesperson for Little Scholars Day Nursery said: “Our nursery is extremely proud of being open and inclusive to all and any claim to the contrary is demonstrably false and an accusation that we would refute in the strongest possible terms. We also stand by the member of our staff, named by the media today, who has been with us since the nursery opened 14 years ago. She is professional, compassionate, incredibly hard working and a valued member of our team.
“In addition to our owners being of Asian heritage, across more than a decade we have regularly welcomed both children and staff from a range of different religious, cultural, ethnic and racial backgrounds including two Muslim families currently. We have also regularly made arrangements to accommodate different lifestyles by, for example, providing a halal menu for those children who come from Muslim families.
“We note Mr Yousaf’s call for a Care Inspectorate investigation and this is something we would absolutely welcome. We have nothing to hide and look forward to the opportunity to demonstrate the policies and procedures we have in place to ensure we are a nursery that is open and welcoming to all.”