The government has blocked plans for a controversial free school in West Yorkshire after an investigation into claims of Islamic extremism. This is from the Yorkshire Post…
Officials at the Department for Education (DfE) had launched an inquiry in April into alleged hardline Islamic views linked to the Northern Lights Free School in Halifax.
Schools Minister Lord Nash had told local MP Linda Riordan, who raised concerns about Northern Lights, that the DfE was “urgently” investigating “a number of allegations”.
Today the DfE confirmed it was refusing permission for the primary school to open as planned in September – but its statement contained no reference to the controversy, saying only that its organisers lacked the “capacity and capability” to proceed.
A DfE spokesman said: “Setting up a free school is not an easy task. The proposers of the Northern Lights Free School have worked hard on their project. However, our priority has to be to open free schools with the best chance of performing strongly from the outset and giving children a first-class education. Unfortunately, in this case, we judged that the capacity and capability of the group was not sufficient for the project to proceed.”
Northern Lights Educational Trust denied all claims of extremism and said it was committed to “British values that are common to people of faith and non-faith backgrounds”.
The concerns surrounding the school initially stemmed from Northern Lights’ links with a “community partner” called the Sunniyy School and a controversial leaflet sent to parents in November.
It later emerged that Calderdale Council had written to the DfE about the contents of the leaflet and also raised wider fears about damage to community relations from the promotion of a hardline religious ethos, including a rise in Muslim pupils withdrawn from mainstream activities.
The Sunniyy School leaflet promoted a meeting of parents by stating: “If it was said to us ‘If you do not attend this meeting your child will die’ I am certain we would all make sure that we attend the meeting.” It added: “There have been several incidents recently where children in various settings have been forced to do things against Islam.”
The Sunniyy School denied the leaflet and meeting were connected to rallying parental support for Northern Lights.
Northern Lights has previously stated the leaflet was not “issued, endorsed or supported” by them.