The Government has launched an investigation into claims of extremism surrounding a proposed new free school in Yorkshire. This is from the Yorkshire Post…
Officials at the Department for Education (DfE) have begun an inquiry into alleged hardline Islamic views linked to the Northern Lights Free School in Halifax.
Schools Minister Lord Nash has told local MP Linda Riordan, who raised concerns about Northern Lights, the DfE is “urgently” investigating “a number of allegations”.
Northern Lights Educational Trust, which is due to open a primary free school in September, denies all claims of extremism and said it is committed to “British values that are common to people of faith and non-faith backgrounds”.
The concerns initially stemmed from Northern Lights’ links with a “community partner” called the Sunniyy School and a controversial leaflet sent to parents in November previously revealed by the Yorkshire Post.
It has now emerged Calderdale Council has written to the DfE about the contents of the leaflet but has 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about damage to community relations from the promotion of a hardline religious ethos, including a rise in Muslim pupils withdrawn from mainstream activities.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.
But a letter from David Whalley, Calderdale Council’s head of learning, sent on March 28 to the DfE, said: “A number of schools in the area of Park Ward have contacted the local authority voicing their concerns about pressure being applied to families to enrol children at the proposed school and raising other community cohesion concerns.
“Following the leaflet that was sent out to parents in the community… I had follow up conversations with headteachers, community officers and the Chair of the Northern Lights Trust. It was agreed that the tone of the communication is wholly inappropriate and this was acknowledged by the Chair who stated that the Sunniyy School is a community partner but has no formal links with the proposed free school. A letter acknowledging the inappropriate nature of the communication has since been issued by the Sunniyy School.”
Mr Whalley’s letter went on: “The local authority is also concerned that the rise in issues being reported regarding uniform for Muslim pupils, Muslim pupils participating in musical activities in school, Muslim pupils participating in curriculum activities related to Christmas etc have increased and schools have alleged that parents are being influenced by views espoused by the Sunniyy School.
“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.”
Mr Whalley’s letter said this concern had been corroborated by West Yorkshire Police, with officers from the PREVENT team looking into allegations surrounding both the Sunniyy School and the proposed free school. It added… that 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.”