Director Nacerdine Talbi and head teacher Beatrix Bernhardt of the Muslim learning center, Al-Istiqamah, for home-schooled kids have been fined for running an illegal school, the Crown Prosecution Office announced Wednesday.
After a three-day trial, the two have been convicted of conducting an unregistered school, which taught over 50 children between five and eleven years old, and were each given a three-month curfew between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.
An unregistered school in #London has become the first in the country to be prosecuted for operating illegally. Two staff members were convicted following a @cpsuk prosecution after an @Ofstednews investigation: https://t.co/rxBfVHIvqY #unregisteredschools pic.twitter.com/ZL8eEUPmH1— CPS (@cpsuk) 24 октября 2018 г.
In the course of the investigation, it emerged that the center taught children that Noah was a prophet of Allah, who built an ark and saved only Muslims and animals.
“The fees being charged were £230 per month for primary school age pupils and £250 for secondary school age and envisaged a ten-month year. I find that Fridays were a special religious day but according to the many examples of the timetable there were Arabic lessons taking place,” Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot said.
Speaking after the judgement, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Education, Children's Services and Skills Amanda Spielman said that such schools “deny children a proper education and leave them at risk of harm and, in some instances, radicalization.”
“We hope that the judgement sends out a message to all those running such schools that they will face justice. We will continue to investigate and expose illegal, unregistered schools and where we find them, play our part in making sure they are closed or become properly registered. Further action is needed now to protect the children who attend these settings,” she added.
This marks the first time that people have been prosecuted for running an educational institution without registration in England and Wales.
“The center claimed it simply provided tuition to home-schooled children but using witness statements and photographic evidence collected by Ofsted inspectors, the CPS was able to prove this was not the case. It is a criminal offense to run an unregistered school and we will take steps to prosecute those responsible where there is the evidence to do so,” said Lynette Woodrow, a spokeswoman for the Crown Prosecution Service.
Between January 1, 2016 and July 31, 2018, the Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted) identified 420 suspected illegal schools, UK government official data reveals. As a result of the probe, 55 establishments have already been closed, while others are still under active investigation.