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British Islamic school 'spent £1m of taxpayers' money funding Pakistani boarding school'

By Richard Garner

Council officials in Birmingham are investigating claims that a trust running the city’s first-ever Islamic school spent £1 million of public money funding a new school in Pakistan.

The allegations concern the Al-Hijrah school, a voluntary-aided state funded school for four to 18-year-olds which was set up in 1999 and run by a trust.

The school was at the centre of controversy earlier this year when it was placed in special measures after an inspection by education standards watchdog Ofsted declared it to be “inadequate”.

An interim board was appointed by Birmingham City Council to run the school after the entire governing body was sacked after it was revealed its budget was £900,000 in the red.  It was initially refused entry to the school by the previous regime running it but has now taken over.

Now it is understood the council is investigating claims that the Trust used public money to help fund a new £1 million boys’ only boarding school in the city of Ziarat in Pakistan at a time when the school in Birmingham was in dire need of improvement.

According to the minutes of its meeting in September, it discovered: 14 members of staff were without contracts, seven were still working there even though their contracts had expired and 29 had not had Criminal Record Bureau checks.

“There are a number of teachers with no teacher reference number but receiving qualified teacher salary,” they add.

The document said that staff had left but their pay had not been stopped.

Staff from a neighbouring academy, Calthorpe, were drafted into the school to help it deal with its staffing crisis.

Birmingham City Council officials said they were concerned over the “severe” deficit in the school’s budget and had carried out a retrospective investigation into the financial records of the former governing body.

“We have gathered enough information to warrant further investigation into the use of public funds and we continue to work with the relevant statutory agencies,” a spokesman added,

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education said: “We are aware of these serious allegations which are being investigated by Birmingham City Council.  We are liaising closely with them and continue to monitor the situation.

“The school is currently in special measures and we have approved the council’s choice of interim executive board.”

The Ofsted report on the school said the achievement of five to 11-year-olds was “inadequate”, adding: "Pupils do not make sufficient progress and in some cases the standard of their work declines.”

It added: “More than half of the parents and carers who responded to a questionnaire felt that their child was not taught well.

“The quality of teaching overall is inadequate...the significant amount of weak teaching means leaders are unable to guarantee pupils will maintain the standards achieved in 2013.”

So far police have not been called in to investigate the claims but the city council is understood to be prepared to involve them if it finds any evidence of criminal activity.

Al-Hijrah was not one of the 21 schools in the city involved in the “Trojan Horse” inquiry which looked at allegations that school governing bodies were being taken over by hard-line Islamists.

Source: Independent. Since publication of this report, the Trust have issued a press release denying the allegations.

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