BLACKBURN’S Muslim Tauheedul Schools Trust was this weekend braced for controversy over a TV documentary claiming staff members at its Olive Primary branded ‘clapping and whistling’ as ‘Satanic’.
Channel Four’s flagship ‘Dispatches’ programme sent an undercover reporter to the school and is understood to have footage of individuals in the staff room commenting on what should be taught in an Islamic environment.
When Dispatches contacted the Tauheedul Trust with a number of allegations, it immediately contacted the Department for Education about the possible contents of the documentary and invited it to inspect any aspect of its ‘policies or practice’.
The department ordered an emergency ‘no notice’ Ofsted inspection of Olive Primary, and the two Tauheedul Islam Faith, Education and Community Trust (TIFECT) secondary schools on Tuesday.
The trust, which confirmed that Dispatches had filmed undercover in the school, said the inspections had gone ‘very well’ and promised to act ‘if anything that emerges on the film is shown to undermine our progressive vision, ethos and approach’.
Footage filmed for possible inclusion in Monday’s documentary is understood to include teaching assistants talking in the staff room at the Olive School saying: * Clapping and whistling are un-Islamic and ‘Satanic’; * Music in school should be banned as non-Muslim; * The wearing of ties is forbidden in Islam as they could turn into serpents on the ‘Day of Judgement’; and * Gay people should be ‘stoned to death’.
Another claim the programme may contain is that the trusts’s schools hosted lectures by three extremist preachers, at least one of whom has been banned from some universities because of his radical Islamic views.
The documentary is currently being edited by Channel Four whose spokesman could not confirm what Blackburn footage, if any, would appear in the final version.
Early indications suggest the Ofsted report will give the schools a clean bill of health.
Blackburn MP Jack Straw and Shear Brow councillor Solly Khonat said they trusted the school’s teaching was suitable for 21st century Britain.
The documentary comes in the wake of the ‘Trojan Horse’ controversy over alleged attempts to convert schools in Birmingham to radical Islamic teaching.
There is no suggestion at this point that the Dispatches programme is highlighting actual teaching practices at Tauheedul.
The school is widely seen as a model of how to run Muslim faith schools.
Its flagship Tauheedul Islam Girls' High School and Sixth Form College, founded in 1984, has regularly been given an ‘outstanding’ rating by Ofsted.
The Trust also runs a boys secondary school and the Olive Primary, in Bicknell Street, and has ambition to become a beacon national chain of Islamic faith schools.
The Channel Four website says of the 30-minute programme ‘Faith Schools Undercover: No Clapping in Class’ to be aired at 8 pm on Monday (July 14): “Dispatches goes undercover to question the role of faith communities in our schools.
“The programme hears from those at the heart of the 'Trojan Horse' controversy in Birmingham, and films undercover in a primary school where clapping and whistling are described as 'satanic' practices.
“But this is an issue that isn't just about Islam; elsewhere Dispatches uncovers a network of illegal schools where more than 1,000 boys are being taught suspicion of the outside world, and the only subject is religion. ”
A Channel Four spokesman declined to discuss the contents of the programme as there was ‘no final cut or transcript’.
However we understand the reference to ‘clapping and whistling’ was understood to be in the undercover footage from the Olive Primary School.
The spokesman said the documentary would look at the wider question of teaching and practice in faith schools and would include both Islamic and ultra-orthodox Jewish schools.
An Ofsted spokesperson said: “We can confirm that Ofsted has undertaken inspections of the three Tauheedul schools following a request from the Department for Education. The inspection reports will be published in due course. We are not in a position to comment further. ”
Tauheedul governor Coun Khonat said: “I am absolutely confident the trust’s schools provide a first class education for young people in modern day Britain.
“Whatever may be said in staff room gossip is not reflected in what goes on in the classroom.
“We need to look at what these schools have achieved for their pupils.”
Mr Straw said: “I reserve final judgement until I see the programme.
“From what I know, the allegations are groundless.
“I am a personal friend of the trust chairman Kam Kothia, whom I have known for 20 years. I trust him completely.
“Mufti Hamid Patel, the chief executive, is a first class head teacher.
“Between them they run a very good group of schools.
“I am sure Channel Four has recordings of what has been said. This appears to be what individuals have expressed in the course of conversations in the staffroom.
“Previous Ofsted inspections of Tauheedul schools have rated them as excellent. I do not expect these inspections to be any different.”
There was no-one at Blackburn with Darwen council available for comment yesterday.