Regulator opens inquiry into Islamic school that 'segregated staff by gender'

The statutory inquiry concerns the Rabia Educational Trust, which operates a school for girls and boys in Luton, Bedfordshire

Rabia Girls and Boys School
Rabia Girls and Boys School

The Charity Commission has opened a statutory inquiry into an educational trust that runs an Islamic school, amid concerns about the alleged segregation of male and female staff and its hosting of guest speakers.

The commission announced today that it had opened an inquiry into the Rabia Educational Trust, which has objects of the advancement of education and operates an independent Islamic school for girls and boys in Luton, Bedfordshire.

The regulator said the charity had failed to comply with an action plan issued by the commission in September 2015 to address regulatory concerns identified during a visit in January 2015, which included filing its overdue annual returns for the year to 31 August 2014 and making other improvements to its governance.

Trustees were given until 28 March to comply, the regulator said, but the 2014 returns remained overdue were are almost a year late.

The regulator said it had also required the charity’s trustees to provide a written response in relation to concerns raised in the media about the charity and its hosting of guest speakers at the school.

The schools inspectorate Ofsted last month wrote to Nicky Morgan, the education secretary, expressing concerns that male and female staff and governors at the school were segregated during a meeting with inspectors by the use of a screen and that they were also separated according to their gender during whole-school training. Ofsted judged the school to be inadequate after the unannounced visit, which was carried out in April.

The school said at the time that the claims about segregation were inaccurate and it had been unfairly targeted and harassed.

The Charity Commission said it was aware of Ofsted’s findings and, although educational matters were not for the commission to investigate, it was the responsibility of the charity’s trustees to ensure that it complied with other relevant laws relating to the charity and its activities.

"The trustees did not respond to the commission within the required timeframes and their response did not address all the actions required of the trustees as set out in the action plan," the regulator said today.

"Therefore the commission opened an inquiry into the charity and has exercised its legal powers to compel the trustees to provide information and documents regarding the charity to the commission."

The trust, which had an income of £562,146 in 2012/13, has filed its accounts late in each of the previous four years. Its accounts for 2009/10, 2010/11 and 2011/12 were all filed at the end of February 2014, with the returns for 2009/10 almost 1,000 days overdue.

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