A headteacher who carried on teaching after she was convicted of running a £2,500-a-year illegal Islamic private school has been spared jail.
Nadia Ali, 40, denied that Ambassadors High School in Streatham, south London, was a full-time ‘school’ on the basis that the institution only offers 18 hours of education per week.
But Ali and her father Arshad Ali, 74, were first convicted of running an unregistered school following one of the first prosecutions of its kind in September 2019.
Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard the school failed to carry out proper background checks on teachers and had ‘failed to promote fundamental British values’.
A month later, Ali told BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme she wanted to continue operating and would apply for registration.
Between September 2019 and March 2020, inspectors found the classes were still being held in the building, despite the school not being registered.
Now Ali, of Streatham, has been given a suspended sentence after being convicted for a second time. Her father was also fined during a sentencing hearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court yesterday.
Commenting on the case HM Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman said Ali and her father had acted with ‘breathtaking arrogance’ in continuing to run the school.
Nadia Ali, 40, denied that Ambassadors High School in Streatham, south London, was a full-time ‘school’ on the basis that the institution only offers 18 hours of education per week. After being convicted of running the illegal school, Ali (pictured) told BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme she wanted to continue operating and would apply for registration
Ali and her father Arshad Ali, 74, were first convicted of running unregistered school (pictured) following one of the first prosecutions of its kind in September 2019
Ms Ali claimed her school, which had 34 students, was not breaking the law because it was open for just 18 hours a week.
She said the school had applied for an Ofsted registration but failed an inspection because of safeguarding concerns.
Speaking to the BBC in the wake of her first conviction, she said she wished to continue teaching while running a registered school.
What is classed as a school under UK law?
A school is regarded as an establishment which provides all, or substantially all, of a child’s education and has five or more pupils of compulsory school age attending.
All schools must be registered with the Department for Education (DfE) and comply with set standards.
Ambassadors Home School Limited had 34 boys and girls aged between five and 13 on its register but its operators failed, despite warnings from Ofsted, to register the establishment as a school, as required by law, the CPS said.
Ali denied that Ambassadors High School in Streatham, south London, was a full-time ‘school’ on the basis that the institution only offers 18 hours of education per week.
‘I’ve been teaching for 15 years and I’ve seen how children need a different approach and that what we’re trying to do at Ambassadors,’ she said.
‘This is why I believe in what we’re trying to do because we’ve seen a lot of results within our children. They’re happy learners.’
Deputy Chief Magistrate Tan Ikram earlier told Ms Ali: ‘In defiance of your previous conviction you gave an interview in which you said you intended to carry on. I find that very serious, and contemptuous.’
Ms Ali, of Streatham, admitted breaching regulation provisions contrary to the Education and Skills Act 2008.
She was sentenced to eight weeks imprisonment, suspended for 12 months, 120 hours of unpaid work, a 10-day rehabilitation activity requirement, and a prohibited activity requirement of not running or managing a school.
She was also ordered to pay costs of £500.
Arshad Ali was fined £300 and ordered to pay costs of £200 while Ambassadors Home School Limited was fined £1,000 and ordered to pay costs of £500 for conducting an independent educational institution that is not registered.
Despite Ofsted flagging almost 300 suspected unregistered schools since 2016, only a handful of cases have ever been brought to court because of the regulator’s limited investigatory powers.
Paul Goddard, from the CPS, said: ‘These defendants continued to run an illegal school despite their previous conviction for the same offence.
‘Nadia Ali’s determination to defy the law was made clear by an interview she gave to the BBC, following her first conviction, in which she vowed that the school would remain open.
‘Ofsted inspectors carried out three further inspections and found the setting to be operating yet again as a school.
‘During two of these inspections children appeared to be sent home from classes early in an attempt by staff to conceal the fact that the space was being run as a full-time establishment.
‘Unregistered schools pose a serious threat to children.
‘During one visit to the school inspectors found a lack of evidence to indicate that all teachers employed by the school were qualified to teach, or that all had passed DBS checks.
‘Registration of schools enables inspectors to regularly visit and inspect schools to ensure standards are being met, appropriate and quality teaching is being provided and children are being kept safe. By failing to register with the DfE, illegal schools are able to evade these checks, putting children at risk.
‘It is a criminal offence to conduct an unregistered independent school and we will work with Ofsted to take appropriate steps to prosecute those who are responsible for running these illegal institutions where there is the evidence to do so.’
HM Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman said: ‘It is with breathtaking arrogance that Nadia and Arshad Ali continued to run this illegal school after their convictions two years ago.
HM Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman said: ‘It is with breathtaking arrogance that Nadia and Arshad Ali continued to run this illegal school after their convictions two years ago.’
‘I’m pleased that the judge ruled that a suspended prison sentence was appropriate, given the seriousness of the repeat offending.
‘Unregistered schools deny children a proper education and put their safety and well-being at risk.
‘I hope today’s sentence sends a clear message to all those running unregistered schools that Ofsted will not tire in our efforts to bring them to justice.
‘But as I have said many times over the last few years, and as this case demonstrates, we urgently need the legislation to be strengthened so that we can take action against these places quickly and conclusively.’