School which taught that only Muslims were saved on Noah’s Ark is first to be fined for opening illegally

An Islamic school which taught that only Muslims and animals were saved on Noah’s ark has become the first to be successfully prosecuted for operating illegally.

The Al-Istiqamah Learning Centre in west London marketed itself as a study centre where home-educated children had part-time tuition, but Ofsted inspectors found that almost 60 children of compulsory school age were regularly attending the centre during school hours.

The case was referred to the Crown Prosecution Service after the centre failed to respond to Ofsted’s warning notice in November 2017.

Director Nacerdine Talbi and Headteacher Beatrix Kinga Bernhardt have now become the first people convicted of running an unregistered independent school and were each given a three-month curfew and ordered to pay a total of £970 towards costs. The school has also been fined £100. Which is a mere slapped wrist in the wider scheme of things.

While Ofsted said the centre did not solely teach religious education, photographs on the school’s website appear to reveal a focus on Islam.

One photograph of a child’s homework showed a question sheet about Noah and the ark. Noah is identified as a prophet of Allah, who built an ark and saved only Muslims and animals. A question which asked why Allah punished the people was answered: ‘they disbelieved’.

Other examples of Islamic-focused tuition include poems thanking Allah for providing grapes and a letter written by a student to a teacher in which he draws a mosque and writes: “Thank you for helping me. May Allah reward you!”

At Westminster Magistrates court, Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot said: “I have no doubt from the documents exhibited that the academic year at the centre is a ten month year. 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.” As such the centre was “being operated as an unregistered independent educational institution providing full-time education”.