A head teacher and her father have been found guilty of running an unregistered school in a run-down building, in the second prosecution of its kind.
Nadia and Arshad Ali were convicted at Westminster Magistrates’ Court of running an unregistered private school, Ambassadors High in Streatham.
The school charged £4,500 a year per pupil and had 45 children on the roll.
By law, any institution which has more than five full-time pupils has to be officially registered and inspected.
Mr Ali and the company behind the school were fined, while sentencing of Ms Ali is due to take place on Monday.
In June 2018, inspectors from Ofsted’s unregistered schools taskforce visited the school – which was described as having an Islamic ethos – and warned the head teacher, Nadia Ali, that they believed the school was operating illegally.
When inspectors returned a month later they found the school was still open and a second warning notice was issued.
In September 2018, the school applied to register as an independent school, with Nadia Ali’s father, Arshad Ali, named as proprietor.
Ofsted carried out a pre-registration inspection in February 2019, which identified serious safeguarding issues.
It also judged that the school would not meet the Independent School Standards.
However, the school remained open after failing its pre-registration inspection and continued to operate illegally.
Lack of checks
The school charged fees of up to £4,500 per pupil, per year, but its record keeping on admissions and attendance was found to be poor.
At the pre-registration inspection, inspectors were told there were 45 children of compulsory school age on the roll.
Inspectors observed different numbers of children at each inspection and were given different accounts of how many pupils were on roll.
It also emerged that the school’s leaders had not conducted even the most basic suitability checks on teachers working at the school.
Inspectors also found that the head teacher had no plan or strategy to promote fundamental British values, or encourage respect for other people.
‘Wellbeing at risk’
HM Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman said the case was just the “tip of the iceberg”.
She said: “As I have said several times over the last few years, Ofsted urgently needs stronger investigatory powers, allowing us to seize evidence and interview suspects and we need the government to tighten the legal definition of a school.
“I urge them again to do so at the earliest possible opportunity.”
Despite Ofsted inspecting almost 260 suspected unregistered schools since January 2016, and issuing warning notices to 71 settings, this is only the second time a case has been brought for prosecution.
This is because Ofsted’s powers to investigate unregistered schools are severely limited, making prosecutions less likely to succeed.
Ms Spielman added: “Ofsted is clear that unregistered schools deny children a proper education and put their safety and wellbeing at risk.
“I hope today’s judgment sends a clear message to these schools that Ofsted will not waver in our efforts to bring them to justice.”