Campaigners for inclusive schools have strongly criticised the granting of public money to schools with links to the Islamist organisation Hizb ut-Tahrir.
The response follows news that £113,000 has been granted to the Islamic Shakhsiyah Foundation, a charity which runs three independent schools but whose trustees are senior members and activists in the controversial group.
Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, chair of the Accord coalition for the reform of faith schools to meet wider community needs, commented: “That so many of the leadership of these schools — including a headteacher — are members of what is widely regarded as an extremist organisation begs the question: is the aim of these schools education or indoctrination?"
He added: "We are now left wondering which other independent faith schools are getting public funds and if they are building community cohesion or undermining it."
Though nonviolent, Hizb ut-Tahrir regards integration as “dangerous” and advises British Muslims to “fight assimilation” into British society. It wants to create a global Islamic caliphate, initially in Muslim-majority countries and then across the rest of the world.
It says that “those [Muslims] who believe in democracy are Kafir”, or apostates. It asks all Muslims to keep apart from non-believers and boycott “corrupt” British elections and political processes. It has a tiny following and its views are rejected by most British Muslims.
The term 'Islamist' is widely used to denote and distinguish modern forms of hardline political Islam from the majority Islamic traditions.
According to a new report from the government's education inspection agency OFSTED, more than one in five private schools is failing to teach children about other religions.
Inspectors say that some schools also use teaching materials that display a “bias” in favour of certain groups.
In one instance, a Muslim school is reported to have used “inflammatory language” to describe the situation in Palestine and a Jewish school stocked books with “strong language” about the Middle East.
“Some of the published teaching materials seen contained biased or incorrect information about the beliefs of other religions,” declared the report.
The report was commissioned after Ed Balls, the Schools Secretary, said "concerns" had been raised about the extent to which private faith schools were preparing pupils for "life in wider British society".
Earlier this year, a think-tank study claimed some Muslim schools were allowing pupils to be influenced by extremist values.
In the latest study, Ofsted inspected 51 fee-paying faith schools, including those teaching Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu children, to evaluate how well they prepare children for “modern Britain”.
It said that all schools “worked hard” to develop children’s spiritual, moral, social and cultural development. Pupils were also brought up to feel they belonged as British citizens, but usually within the context of their own religion.
“There was some dissatisfaction… with the phrase 'preparation for modern Britain',” said the report. “For some of the schools, their concern was to protect children from the perceived negative influences of secular society, such as electronic media.”
Twelve of the schools visited raised “concerns about any requirement to teach details of other faiths”, the report said.
There are now around 7,000 state-run faith schools in England and several hundred in the private sector.
The Accord coalition, of which Ekklesia is a founding member, campaigns to ensure that all schools operate fair and open admissions, employment and curriculum policies. At present faith schools are exempted from such provisions by law.