Two convicted of running illegal school in London

A head teacher and her father have been found guilty of running Ambassadors High School in Streatham, south London, illegally - in only the second prosecution of its kind.

Nadia and Arshad Ali were convicted at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on 12 September and the sentencing of Ms Ali is due to take place on Monday. Mr Ali and the company behind the school were fined and order to pay a victim surcharge.

Despite inspectors from Ofsted’s unregistered schools taskforce warning the head teacher that they believed the setting was operating illegally, they continued operating. A second warning notice was also issued.

In September 2018, Ambassadors High 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 and 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.

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.

The school’s leaders had not conducted even the most basic suitability checks on teachers working at the school. Inspectors also found that the headteacher had no plan or strategy to promote fundamental British values, or encourage respect for other people.

HM Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman said: "Ofsted is clear that unregistered schools deny children a proper education and put their safety and wellbeing at risk. I hope this judgment sends a clear message to these schools that Ofsted will not waver in our efforts to bring them to justice. We will continue to expose these places, and make sure they either close or become properly registered and subject to regular inspection. Only then can we make sure all children are safe from harm and receiving a decent education that prepares them for life in modern Britain.

"While I welcome the verdict, I am concerned that this case is just the tip of the iceberg. 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."

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