Trustees of a charity that ran a controversial Birmingham school have been banned by a watchdog – after a worker was allegedly photographed assembling weapons in war-torn Syria. The picture was discovered during a raid by the West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit.
Government inspectors had previously highlighted concerns over extremism and criticized the leadership of Birmingham Muslim School (BMS). It was based at Small Heath and run by the Albyan Education Foundation Ltd (AEFL), a registered charity.
The school was closed by the Department for Education in December 2019, after being repeatedly criticized as ‘inadequate’ in Ofsted reports. An inspection had highlighted a “weak culture of safeguarding” and a lack of attention from staff to the “risks of radicalization of students”.
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Now the Charity Commission has released its own long-awaited report into the AEFL and has banned three directors – including former headmistress of Birmingham Muslim School Janet Laws. Its findings included details of a charity worker who was allegedly photographed in Syria “assembling guns”.
The report states: “The Charity Commission has disqualified the trustees of the Albyan Education Foundation Limited from becoming trustees of any other charity, after finding failings in the management of its school and oversight of its operations in Syria. .
“The Commission found its trustee, Janet Laws, who also acted as the charity’s school principal, particularly responsible for her failings in relation to the school and operations at the foreigner, given her role in the charity, so the Commission disqualified her for 12 years.
“The other two directors of the charity, Ahmed Abdulhafeth and Ali Qasem, have been disqualified for 10 years. During their periods of disqualification, individuals cannot be directors of a charity or hold any office or employment with managerial duties in a charity.”
The report adds: “In addition to operating the school, the charity raised property, items and funds with the aim of assisting those in need. Prior to and during the investigation, l The charity has sent goods and funds to Turkey and Syria to help those affected by the ongoing Syrian crisis.
“The inquest has obtained footage, taken from devices seized from the employee’s home…by West Midlands Counter Terrorism Police. Trustees have confirmed that their representative was featured in the footage and was apparently assembling firearms fire at Atma refugee camp in Syria.
“The content of these images has raised further concerns about the charity’s overseas activities and the oversight and controls exercised by directors over them. This raises concerns for the Commission as to concerns those with whom the administrators are partners to facilitate their work abroad.”
The employee who was allegedly photographed in Syria was not identified in the Charity Commission report.
The Charity Commission also criticized the AEFL for not telling the watchdog that the Department for Education had filed FIVE improvement notices on the school, formerly based in Golden Hillock Road.
Its report concluded: “A number of Ofsted inspection reports found that the quality of teaching provided by the school, as well as the quality of school leadership and management, was deficient. The investigation found there were parallels in the school administrators’ failure to comply with Ofsted and the DfE over the school and their failure to uphold the duties and responsibilities of the Bodies Act. charitable.
“The directors of the charity failed to comply with their legal obligations – both compliance with charities law and compliance with relevant law relating to the charity’s activities, which are related to educational activities carried out for the purpose of furthering the objectives of the charity.
“These failures were not isolated, occurred over a period of time, and administrators were either unable or unwilling to take the necessary steps to remedy these failures on their own.”
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Ofsted had also previously criticized the confusion surrounding the school and the Albyan Education Foundation Ltd, of which Ms Laws is director. He had said: “The relationship between the governors, trustees of the charity, director and directors of the company called ‘The Albayan Educational Foundation Ltd’ is very opaque.
“It is not clear who is the owner and, therefore, who is responsible for the work of the school. Neither Ms Laws nor Mr Abdulhafeth and Mr Qasem could be reached for comment.
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