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Muslim Free School Threatened With Closure
A Muslim free school could be closed if it does not take "swift action" about how it is being run, the Government has warned.
The Department of Education has written to the Al-Madinah Free School in Derby, demanding that it address concerns about its practices.
According to the letter sent by Schools Minister Lord Nash, it has failed to keep pupils safe, provide a good education and has discriminated against female staff.
He said the school had "manifestly breached" its conditions and could expect to be closed down if it does not make immediate changes.
The letter comes after claims that female teachers at the school were forced to wear hijabs even if they were not Muslim.
Other reports alleged female pupils were made to sit at the back of classrooms and boys at the front.
The school has been given a week to prove it has stopped any activities that could lead to women and girls being treated "less favourably" than men and boys.
It will have to show that it is meeting equality laws in any case where it proposes separating boys and girls or treating them differently.
It has also been ordered to tell staff they are not required to cover their hair if it is against their religion or beliefs.
Lord Nash told head of governors Shazia Parveen: "I will not tolerate breaches of the commitments you gave when entering into the funding agreement."
Further action that the school must take in the next few weeks includes showing it has a "broad and balanced" curriculum and welcomes children of all faiths and none.
The Department of Education has also demanded a full list of all staff, including their references and evidence of criminal record checks.
Lord Nash said: "Unless swift action is taken to address these concerns in a comprehensive way, I will be compelled to terminate the school's funding agreement."
This effectively means that the school will face closure if it fails to deal with the Government's concerns.
Al-Madinah, which is one of the Government's flagship free schools, opened in September last year.
On its website, it describes a "strong Muslim ethos" with shorter holidays and longer school days "to maximise opportunities for pupil achievement and success".
It adds: "At the centre of our school is a community of pupils, able to enjoy learning in a caring Islamic environment which promotes a culture of high expectations and outstanding performance."
Interim principal Stuart Wilson told the BBC last week that he had not received any complaints from colleagues over the school's dress code and denied pupils had been split up.
There is speculation the school will be branded inadequate by watchdog Ofsted in findings due out soon.
Al-Madinah was already forced to close last week after inspectors raised concerns about its records on staff checks.
It reopened to pupils on Monday after a return Ofsted visit to ensure the right measures were in place.
Ofsted chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw said: "Inspectors are now engaged in finalising the inspection report for Al-Madinah School, which we expect to be able to publish in the next few days."
Al-Madinah declined to comment on the letter.