UK & World News
Muslim School Shuts During Ofsted Inspection
A Muslim free school accused of imposing strict Islamic practices has closed on the first day of an Ofsted inspection.
The schools regulator said it cannot reveal the findings of its investigation into Al-Madinah until the two-day inspection - which started on Tuesday - is finished.
But the Derby school closed its doors as the inspection started.
Al-Madinah's interim principal, Stuart Wilson, said on its website that the short-term closure was due to a "health and safety issue".
"I have taken the decision to close the school to primary and secondary pupils until I am confident that all children are safe on site," he said.
"As parents, you will be informed directly, and on the website, when you are able to send your children back to school. I expect this to be in the very near future.
"Assuring you that we have your children's best interests at heart."
Ofsted launched the probe after reports emerged that several female teachers at the school were told to wear a headscarf, or hijab, whether they were Muslim or not.
A non-Muslim former teacher reportedly quit her job after being pressured to follow a Islamic dress code.
She told the Derby Telegraph that the free school's strict dress code was not mentioned during her interview and was not in her contract.
She said she had agreed to wear a headscarf but was "hassled" to dress more modestly - despite wearing a business suit to work.
"The skirt was well below the knee and I wore thick black tights that covered my legs," she told the Derby Telegraph.
The teacher - who did not want to be named - also told the newspaper that she did not agree with segregation in classes.
"I also objected to the school's policy of sitting girls at the back of classrooms, to no avail," she said.
"The reason given was that girls are allowed to look at boys but the boys are not allowed to look at the girls, but how can that be good for the children's education?"
The teacher also claimed that staff members were not allowed to take non-Halal food into the school or wear jewellery.
A Department for Education spokesman said the free school, which opened in September 2012, was already being investigated before the allegations became public.
"We discussed the problems with Ofsted and it launched an immediate inspection. We are waiting for Ofsted's final report and considering all legal options," the spokesman said.
The school was first being investigated by the department's Education Funding Agency over alleged irregularities with its grants.
Free schools are state funded but not under local education authority control. They can be set up by groups such as charities, businesses, community and faith groups.
The school describes itself as having "a strong Muslim ethos" and says pupils enjoy "learning in a caring Islamic environment which promotes a culture of high expectations and outstanding performance".
Sky News Online has contacted Al-Madinah for comment.