Islamic primary school Alif Academy in Forest Gate faces closure threat

Newham Council are threatening to close a primary school in Forest Gate after just four months in a bitter dispute over planning permission.

Council officials have issued an enforcement notice against Alif Academy, an independent Islamic primary school that opened in September, claiming they do not have planning permission to operate as a school.

Headteacher Hasib Hikmat said their planning application was blocked by the council’s enforcement notice which has forced them into an appeals process after they spent �50,000 refurbishing the building.

But the council and the headmaster both confirmed that the school, at 313-319 Katherine Road, is registered with the Department for Education (DfE) and gained approval from Ofsted.

Mr Hikmat, who has been a teacher for 14 years, said: “The council are saying that they know better about children’s safety than the DfE and Ofsted who have issued us with documentation to say that the school is safe and they have very stringent rules.

“We are providing a good school that teaches the national curriculum with an Islamic ethos, it provides jobs, most of our teachers live in Newham, and we provide much needed school places for children in the area.”

Stating the pupils’ safety as their main priority, a Newham Council spokesman said: “It does not have either a fire certificate or planning approval as a school.

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“Permission was neither sought nor given for internal building works that have been carried out.

“The building should not be used as a school, children should not be left there and the current situation is unacceptable.

“Our duty as a council is to help enforce the law. That is why we are seeking to close the school.”

Meanwhile, the dispute has led to the council withholding a Nursery Education Grant giving 15 hours a week free tuition and entitlements such as free school milk which has left parents paying �1,010 a term.

Shanur Miah, father of two children at Alif Academy, said: “Their treatment of the school has been bigoted and extremely prejudicial.

“I mean, it’s one thing to have an agenda against an adult but to take milk away from children is just absurd.”

An planning appeal hearing is scheduled for February 7.