Barking school asks pupils about their periods if they don’t attend prayers, says Ofsted report

Lady Aisha Academy is based in the same site as Barking's Al Madina mosque. Picture: Ken Mears.

Lady Aisha Academy is based in the same site as Barking's Al Madina mosque. Picture: Ken Mears. - Credit: Archant

Pupils are asked questions about their periods if they don’t attend daily prayers at a Barking Islamic girls’ school, the schools watchdog Ofsted has found.

Staff at Lady Aisha Academy ask girls if their menstrual cycle is the reason they don't attend prayers after a certain number of days, pupils told an inspector. Under Islamic law, menstruating women and girls are forbidden from praying.

"This personal questioning does not promote pupils' self-esteem and confidence," inspector Carolyn Dickinson wrote in her report, which was published on November 15. "Nor does this practice encourage respect for women, as set out in the Equality Act 2010."

The findings are despite the school - which is on the same site as the Al Madina Mosque - supposedly banning the practice after a visit from the council in April. Ms Dickinson reported the headteacher, Naeem Aslam, wasn't aware it had continued.

Lady Aisha Academy is a private school that charges £3,600 a year for every pupil.

The inspector carried out an emergency inspection with no notice after the Department for Education (DfE) "received information that the school was tracking pupils' menstrual cycles". During her visit in September, Ms Dickinson spoke to the headteacher, a safeguarding lead at the school, a group of staff, a dozen pupils and the council.

It's up to the DfE, which regulates private schools, to decide what happens next at the school.

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In response to the report, Lady Aisha Academy said in a statement: "The school does not agree with the findings mentioned in the report and has lodged a complaint to Ofsted." The Post asked it to expand on its problems with the Ofsted report, but Mr Aslam said it had no further comment.

An Ofsted spokesman said: "We don't confirm whether complaints have been received or comment on them. But we do take all complaints very seriously, and deal with them in line with our published procedures."

Ofsted's alarming findings are despite Lady Aisha Academy achieving a Good status from the schools watchdog just last year. It was praised across the board, including for the leadership of the head, extra-curricular activities and pupils' levels of reading.

Inspectors at the time said one parent told them the school "strongly encourages pupils to become strong, independent, free thinking young women."