Sunday, October 02, 2016

UK: Another Muslim school with "disappearing" money

The founder of a flagship free school has been jailed for five years for defrauding the Department for Education of £69,000 from government grants.

Sajid Hussain Raza, 43, was jailed at Leeds Crown Court with former academy staff members Daud Khan, 44, and Shabana Hussain, 40, who were sentenced to 14 months and six months respectively.

The trio were convicted in August of making payments into their own bank accounts between 2010-2013 from grants given to help set up the Kings Science Academy in Bradford in 2011.

The academy was praised by then prime minister David Cameron during a high-profile visit in March 2012. It has since become part of the Dixons Academies Trust and is now called Dixons Kings Academy.

Jailing the three defendants, Judge Christopher Batty said: 'The three of you were convicted by the jury of a number of counts relating to your dishonest dealings with public money during the periods when you were setting up the Kings Science Academy and, in your case Sajid Raza and Daud Khan, also in the first 15 months of its operation.'

The prosecution's allegation that £150,000 of government grants were included in the fraud was dismissed by the judge. He said that the amount defrauded was £69,000, with the rest used legitimately by the school.

Judge Batty said free schools were part of the Conservative Party's 2010 manifesto to allow flexibility and specialism within education and to allow children to be taught in ways not catered for in the current education system.

He said: 'They are called free schools because of the way they were set up, entrusted with funds as a trust, a non-profit making organisation. They were set up to educate children. They were not set up to be a vehicle for making money by those who ran them.'

Raza made the application for the 500-place secondary school to open in September 2011.

The proposal was approved and grants were given by the Department for Education to cover the costs incurred during the setting up of the school.

The court heard that Raza and his sister Hussain, a teacher at the school, made a series of payments into their own personal bank accounts from these grants.

Khan, the financial director, did not receive any payments but the court heard the fraud could not have taken place without his participation.

Raza and Khan also submitted inflated or fabricated invoices for rent, fees for heads of department and recruitment services.

The trial heard that Raza, the founder and principal of the school, used some of the money to make mortgage repayments on rental properties he owned to alleviate his own financial problems.

He had 10 county court judgments against him by August 2013 and was making a £10,000-a-year loss on his rental properties.

Benjamin Hargreaves, defending Raza, said his client's motivation was 'entirely genuine' and Judge Batty said he believed the defendant did not set up the academy with the intention of fraud.

But he told him: 'This school may well have been the thing you always wanted to pursue but you also wanted money. Making money was important to you because of the school and because of the debt around your neck.'

He added: 'In the end, it was this exposure to debt that probably drove the offending in relation to the Kings Science Academy frauds.'

Raza was found guilty of four counts of fraud, three counts of false accounting and two counts of obtaining money by deception.

Hussain, a teacher at the school and Raza's sister, was convicted of one count of fraud and one count of obtaining property by deception.

Khan, the financial director at the school, was found guilty of two counts of fraud and three counts of false accounting.

Kings Science Academy was among the first wave of free schools set up as part of a flagship education policy introduced by the government following the 2010 general election.      


UK: Headteacher who decided to ditch ALL homework because she said teachers don't have time to mark and prepare lessons is reported to the education watchdog

A headteacher has been reported to the education watchdog after she decided to stop giving homework to pupils because she believes 'teachers don't have enough time to mark and prepare lessons'.

Catherine Hutley, principal at Philip Morant School and College, in Colchester, Essex, claims scrapping after-school work will allow staff to use the time to plan better lessons.

But the move did not go down well with all parents, and one has reported Ms Hutley to Ofsted.

Haidee Robertson-Tant, whose children are in Year 7 and Year 9 at the school, said she was left seriously concerned about the impact on children's education after the headteacher's decision.

She has now contacted the school's governors to complain, as well as the school and Ofsted.

She is also considering setting up a meeting so parents can meet to discuss their concerns.

Mrs Robertson-Tant said: 'There was already a lack of homework last year and I had to get a private tutor to give my son additional support in Maths and English. 'I fear children will fall behind because of this decision.

'The school held an event to tell us what was being proposed and asked for our views. The next thing it has been introduced.

'I think there are a lot of frustrated parents out there who don't have a clue what is going on. 'Insisting the curriculum is completed in lessons will put more strain on teachers.'

Mrs Robertson-Tant said voluntary extra study also created more arguments. She added: 'I think the idea of reducing homework is right but there needs to be more guidance. 'If you make it optional, children will not do it.'

A number of parents have commented on the issue, including Emma Macey Clarke who said: 'I think homework should be set in limited amounts at secondary school just to check the children have understood what they've learnt.

'I don't, however, agree to nightly homework and ridiculous projects that take up all our weekend time. 'What happened to spending time with our children, playing at the park?

Schools which have previously scrapped homework have made the move to reduce mental health problems among pupils. Some have extended school hours instead.

Ms Hutley previously said she accepted the move was controversial but said she was 'genuinely excited' about the innovative approach and is convinced students - who are aged between 11 and 18 - will benefit.

Speaking earlier this week, she said: 'The job of a teacher is impossible. There are not enough hours in the day for a teacher to teach, set homework, mark homework, and plan their lessons.

'It is a move away from a more traditional approach but we would not do anything which would hinder the progress of our children.

'We have the most dedicated and committed staff you could possibly ask for. They are working every hour God sends but planning lessons can fall by the wayside.

'We want it to be the number one priority so teachers can plan for students' individual needs and keep on top of their progress on a daily basis.'

Ms Hutley said out-of-school-hours learning will still be encouraged through the school's website with prizes offered to the most dedicated students.

She said homework was too often made up of finishing curriculum work which had not been completed in class.

She also said it would stop children who do not complete their homework from falling behind.

Ms Hutley said the move away from traditional homework had been discussed for a year.

She added: 'We are aware opinions on this issue are polarised with many parents and carers delighted by the change but others concerned by what the move will mean for their child.

'We have carefully analysed the performance and progress of our students and the impact homework has had on this.

'We know homework is not working for the majority of our students.

'This new approach allows us to more carefully track and monitor students both academically but also against skills critical for their lives ahead.'

The school, which has 1,650 students and was rated 'good' in its last Ofsted report, has already got rid of academic banding and the use of mobile phones at school.

Ms Hutley added: 'If, for any reason, we start to see this new approach to homework is having a negative impact on students' progress, we will do something about it.

'But I do not believe that will happen.'

Last year the independent boarding school Cheltenham Ladies' College announced plans to ditch homework in response to an 'epidemic' of mental health problems.

In 2013 Jane Austen College, in Norwich, said pupils would be expected to complete all their work during timetabled hours, and extended the school day to 5pm.


I’m a Black Woman Whose Relatives Fought for Civil Rights. I’m Disappointed in NAACP’s War on School Choice

Virginia Walden Ford   

Thanks to a lawsuit, over 92,000 kids, many of them children of color, from low-income families are at risk to lose their privately funded scholarships to attend the private schools of their choice.

And to add insult to injury, the NAACP is one of the plaintiffs in this lawsuit.

Last week, the Florida Education Association—the state’s largest teachers’ union—along with the Florida NAACP and other plaintiffs made a third attempt to challenge Florida’s tuition tax credit scholarship program, which allows individuals and companies to receive tax credits if they donate to a scholarship fund that helps low-income students attend the school of their choice.

After losing in trial court and then again in the 1st District Court of Appeals, the Florida Education Association and NAACP, along with other parties, appealed to the state Supreme Court on Sept. 14. Their lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of the 15-year-old education choice program.

In January, over 10,000 people rallied in Tallahassee, Florida, in support of the scholarship program and heard Martin Luther King III declare that this fight "is about freedom—the freedom to choose for your family and your child.”

The NAACP, which was started to support the rights of black people, is now taking a position that, in my opinion, only hurts black children and other children of color’s chance of getting a quality education in this country through access to school choice. Involving itself in lawsuits against the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program seems counter to their mission.

I have been involved in advocating for school choice for the last 20 years and I still don’t understand why anyone, especially the NAACP, would oppose families having a choice in education.

In January, over 10,000 people rallied in support of the scholarship program and heard Martin Luther King III declare that this fight "is about freedom—the freedom to choose for your family and your child.”

As a young mother raising kids in Washington, D.C., when I found my son failing in school and honestly needing to be in a different kind of educational environment, I had no choice but to continue sending him to a public school that was not in his best interest. Had it not been for the generosity of a neighbor who saw something special in my son and provided a scholarship for him to attend a school that better met his needs, I shudder to think where my son would be now.

Because of that scholarship, he was able to be successful and graduate and move forward with his life.  This is what I’ve seen over the years with the children who have had access to school choice, including public charter schools and private and public scholarship programs like the tuition tax credit scholarship program in Florida.

I’ve watched them succeed when most people expected them to fail. I’ve seen children go on to college when this possibility had never even been discussed with them. I’ve seen entire communities come out and support the families whose children were thriving in schools that their parents chose. It’s been incredible seeing low-income families obtaining the American dream because their children were able to obtain a quality education.

My cousin Rev. Joseph C. Crenchaw was a civil rights leader with the NAACP and the president of the Little Rock, Arkansas, chapter during the Little Rock Central High School crisis in the ’60s—a crisis about children of color having access to equal, quality education. My father, William Harry Fowler, was the first black assistant superintendent of the Little Rock School District and a member of the NAACP.

Both my cousin and my father were adamant about making sure black children were able to receive the best education possible. I was a beneficiary of that fight and attended Little Rock Central High School myself and know that it made a difference in my life and the lives of my classmates.

But now the NAACP, who fought so hard for us to get the education we deserved in the ’60s, is trying to make it harder for parents to make the same decisions our parents did then on behalf of their children.

Threats to school choice options like the Florida tuition tax credit scholarship program create unnecessary limitations for families who can’t get access to quality education simply because they live in the "wrong ZIP code” or don’t have resources to attend quality private schools.

This is exactly why I, and so many others, continue to fight for school choice options. When I look at the changes in the lives of the families I serve, I know that I will continue to do whatever I can do to empower them to determine the direction of their children’s future.

My hope is that the NAACP and other leaders in the African-American community who support these lawsuits in Florida will spend a moment talking to the parents and children who have been touched by school choice.


No comments: