Halifax free school plan blocked over Islamic fears

Halifax MP Linda Riordan
Halifax MP Linda Riordan
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THE Government has blocked plans for a controversial free school which has been dogged by claims of extremism.

The Northern Lights Free School in Halifax had been investigated by the Department for Education over alleged links to hard-line Islamic views.

Schools Minister Lord Nash has confirmed the decision in a letter to the town’s MP Linda Riordan which said: “The Secretary of State’s priority is to ensure that we only establish schools where it is clear that the educational provision will be strong.

“Regrettably, this is no longer the case in this instance, where concerns about the group’s capacity and capability, inclusiveness and governance have resulted in the decision not to allow the project to proceed any further. The Department has, therefore, withdrawn approval of this project.”

The Northern Lights Educational Trust was originally given approval to set up a primary free school last year and it was due to open this September.

But in April, the Yorkshire Post revealed that the DfE was investigating the proposed school after concerns about community cohesion were raised by Ms Riordan and Calderdale Council.

Northern Lights, which has consistently denied any links to extremism, said it was “deeply disappointed and very surprised” by the DfE’s decision.

But Ms Riordan said: “This is a sensible decision, taken in the best interests of community cohesion and education provision in the town. It obviously took a lot of thought from the Minister, but it’s the right thing to have done.

“There are some excellent mainstream schools across all communities in Halifax and long may that continue to be the case. I have never thought free schools are a good idea and this issue has only confirmed my doubts.”