Albayan Education Foundation is also criticised for failures around overseas aid work.
The Charity Commission has disqualified the trustees of the Albayan Education Foundation Limited, barring them from becoming a trustee at any other charity, after finding failings in the management of its school and oversight of its operations in Syria.
Albayan Education Foundation Limited ran the Birmingham Muslim School and was also involved in poverty relief efforts in Syria and Turkey.
The Commission opened a statutory inquiry in 2018 after persistent failures by the trustees to carry out actions directed by the regulator to improve the governance and management of the charity over several years.
The Commission's inquiry report, published yesterday, has identified significant failures over a period of several years, amounting to a finding of misconduct and/or mismanagement by the charity's trustees.
The Commission has found its chair of trustees, Janet Laws, who also acted as headteacher of the charity's school, particularly responsible for its failings in relation to the school and overseas operations, given her role in the charity. The Commission has therefore disqualified her for 12 years. The charity's two other trustees, Ahmed Abdulhafeth and Ali Qasem, were disqualified for 10 years. During their periods of disqualification, the individuals are unable to serve as trustees of any charity or hold an office or employment with senior management functions at a charity.
Birmingham Muslim School
The Commission's inquiry found the trustees were responsible for persistent failures to ensure the charity's school met the Independent School Standards. The charity failed to comply with 5 separate directions from the Department for Education to improve the standard of education provided, which it failed to report to the Commission, and several reports from Ofsted, which rated the overall effectiveness of the school as inadequate. Eventually, the school was closed in December 2019.
The trustees did not adequately oversee the charity's operations in Turkey or Syria. This was demonstrated when the Commission's investigation identified photos of an employee of the charity, who had travelled abroad on behalf of the organisation, assembling firearms at the Atma refugee camp in Syria. This finding led to significant concerns by the regulator around whom the charity partnered with to facilitate its work overseas. An Interim Manager, who was appointed to the charity during the inquiry, found that the charity had no list of its overseas partners or records of the due diligence checks completed on these partners. This was despite the regulator's earlier intervention, and advice and guidance to trustees, on these specific points.
Stephen Roake, Head of Compliance, Visits and Inspections at the Charity Commission, yesterday said:
The public expects trustees to carry out their legal duties with the utmost respect for the important role they hold. The trustees of this charity did not carry out their legal duties - repeatedly failing to meet the standards required in their role in managing the charity's school and showing a concerning lack of oversight in relation to the charity's operations overseas. What we found here raised serious regulatory concerns about the charity's operation and, in relation to its overseas work, affirms exactly why a charity must have robust controls in place, especially when it operates in high-risk areas of the world.
It's right that we have disqualified the individuals responsible for this conduct from trusteeship and holding senior management functions at a charity.
Notes to Editors:
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- The Charity Commission is the independent, non-ministerial government department that registers and regulates charities in England and Wales. Its purpose is to ensure charity can thrive and inspire trust so that people can improve lives and strengthen society.
- The full inquiry report can be viewed here.