SYDNEY – Despite keeping perfect results, Malek Fahd Islamic school, the largest in Australia, has come under threats of closure after New South Wales Board of Studies inspectors said its registration should not be renewed in 2014.
“We have made the necessary improvements that were required by the Board of Studies on behalf of the Minister,” Dr Ray Barrett, the school principal, told ABC Online on Friday, November 1.
“The school has done all that it could possibly do to meet those requirements.”
The school has come under closure threats after NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli wrote to the school on Wednesday stating he was “gravely concerned” about the school.
He also said that the board had recommended to him the kindergarten to year 12 school's registration not be renewed in 2014.
Among the Minister's concerns are questions over attendance, Higher School Certificate curriculum, educational quality, safe environment and buildings.
Dr Barrett said the school's issues were mainly related to record keeping.
For example, the school's attendance software did not use the correct codes and staff had not updated occupancy numbers at the Greenacre Campus with the local council.
“We're not an underperforming school by any means. The enrolment lists keep growing,” Dr Barrett, the school’s Christian principal who was brought in because of his good record of turning around troubled schools.
“The compliance around record keeping... has been found wanting.”
The New South Wales Board of Studies will meet on 10 December to discuss the school’s future.
The south-western Sydney school, which has campuses at Greenacre, Hoxton Park and Beaumont Hills, has more than 2,500 students who may have to look for a new school if the school is denied registration.
The school troubles began last year when the State Government froze the school's funds and asked it to repay $9 million in government grants over allegations the not-for-profit school was funneling funds back to the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils.
This was allegedly done through “management fees” and backdated rent, which the school has challenged in court.
Confirming the school’s high performance, parents were satisfied with the school’s response.
“Despite what status it is in, financially or others, it's a really good school,” Hannah Masri, secretary of Malek Fahd Parents and Friends Association, told ABC.
“I brought my kids to this school because of the academic background and moral education. The staff here are all fantastic.”
Yet, Masri confirmed that they feel the school may have become a soft target.
“There's other schools that have had their funding frozen as well and there's no focus on them. Being the biggest Islamic school in Australia doesn't mean it's different to any other school.
“I'm confident that the issues will be resolved.”
New South Wales is home to 168,788 Muslims, about 4.96 percent of the total population, making the state a habitat to the largest Muslim population, according to the 2006 government Census.
Muslims, who have been in Australia for more than 200 years, make up 1.7 percent of its 20-million population.
Islam is the country's second largest religion after Christianity.
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