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Wednesday, June 9, 1999 Published at 17:31 GMT 18:31 UK


Nation of Islam school avoids closure threat

Children protested last summer against the threat of eviction

A private school run by the Nation of Islam has avoided the threat of closure.

The Star Chamber Academy in Hammersmith, West London, had faced a warning from the government that it would close down the school if it did not complete an official registration process.

But on the last day before the Department for Education's deadline, the school has submitted information about pupil numbers and the school's proprietors.

This will allow the school to continue as "provisionally" registered, with further checks to be carried out before a final decision is taken in the autumn on whether the school will be allowed to fully register.

Although private schools can set their own curriculums, they are legally required to register with the Department for Education and undergo regular inspections.

[ image: The Nation of Islam came into public view during the inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence]
The Nation of Islam came into public view during the inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence
The school, based in rooms in a community centre owned by the local authority, Hammersmith and Fulham Council, had faced an earlier threat of closure for failing to register - a legal obligation for any school with more than five pupils.

But as the deadline approached last October for the school to be closed, another last-minute application was submitted and provisional registration was agreed.

It is understood that before full registration is approved, inspectors from the Office for Standards in Education want improvements to ensure that the school is providing a satisfactory level of education.

In a separate dispute, the local authority has sought to remove the school from its current premises, on the grounds that the community centre is not a suitable building for a school teaching an estimated 60 pupils.

A proposal to evict the school in August 1998 led to street protests from Nation of Islam supporters. However, the latest deadline set by the council, March 1999, passed without the school finding alternative accommodation.

The Nation of Islam, an organisation originating in the United States, has been at the centre of controversy with its views on racial separation and accusations that it is anti-semitic. Its leader, Louis Farrakhan, has been excluded from Britain since 1988.

The Nation of Islam has declined to comment on the Star Chamber Academy.

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