The school where four pupils fled to Syria to become ‘jihadi brides’ is to be investigated by counter-extremism officials.
The probe at Bethnal Green Academy has been launched after four girls left their homes to join Islamic State.
Fears of a wider problem of fanaticism at the school in East London have emerged when four of their friends and fellow pupils had their passports confiscated before they could make the same journey.
One of these, a 15-year-old girl who cannot be named for legal reasons, was stopped as her British Airways flight to Istanbul taxied for take-off.
The Department for Education said officers from its ‘due diligence and counter-extremism division’ will investigate potential links to extremism.
The academy, rated as ‘outstanding’ in its 2012 Ofsted review, is currently putting on weekly talks for parents giving advice on the issue.
But parents fear this is merely ‘papering over the cracks’ and have called for a thorough investigation. Parents have also started holding their own meetings to discuss the growing problem of Islamic fundamentalism at the school.
Some have been producing and distributing leaflets which give advice on spotting the signs of radicalism.
Nazrul Islam, whose 13-year-old son attends the school, said: ‘Lots of parents around here who have children that go to Bethnal Green Academy are all very concerned.
‘After what happened with the girls leaving, parents are worried that their children might be radicalised too – but they don’t know how to stop it.
‘We have been left in a horrible situation and now parents are worried they don’t know what their children are doing. The police told the school that they were concerned about the girls. Did the school then contact the parents? What did they know and what did they do about it? We need to get to the bottom of it.’
Davis Lewin, deputy director at the Henry Jackson Society think-tank, said: ‘It is vital that the authorities investigate the situation at the school. Parents and the public deserve answers. If there is a problem in Bethnal Green Academy, it must be addressed urgently. If not, we must know where these children are being indoctrinated with this hateful ideological poison.’
Last week a judge banned five girls – three of whom are 16 and two 15 – from travelling abroad after they showed an interest in going to Syria. He ordered their passports to be confiscated and for them to be made wards of the court. Four of the girls, from Bethnal Green Academy, are associated with the four girls who have already joined IS to become ‘jihadi brides’. The fifth is schooled at home.
Concerns for their welfare were raised by police after classmates Kadiza Sultana, 16, Shamima Begum, 15, and Amira Abase, 15, fled to Syria last month. The trio followed in the footsteps of 15-year-old Sharmeena Begum, also from Bethnal Green Academy, who left for Syria in December.
Meanwhile, it emerged last night that Amira’s father Abase Hussen – whose close links to extremism were exposed by the Mail – has not been seen by neighbours for a month.
One neighbour said: ‘I haven’t see him for a long time now – maybe a month. I haven’t seen any of the family. He isn’t at work because he doesn’t work. He has an injury so he can’t work.’
A second neighbour added: ‘I used to see him in the mosque before his daughter went to Syria, but after that I haven’t seen him anymore. He used to take his children to the mosque. He was very religious.’
Mr Hussen, who told MPs that police were to blame for his daughter fleeing to join IS, played a central role in a notorious protest at the US embassy in London.
Video footage shows him shouting ‘burn, burn USA’ and standing next to an American flag that has just been set on fire. The 47-year-old marched alongside extremists carrying jihadi flags and placards bearing incendiary anti-Western messages.
Many of Britain’s most radical Muslims were at the rally in September 2012, including hate preacher Anjem Choudary and Michael Adebowale, one of Fusilier Lee Rigby’s killers.
A Department for Education spokesman said: ‘Our understanding of the challenge [of extremism], and the way we monitor the ability of schools to respond to it, has advanced hugely. As part of this, this government set up a dedicated due diligence and counter-extremism division within the Department and they are working tirelessly to see if and where we can offer help to schools with pupils or former pupils who have since travelled to Syria or other areas of concern.
‘The Secretary of State has asked them to review those schools where we have evidence of links with pupils who have travelled to Syria.’