Two convicted in first prosecution against unregistered school

Two people have been prosecuted for running an illegal school in a legal first.

The landmark case was the first prosecution against an unregistered independent school in England and Wales.

Head teacher Beatrix Bernhardt, 38, and director Nacerdine Talbi, 47, were convicted of running the Al-Istiqamah Learning Centre in Southall, west London.

On Wednesday the defendants were given a three-month curfew between 9pm and 6am, according to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

Bernhardt was fined £400 plus an £85 victim surcharge and Talbi was fined £300 plus an £85 victim surcharge.

They were also found guilty at Westminster Magistrates’ Court of conducting an unregistered independent educational institution. The institution was fined £100.

Ofsted inspected the school in October and November last year and found almost 60 children aged between five and 11 being taught at the centre.

Photos of lesson plans and homework diaries taken by inspectors showed the centre was being run as a school.

The centre claimed it simply provided tuition to home-schooled children.

Ofsted’s unregistered schools team issued a warning notice to the centre telling it to cease illegal operation.

When it continued to operate the investigation was passed to the CPS, which gained authorisation from the Education Secretary to bring charges.

Lynette Woodrow, deputy chief crown prosecutor for the complex casework unit at the CPS, said: “This is the first prosecution of its kind against an unregistered school in England and Wales.

“It is a criminal offence to run an unregistered school and we will take steps to prosecute those responsible where there is the evidence to do so.”

Chief inspector of schools Amanda Spielman said: “I am glad the courts have recognised our serious concerns about unregistered schools.

“These schools deny children a proper education and leave them at risk of harm and, in some instances, radicalisation.

“We hope that today’s judgment sends out a message to all those running such schools that they will face justice.

“We will continue to investigate and expose illegal, unregistered schools and where we find them, play our part in making sure they are closed or become properly registered.”