Inside Universallkidz, the school teaching conspiracy theories and sacred drumming to UK students

By Fatou Ferraro Mboup

Published May 6, 2024 at 09:00 AM

Reading time: 3 minutes

In a recent investigation conducted by The Times, an undercover journalist spent an entire month probing into Universallkidz, a suspected illegal school in Greater Manchester. Alongside colleagues who hold unconventional beliefs, such as denying the existence of dinosaurs and viruses, the investigation delved into the school’s activities. Shockingly, the curriculum at Universallkidz revolved directly around conspiracy theories, including the notion that the government, in collaboration with organisations like the World Economic Forum (WEF) and wealthy individuals, aimed to depopulate and subjugate the world through a scheme known as the “great reset theory.”

Established by Ladan Ratcliffe, a former teacher and self-proclaimed visionary artist, the ‘school’ has been operating under the radar of local authorities and Ofsted for the last three years.

Ratcliffe’s idea to set up Universallkidz began forming in 2020 after being inspired at an anti-lockdown rally. Operating under the alias ‘Ladan Universal’, Ratcliffe described the school’s mission as “de-indoctrinating” students from mainstream teachings. Unlike traditional education, Universallkidz offers a curriculum devoid of national standards, focusing instead on New Age topics such as sacred drumming, moon cycles, and homoeopathy.

Unsurprisingly, the school operates outside the bounds of the national curriculum and parents pay a fee of £30 per day for tuition.

The school has a current enrollment of 13 pupils, as disclosed during the investigation, though Ratcliffe indicated it had previously reached a maximum of 28 students. Operating four days a week from 10 am to 3:30 pm, not all students attend daily, but most are present at least three days a week, including two with special educational needs.

According to The Times’s investigation, children aged between eight and 14 are taught that their bodies operate on fluctuating energy levels based on their truthfulness. In history lessons, the pupils are exposed to alarming theories about potential future scenarios, such as the consumption of cockroaches due to alleged political and social agendas by figures such as Klaus Schwab (the executive chairman of the WEF) and Bill Gates.

Red, a teacher from Universallkidz, shared with the publication: “They’ll know how to find their own medicine, find their own food when the sh*t hits the fan. Because they are going to force a famine on us. Look at what they have been doing with farming. They are going to force a famine on us and we will be eating each other.”

The classes are reportedly taking place in a rundown Victorian mansion which was formerly a nightclub. The school, which has been presented as support for homeschooling parents to education officials, operates independently from government bodies, catering to the “awake” community.

Incredibly, this institution offers full-time education without registering pupils with the Department for Education, taking advantage of minimal oversight regarding homeschooled children in existing legislation.

In fact, at Universallkidz, all attending children are technically homeschooled. Ratcliffe assists parents in withdrawing their children from mainstream education, advising them to deceive local authorities by claiming to homeschool instead of sending them to Universallkidz.In response to the proliferation of illegal schools, Ofsted established a task force in 2016. Initially, inspectors believed there were only 24 illegal schools, but now there are thought to be over 694. This led to 79 settings either being closed or to cease operating illegally.

Interestingly, while the majority of prosecuted institutions were religious schools catering to ultra-orthodox Jewish and Muslim communities, recent years have also seen a rise in non-religious schools promoting anti-state and conspiratorial ideologies, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a post on X, formerly Twitter, Bridget Philipson, the shadow education secretary, expressed deep concern, emphasising the urgent need for legislation and stating that a Labour government would swiftly implement a register for children not attending school: “Fourteen years of Tory failure has left children being taught foraging and conspiracy theories. Ministers have failed to legislate to end the disgrace of unregistered schools.”

There are currently around 2,600 independent schools in the UK, which educate around 615,000 children, some 7 per cent of all British school-age children and 18 per cent of pupils over the age of 16.

Efforts to address this issue have been hindered by legislative shortcomings, as highlighted by Ofsted’s limited powers and the absence of a comprehensive register for home-schooled children. However, the lack of clarity in defining “full-time education” further complicates enforcement efforts, allowing such schools to operate in a legal grey area.

Sir Martyn Oliver, Ofsted’s chief inspector, characterised the discoveries as “highly alarming, but sadly not surprising.” Yet he also acknowledged that “weaknesses” in the legal system have impeded Ofsted’s endeavours to address the proliferation of hundreds of unregistered schools.

In the face of mounting controversy and the exploitation of fear and anxiety through conspiracy theories, the imperative for decisive action to protect children’s well-being and education cannot be overstated. Yet, despite the gravity of the situation, Universallkidz remains operational, underscoring the urgency for intervention.

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