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Friday, 9 February, 2001, 17:59 GMT
'Apartheid' row over Islamic school
schoolchildren
Councillors are divided over merits of an Islamic school
Councillors in Birmingham are to vote on plans to create the country's first mixed Islamic secondary school in the state sector.

The proposal is to turn an independent school into a voluntary-aided one, with funding from the local authority.

Council officers are advising that the plans be approved.


It's apartheid in education

James Hutchings, Tory councillor
But one Conservative councillor says the local authority should work for integration not division.

Under the proposals, the mixed Al Hijrah School in Bordesley Green would be funded in a similar way to the city's 18 voluntary-aided church schools.

The Conservative councillor who is fighting the scheme, James Hutchings, said: "This Labour plan is clearly a question of apartheid in education.

"We have little serious racial trouble in Birmingham and one of the key factors is that we have integrated education."

Mr Hutchings said he was in favour of religious education in schools but said separate faith schools had led to problems in Northern Ireland.


The school would reflect the city's diversity

Roy Pinney, Labour councillor
But the plans have the support of the Labour council, which already has an Islamic primary school in the voluntary-aided sector, the Al Furquan.

Roy Pinney, a Labour councillor, said the scheme would reflect the city's diversity.

"The creation of an Islamic secondary school would bring a new specialist dimension to education in Birmingham, reflecting the multi-cultural, multi-faith nature of the city."

The plans are out for consultation until mid-March. They will then be put to Birmingham Council's school organisation committee for approval.

Criteria

The local authority said the school's admission criteria would favour Muslim applicants but would not exclude others.

However, if the school was over-subscribed, officials said children from Islamic families would get preference.

From September, the school would admit 18 children who were not paying fees, rising to 120 over four years.

The school would eventually accommodate 600 children aged between 11 and 16.

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See also:

07 Oct 00 | Education
Go-ahead for Muslim girls' school
27 Dec 00 | Education
Embracing the faiths
01 Jul 99 | UK Systems
Religious schools
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