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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 February 2007, 17:42 GMT
Q & A: Muslim schools
How many full-time Muslim schools are there in England?

There are 126 full-time Muslim schools in England, according to the Department for Education and Skills. The vast majority (115) are independent. Just eight Muslim schools are state-funded and another three have been approved to open in the state sector.

The numbers have increased in recent years. In 2003, there were 53 Muslim schools.

What about other types of Muslim schools?

Many children attend extra lessons after school or at the weekend to learn the Koran in Arabic and about their religion. The religious schools, which are attached to mosques, are called Madrassas. Some children go to a mosque for lessons every day after school.

Ataullah Parkar, of the Association of Muslim Schools, says the schools vary greatly. "Madrassa translates as 'a place of study'," he said.

"The main difference between Madrassas and full-time Muslim schools is that in the Madrassas, the main aim is the recitation of the Koran in Arabic. Until children are 11 or over, they hardly ever teach the meaning."

How many children attend Muslim schools?

According to the Association of Muslim Schools which represents more than 80 schools, 3% of Muslim children of school-age attend Muslim schools full-time.

How are the schools regulated?

State-funded Muslim schools are regulated in the same way as other faith schools. England's education watchdog, Ofsted, check that they meet set standards. They have to follow the national curriculum.

What about the private Muslim schools - are they regulated?

They are regulated in the same way as any other private school and are subject to inspections by Ofsted. They do not have to follow the national curriculum, but according to the Association of Muslim Schools most do so. All the schools enter pupils for GCSEs, it says.

Any school which offers full-time education to five or more children has to be registered with the Department for Education and Skills. To be on the register, a school has to meet government-set standards on the following:

  • quality of education provided
  • spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils
  • welfare, health and safety of pupils
  • suitability of proprietors and staff
  • premises and accommodation
  • provision of information and the way in which complaints are handled

    Ofsted inspectors make the initial checks to see if a school meets the requirements and inspections are made every few years.

    Are the Madrassas regulated?

    Generally, no. Ofsted says: "Under current legislation weekend schools and Madrassas only have to be registered if they provide childcare of children up to the age of eight, for two or more hours for five or more days over a year. This would only cover the childcare provision".

    How do private Muslim schools differ from other independent schools?

    Fees are usually much lower. The Saudi-funded King Fahad Academy in Ealing, west London, charges fees of 1,500 a year. Girls and boys will normally be educated separately. The Association of Muslim Schools says lessons on the Islamic faith typically take up two hours a week.

    Do Muslim schools - and other faith schools, have an obligation to teach children about other religions?

    Yes, they are expected to promote an understanding of other faiths.

    Ataullah Parkar, of the Association of Muslim Schools, said: "The vast majority of independent Muslim schools teach citizenship to fulfil Ofsted. Increasingly, they are looking at how to maintain faith but be an active, contributing member of society too".

    "This is a very important element in a multi-cultural society."

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