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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 September 2007, 10:57 GMT 11:57 UK
Muslims call for own faith school
Jamia Mosque
About 100 children attend classes at Jamia Mosque
Muslim leaders in Kent have called for a state-funded Islamic school to be set up in the county.

Anwar Khan, spokesman for Kent Muslim Welfare Association, said hundreds of children in Kent were being deprived of an education in their own faith school.

"Catholic schools and Church of England schools are very successful and it is about time Kent had [a Muslim] one."

Dr Ian Craig, Kent County Council (KCC) director of education, said it would be prepared to offer every assistance.

Mr Khan, who is attached to Jamia Mosque in Gillingham, said about 100 children attended classes there outside school hours to learn about Islam.

There is no reason why Sikhs and Muslims cannot have their own schools
Dr Ian Craig, Kent County Council

"We run our schools for 10 hours a week - two hours a day, for children across the ages and from different schools," he said.

"It is an extra burden for them, coming back from school, doing some work at home and having their evening meal and then coming to the mosque.

"Ethical and spiritual education is very much part of our everyday life so if we have a faith-based school everything will be happening under one roof."

Earlier this month, Schools Secretary Ed Balls pledged government support for faith schools.

But the Association of Teachers and Lecturers and National Secular Society said they believed it would lead to more segregation in society.

Mr Khan said he thought the reverse was true.

"We would welcome people from other faiths and no faith to come and join whatever suits them - particularly subjects like English and maths," he said.

Curriculum requirements

Dr Craig said KCC had not been approached about the issue.

"If Mr Kahn would like to talk to me, certainly we would be prepared to assist him in whatever he wanted to do."

Dr Craig said any state-funded school would have to follow the national curriculum and there would have to be enough children who wanted to attend the school.

He said KCC was already holding discussions with the Sikh community in Gravesend about the possibility of setting up a Sikh school.

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