The government has been accused of failing to provide a state education system that meets Muslim pupils’ needs.
BBCNews, Jun. 9
A group of Muslim academics and education experts says “institutional racism” is stopping more Muslim state schools being set up.
Their Muslims on Education report calls for curriculum changes, suggesting there might be an Islamic Studies A-level.
Other recommendations include reversing the trend of mixed sex education, and training staff in religious awareness.
The report, being published on Wednesday — and billed as the first substantial feedback to ministers by Muslim groups — says many Muslims do not have access to any suitable education.
It calls for the fast-tracking of more of the 80 or so independent Muslim schools into the state sector.
So far only five have qualified for state funding.
The authors, who include the Association of Muslim Social Scientists, reject claims that single faith schools have contributed to divisions in society.
They say greater privacy should be built into changing facilities and the mother tongues of Muslim pupils should be taught more widely.
The report also cites incidents of insensitivity towards Muslim pupils — such as serving pork in school meals — and calls for religious awareness training for staff to avoid them.
Labour peer Baroness Uddin told Radio 4’s Today programme there needed to be a debate about why Pakistani and Bangladeshi children in state schools were not performing to their maximum.
And she called for Muslim schools to be treated like other faith schools.
She said: “There should be recognition of these schools which have been working for a long time and should be state funded, just like Jewish and Church of England schools.”
Kurshid Ahmed of the Commission for Racial Equality told BBC News state school provision for Muslims could be improved, but warned that separate faith schools prevented integration.
A select committee of MPs looking into race riots a few years ago suggested Muslim schools caused social division.
Its chairman, Labour MP Andrew Bennett, told Today religious schools in Northern Ireland showed this to be the case.
He applauded some parts of the report but added: “More faith schools is the easy cop-out.”
A spokesperson for the Department for Education and Skills said: “We are committed to raising the standard of every pupil, regardless of their social or religious background.
“Schools and teachers must respect the different faiths and customs of all their pupils.
“It is up to individual governing bodies, schools and LEAs to decide if they wish to provide facilities specifically aimed at certain religious beliefs. And we know that many more schools and LEAs are doing just that.”
A spokesman for the prime minister added: “The government’s view is that these issues are dealt with at a local level. Any decisions to create a new faith school are made there.
“We are not campaigning for more faith schools, but we support those that are there already.”