Government plans to create more state-funded Muslim schools will divide communities along racial and religious lines, it is claimed. They risk creating a situation similar to that in Northern Ireland where some educated teenagers fail to meet students of the opposite faith until they go to university, according to Voice, the teaching union. In a speech to the union’s annual conference next week, one teacher will claim Labour’s policy to expand Muslim schools is “about trying to defend minorities”.
Last year, Ed Balls, the schools secretary, pledged to remove “unnecessary barriers” to religious groups bidding to open their own schools. He said additional money would be made available to allow the hundreds of private religious schools to convert to the state sector. The move raised the prospect of more schools for faiths including Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus, which have few schools of their own, despite representing significant minority groups.
Speaking at the conference, Wesley Paxton, a further education lecturer from Hull, will say: “As is often pointed out, there are already many schools with more than a 50 per cent non-white enrolment.
“More faith schools in 2008 is probably going to mean more Islamic schools.” He adds: “What benefit will there be by emphasising difference, by removing what non-Islamic influences these people will have, and reduce their chances of having a balanced upbringing?”
At the moment, there are just four state-funded Muslim primary schools and five secondaries – including two which opened last September. They educate almost 3,500 pupils. In addition, there is one Hindu school, three Sikh schools, and 38 Jewish schools. England’s remaining 6,750 faith schools – around a third of the total number of schools – are all Christian.