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Inspectors would fear to criticise Islamic school, councillor claims.

Byline: Jonathan Walker Education Correspondent

A planned Islamic school in Birmingham could suffer from poor teaching because inspectors would be afraid to criticise it, it was claimed yesterday.

Coun James Hutchings (Con Edgbaston) told a meeting of Birmingham city council's Education and Lifelong Learning Advisory Team that the Office for Standards in Education 'might not be as vigorous as it should be' because of pressure from 'race relations interests'.

But he was criticised for apparently opposing Islamic schools while supporting those run by the Church of England or the Catholic Church.

The committee voted to support proposals for the authority's first Muslim secondary school, and the scheme will now go to the council's schools organisation committee for further consideration.

Birmingham is planning to establish its first state-funded Islamic secondary school by taking over Al Hijrah School in Bordesley Green, which is a private school for Muslims.

The authority made history in 1998 when it took over Al Furqan Primary in Tyseley, which also used to be independent, to create the country's first state-funded Islamic school for any age group.

Coun Hutchings has attacked the proposals as educational apartheid. Yesterday he told the committee: 'In this city we have been remarkably successful in introducing harmonious relationships among different communities and I believe a mixed education is a very important part of this.'

Muslim children and their parents would not benefit if they were educated separately. He said he also had concerns over teaching standards and the fairness of career opportunities at the school.

Coun Hutchings said he recognised religion and race were not the same thing, but in practice the majority of Muslims in Birmingham were also members of ethnic minorities.

'I am anxious about Ofsted. One of the concerns is that inspections might be as vigorous as they should be due to pressure from race relations interests.'

He said the number of school-age children was falling and some secondaries already had surplus places, but now the authority was planning a new school with 600 places.

Coun Roy Pinney (Lab Brandwood), the council's cabinet member for education, said: 'I think your comments are confused. You introduce race to this, but this is a faith school.

'I also find it strange you challenge the integrity of the teachers and governors at the school.

'I find it strange you seem to be opposing the establishment of a Muslim school when last month you opposed the closure of a Church of England school.'
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Feb 14, 2001
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