Apartheid claim over Islam school.

Apartheid claim over Islam school.

Al Hijrah school, in Bordesley Green, Birmingham, is currently an independent school, but is seeking voluntary-aided status similar to Roman Catholic and Anglican church schools which would make it entitled to state funding.

Labour councillor Roy Pinney, a cabinet member for education and lifelong learning, defended the scheme as a reflection of the city’s ethnic diversity. Mr Pinney said: “The creation of an Islamic secondary school would bring a new specialist dimension to education in Birmingham, reflecting the multi-cultural, multi-faith nature of the city.”

But Tory councillor James Hutchings pledged to oppose the plan, and is pushing for a referendum to test local opinion. He said: “This is a major issue and has long-term implications. Do we want an integrated or disparate society? This Labour plan is clearly a question of apartheid in education. We should work for integration in this country.

“We have little serious racial trouble in Birmingham and one of the key factors is that we have integrated education. Teachers and staff deserve a lot of credit for that.”

Mr Hutchings, who also sits on the education and lifelong learning team, said he favoured religious teaching in schools, but highlighted the “problems” created by separate faith schools in Northern Ireland.Apartheid claim over Islam school.

Birmingham’s chief education officer, Tim Brighouse, has recommended that if the school was over-subscribed, children from Islamic families would get preference. The minority faith schools are also allowed to retain their unique religious characteristics, with their faith remaining central to their work.

Since the 1997 general election, ministers have approved public funding for six minority faith schools which were independent and there are more in the pipeline. They include Britain’s first state-funded Sikh school, Guru Nanak in Hillingdon, west London, which reopened under its new status in 1999. Also in Birmingham, the former independent Muslim primary school Al Furquan became a maintained minority faith school two years ago.