Muslim Schools Expansion Planned

Melissa Kite, Telegraph (London), Aug. 7

LONDON—Up to 150 new Muslim state schools could be created in a move designed to bring the Islamic education of British children under government control in the wake of last month’s London bombings.

Rather than close Britain’s five state-funded Muslim schools, as some critics demand, ministers plan a major expansion of them.

This would bring thousands of Muslim children now taught in independent Islamic schools—many of which operate in poor, back-street conditions—into mainstream education.

An estimated 120 to 150 independent Muslim schools will be offered “voluntary aided” status—bringing them under local education authority control, in line with almost 7,000 Roman Catholic, Anglican and Jewish schools.

A condition of state funding will be that Muslim schools operate an open admissions policy, taking children of other faiths.

Prime Minister Tony Blair hinted at the move on Friday. He told a reporter asking whether Muslim state schools should continue:

“We are actually looking to make sure that faith schools are very much incorporated into the mainstream and that should apply to all categories of faith school.”

Detailed proposals are being drawn up and Education Secretary Ruth Kelly is to announce details this fall, officials said.

“It makes sense. This will mean our British children will get a decent education, not simply a back-of-the-envelope, cutting-corners education in terrible premises with terrible facilities,” said Sadiq Khan, a Labor Party member of Parliament and the head of a school that joined the state sector last year.

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