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Prayer rooms for Muslims

Three East Renfrewshire secondaries will within three years bow to the growing influence of the Muslim community by setting up prayer rooms.

The new Williamwood High and extensions to Mearns Castle and Woodfarm high schools, all built through the public private partnership (PPP) initiative, will have Islamic prayer rooms for use at certain times of the day.

Roman Catholic secondaries across Scotland already have oratories or small chapels for pupils and staff to engage in prayers and the authority says it is merely replicating the model.

Since a BBC Scotland report last week suggested East Renfrewshire was prepared to consider a specialist Muslim school, the authority has attempted to dampen the furore by pointing out that it has never officially been approached by parents.

It already allows the Muslim community to use Giffnock primary on Saturday mornings but little has emerged beyond that.

Jim Fletcher, East Renfrewshire's education convener, said: "We are not committed to providing a Muslim school in East Renfrewshire. What we are saying is that we are a listening council and, if approached officially by the Muslim community with a demand for such a school, we would explore the possibility of providing one."

Mr Fletcher added: "There is no funding identified and we do not know if there would be enough pupils to make such a school viable, but we would be willing to explore the complex issues involved if requested to do so."

The estimated 3,000-strong Muslim community already opts for a mixture of state and independent sector schooling. Some are attracted to the Roman Catholic St Ninian's High, others to the high-performing Mearns Castle High, while others favour the independent route through Hutchesons'

Grammar.

East Renfrewshire runs the only Jewish primary in the country at Calderwood Lodge but under the 1918 Education Act cannot call it a distinct religious school in the same way as Catholic schools.

The primary, which runs as a local school, was set up in 1962 by the Jewish community and transferred to the former Strathclyde Region in 1985 before switching from Glasgow City Council to East Renfrewshire in 1998.

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