The hypocrisy over Muslim funding

2nd May 1997 at 01:00
During her visit to Zakaria Girls' School in Batley, ("No blue flowers for Shephard", TES, April 25), Gillian Shephard trotted out the same old claim that Muslim schools merely have to "fulfil the Government's criteria" in order to get state funding.

Such a glib reply to genuine concerns of state bias against our schools denies the reality of the situation which has seen at least one Muslim school refused voluntary-aided status due to "surplus places" in the local state sector, a factor completely out of the control of the school in question and nothing to do with the viability and quality of the school, which fulfilled all the educational criteria. Mrs Shephard also failed to explain why applications from two Muslim schools seeking grant-maintained status have been put on ice until after the election, while similar applications from two Jewish schools (one for GM, the other for VA status) have been hurriedly approved pre-election.

Good luck to the Jewish schools (one of which hasn't even opened yet), but how could they be approved within three months when Muslim schools have been told not to expect a decision within six months of publishing their proposals?

Islamia Primary School in London meets all the educational criteria, has had no formal objections to its GM proposal and requires no capital grant, and yet it must wait for a decision which could have been made before May 1; the new VA Jewish school in Harrow will be given an 85 per cent capital grant on a Pounds 1.2 million building and we do not yet know whether its educational provision will be satisfactory (although no doubt it will be). The other major difference between the two schools is that one is for Muslims, the other for Jews. It doesn't take a genius to work out an answer to my question.

Maybe the Tories are waiting to let a Labour Secretary of State make what will undoubtedly be a controversial decision, whichever way it goes.

Whatever the reason, why do politicians and the Department for Education and Employment continue to claim what is so obviously untrue?

IBRAHIM HEWITT

Development officer Association of Muslim Schools of UK and Eire 88 Sparkenhoe Street Leicester

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