No Muslim school yet

10th February 2006 at 00:00
Glasgow's education committee has given the green light to a pound;128 million plan to close 28 of the city's primaries and build 16 new schools which will provide nursery as well as primary education.

However, campaigners who wanted to use the closure programme as an opportunity to set up the first Muslim state school in Scotland were told that such a proposal would have to be the subject of a separate consultation.

Osama Saeed, spokesman for the campaign, accused the council of having been "misleading" in its consultation over phase four of its pre-12 strategy.

"The consultation said that alternative proposals could be made," Mr Saeed said. "Parents took that at its word. I think it does merit a little more response from the council than they gave."

The campaign group had wanted to take advantage of a proposal to build a new 650-pupil school at a gap site in the city's west end, replacing Dowanhill, Hillhead, Kelvinhaugh and Willowbank primaries.

It called on the council to retain Willowbank primary and designate it as a faith school. It has a roll of 69, of whom 98 per cent are Muslim, and a capacity of around 300. Campaigners predicted the school would easily double its roll if it became a Muslim faith school.

"The building, the teachers and pupils are already there, so it would just mean changing the structure slightly," Mr Saeed suggested. "Now we have to go down the road of seeing where else in Glasgow this could be set up."

The campaign group was not going to go away and would continue harrying the council until its demands were met, he said.

Steven Purcell, council leader, said the issue of setting up a faith school was too important to be part of the pre-12 consultation and should be considered separately. He has asked the Muslin community to provide detailed proposals of location and likely demand.

However, John Mason, SNP group leader on Glasgow City Council, suggested that the council was putting up a smokescreen.

"The council position seems to be that the ball is in the court of the Muslim community to come forward with a proposal," Mr Mason said. "The council should be more proactive in this."

The obvious parallel was with Catholic schools, Mr Mason said. Once demand was established in their case, it was the council that organised the running of the school, its location and size.

However, Mr Mason accepted that it was right not to use the pre-12 consultation as a means of establishing a Muslim school. "This is a big step. Although I quite understand why the Muslim community latched on to the west end school, we need to decide the principle and whether there is a demand for a Muslim school."

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