Private Islamic school on the horizon
Muslim parents and professionals concerned about "the environment" in Scottish schools are in the process of buying a former Glasgow primary to turn it into a private Islamic school.
Glasgow Community Education Association (GCEA), the organisation behind the move to purchase Holmlea Primary in Cathcart, claims that attending mainstream schools is resulting in "unsocial behaviour" among Muslim youngsters and that the lack of Islamic schools in the city is forcing Muslim families out of Glasgow.
On a website set up to raise money for the project, the association has written: "There is a huge demand in the community for a high-standard local facility providing good secular education together with moral guidance in order to produce well-balanced upright individuals."
Glasgow MSP Hanzala Malik, however, disputed the need for a Muslim school. The former Glasgow councillor told TESS he was a firm believer in public education and urged those behind the school to redirect their energy into improving mainstream provision.
He added: "When children leave school they are all going to have to live in the same world. We need to be from the same stock if we are to progress as a nation."
Holmlea Primary in Cathcart was declared surplus by Glasgow City Council in 2006 and put up for sale. Six bids were made for the property last year, with the GCEA putting in the highest offer.
It describes itself on its website as an organisation formed by "local professionals and parents" to establish a private educational facility for Muslim children.
The GCEA envisages it as an all-through school from pre-school to secondary.
It would be a "segregated environment", with separate entrances and facilities for boys and girls as well as for male and female teachers. On offer would be a range of secular subjects as well as Arabic and Islamic sciences.
The purchase of the school will cost the association pound;225,000, exclusive of VAT, and further funds will be required for refurbishment. The GCEA is currently trying to raise the money it needs online.
It acknowledges such ventures have failed in the past but says the community should not lose confidence in its ability to succeed.
A Glasgow City Council spokeswoman said: "There has not been any interest expressed in the last four years about a Muslim school and no approaches to the council. Glasgow has very inclusive schools that cater for a diverse and multi-cultural community."
TRIED AND FAILED
Past attempts at establishing Muslim schools in Scotland have been unsuccessful. Both the Iqra Academy in Glasgow and the Imam Muhammad Zakariya School for girls in Dundee closed after receiving negative HMI reports.
The Iqra Academy, which closed in 2003, was criticised by inspectors for giving pupils no opportunity to mix with the surrounding community and for its treatment of girls at the school.
Photo: The former Holmlea Primary, proposed site for the private Islamic school