Sacred Heart primary in Blackburn could become the first Catholic school in Britain to be converted into an Islamic faith school following a dramatic change in the pupil population. More than nine-in-10 of the school’s pupils were Catholic a decade ago but that number plummeted to just three per cent this year. Under current legislation, the local council must effectively run a competition to find a new organisation to run the school.
Blackburn’s Masjid-e-Tauheedul Islam mosque, which already runs a girls’ secondary school in the town, is among a series of organisations expressing an interest. Hamid Patel, principal of the Tauheedul Islam Girls’ High School, told the Times Educational Supplement: “Given that most of the pupils are Muslim it makes sense for us to engage with the school. “We will need more information on the expectations of the local authority, but if the community and the school want us to be involved, then, yes, we are interested.”
The disclosure comes amid rising demand for Islamic state schools. The Muslim population in Britain soared by a quarter to around 2.5 million between 2004 and 2008 but just 11 state-funded Muslim schools have been opened in England so far.
In the latest case, the Diocese of Salford has informed the local council that it no longer believes it is appropriate to continue running the school as the number of Catholic pupils has dropped to just “five or six”.
Geraldine Bradbury, the diocese’s director of education, said: “We have never experienced a change to this extent before. We want to make sure that the educational needs of the community are met. We would not be serving the local community by insisting that we run the school. It brings together things like having a Catholic head teacher and devoting 10 per cent of the timetable to RE. It would be very wrong of us to insist on putting a school community through that.”
Sheik Yermami reports this about Masjid-e-Tauheedul Islam:
The new Tauheedul Islam Mosque is the largest in Lancashire and cost 3.5 million pounds ($5.37 million). Qatar’s royal family provided an initial donation of 1.5 million pounds for the basic construction of the mosque, with the remainder generated from the Blackburn community. The community had outgrown the much smaller mosque, which was established at the same site in the 1960s.
Lord Adam Patel, president of the mosque, emphasized the importance of the mosque. “In 21st century Britain, the role of the masjid is as important as it was at the time of our Prophet Muhammad (pbuh),” he said.
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