School system 'failing Muslim pupils'

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The Independent Online

The row over faith schools was reignited today by a report warning that the state system is failing Muslim pupils.

The row over faith schools was reignited today by a report warning that the state system is failing Muslim pupils.

More Islamic schools should receive Government money, says the report from several Muslim groups.

But that goes against the advice of a Commons committee which warned that faith-based schools fuel division and conflict.

Labour peer Baroness Uddin said the report identified "a number of difficulties" with the way Muslim pupils were treated.

Pakistani and Bangladeshi children, who make up the biggest minority of Muslims in this country, are not achieving their potential, Lady Uddin told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"There are not that many teachers, there are not that many governors, there are not that many policy makers who are of Muslim faith," she said.

"It feels that there is a gap in the education system."

Lady Uddin said it was an "extremely tenuous argument" to say faith schools were to blame for social divisions.

Existing Islamic schools should be able to get Government funding in the same way that Jewish schools have, she said.

"We have to be very clear about why we are arguing that there is a problem about having faith schools only when the application for quite a number of schools that have been Muslim faith-based schools asking for recognition from the state," she added.

But MP Andrew Bennett, Labour chair of the Commons committee, said Northern Ireland demonstrated the dangers of faith-based schools.

"Children live totally parallel lives. You start off with separate school, then you end up with separate health centres, you end up with separate supermarkets," he told Today.

"What we want is for children to have a good understanding of each other's culture and separating them in schools is not going be a good idea."

The funding of state Jewish schools was a "historical situation", said Mr Bennett, adding: "What we don't want to do is make it worse."

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