Tim Ross, Education Correspondent
A MUSLIM school has been given state funding to save it from closure.
Teachers at Iqra primary in Brixton have been working for free because of a cash crisis. But now it has received Â£250,000 from Lambeth council and joined the state sector.
It has become one of six state-funded Muslim primaries in England. Pupils will follow the national curriculum but have lessons in Quranic studies and be taught in accordance with their beliefs.
Campaigners who oppose faith schools condemned the move. Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, said: “Not only has Lambeth ensured these children will be taught in isolation from the mainstream, and will therefore find it difficult to function in a diverse society in later life, they have delivered them into the hands of theocrats who will drill religion into their heads.”
But Iqra’s supporters stressed it would work closely with the local community. Acting headteacher Firdos Qazi said: “The parents, pupils and the community are pleased Lambeth has accepted them as part of their family of schools. We are looking forward to working with our friends and neighbours to make a school of which they and we can be proud.”
Lambeth cabinet member for children’s services Paul McGlone said: “We’re pleased we can provide a free education at this popular school.”
England has 11 Muslim state schools, but about 100 privately run institutions are thought to be potentially interested in applying for Government funding.
Children’s Secretary Ed Balls has signalled his willingness to support more faith schools. Ministers argue it would be discriminatory to support thousands of Church of England and Catholic schools but ignore other religions. Iqra has 100 pupils aged four to 11 and a nursery. About 60 per cent of pupils are of Somali origin. It is based in two four-storey Victorian houses in Gresham Road, but will share classrooms, sports and computer facilities with two primaries, Loughborough and Kings Avenue.
Orchard primary in Brixton Hill became Lambeth’s first state-funded Muslim school in 2006.