Seg­re­gated Is­lamic school could scrap sec­ondary classes

Birmingham Post - - NEWS - Carl Jack­son Lo­cal Democ­racy Re­porter

THE il­le­gal seg­re­ga­tion of boys and girls could mean a fail­ing Is­lamic school in Birm­ing­ham ditches sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion.

Dozens of pupils who cur­rently at­tend the city coun­cil-funded AlHi­jrah in Bordes­ley could have to find new schools while a num­ber of staff are also set to lose their jobs in the shake-up.

The In­terim Ex­ec­u­tive Board (IEB), cur­rently in charge, has pro­posed re­duc­ing the age range from four-to-16 years to four-to-11 years by Septem­ber next year.

It would stop pro­vi­sion for Years 7 and above, turn­ing Al-Hi­jrah, which cur­rently has more than 750 stu­dents, into a pri­mary school.

Of­sted rated the school ‘in­ad­e­quate’ in 2016 due to its con­tro­ver­sial seg­re­ga­tion of older pupils by sex. The coun­cil sub­se­quently took court ac­tion ar­gu­ing it was be­ing held to a dif­fer­ent stan­dard to other schools across the coun­try with sim­i­lar ar­range­ments around girls and boys.

But the Court of Ap­peal judged that the seg­re­ga­tion by sex was in breach of the Equal­ity Act 2010 and or­dered the school to stop the prac­tice.

The plans also in­volve re­lo­cat­ing to a re­mod­elled site on Waver­ley Road nearly two miles away which is the for­mer an­nex to Small Heath School. Al-Hi­jrah it­self would be­come a spon­sored acad­emy and be re­named.

Though the pro­posal is only in the con­sul­ta­tion stages, par­ents of Year 6 pupils have been told to ap­ply to other schools in the cur­rent ad­mis­sion round.

The coun­cil is also work­ing up a sep­a­rate pro­posal to es­tab­lish a new sin­gle-sex school for girls with an Is­lamic ethos by next Septem­ber.

A joint let­ter from head teacher Arshad Mo­ham­mad and Julie Young, chair of the IEB as­sis­tant di­rec­tor at the coun­cil, said: “We ap­pre­ci­ate this may be an un­set­tling time for fam­i­lies but we are con­fi­dent that our pro­pos­als will en­sure chil­dren at AlHi­jrah re­ceive high qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion with an Is­lamic ethos.”

The coun­cil-ap­pointed IEB stated the move would help ad­dress the ‘se­ri­ous is­sues’ at Al-Hi­jrah.

Re­gard­ing staff, they said: “The IEB recog­nise that change can be un­set­tling and that there may be chal­lenges along the way.

“It is likely that there would be an im­pact on staffing lev­els. Any staff re­duc­tions or changes to terms and con­di­tions would be sub­ject to full con­sul­ta­tion with the trade unions and teach­ing as­so­ci­a­tions.”

Coun­cil­lor Ken Wood, (Con, Sut­ton Walm­ley and Min­worth) shadow ed­u­ca­tion and skills boss, has crit­i­cised the Labour-run author­ity over its han­dling of the sit­u­a­tion. He said: “The story of Al-Hi­jrah school is a sorry one in which the stu­dents have been the un­for­tu­nate vic­tims of gov­er­nor and coun­cil mis­man­age­ment.

“Last year, af­ter the school and the coun­cil failed in an ex­pen­sive and ill-judged court ac­tion, the Con­ser­va­tive group on the coun­cil stated that it would be in the best in­ter­ests of the pupils if it were closed down in a man­aged and or­derly fash­ion.

“That is ef­fec­tively what is now hap­pen­ing but with an­other year lost, more money wasted and more im­por­tantly an­other year of these chil­dren re­ceiv­ing an in­ad­e­quate ed­u­ca­tion.”

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