Tories set to create boom in Islamic schools

SCORES of religious state schools could be set up in Yorkshire by parents, local communities or religious groups under a Tory government with "formidable checks" in place to stop the spread of extremism.

The Conservatives want to make it easier for parents, charities and trusts to set up their own new schools to meet the needs of local communities.

Shadow Schools' Secretary Michael Gove told the Yorkshire Post his party would welcome the creation of new religious schools and accepted that the policy could lead to an increase in Islamic state schools being funded in areas of West Yorkshire.

However he dismissed fears that such a move could lead to further segregation or extremism in the region.

In a wide-ranging interview Mr Gove also appeared to back down from the Conservatives' official position on grammar education, that while no new grammar schools would be set up there would be a "grammar stream in every subject in every school".

He refused to say that remained Tory policy but instead said: "Children will generally be streamed by ability across schools.

"The reality is that parents who want to can send their children to an independent Islamic school, can send them to madrassahs for religious teaching after school and many pupils will be attending schools where de-facto segregation already exists.

"We want to meet the rights of parents to give their children a faith-based education in accordance with their Islamic beliefs while at the same time ensuring that these schools are properly run and promoting the values of a modern Britain.

He said any new school would be expected to teach English history and a "sense that were are all one nation who have made a certain set of shared sacrifices but enjoy certain shared freedoms."

Mr Gove also said that any new faith school would be monitored by inspectors who were trained to be able to distinguish between moderate mainstream views and extremist teachings.

A report by the think-tank Civitas earlier this year warned that Ofsted inspectors did not know enough about Islam to be able to properly inspect Muslim state schools. It claimed to have discovered a series of Islamic school websites calling for the banning of activities such as music, chess, Shakespeare, cricket and reading Harry Potter.

The Tory plan is based on a system used in Sweden and last night Barry Sheerman, Labour MP for Huddersfield and chairman of the influential Education Select Committee, said politicians should be wary of bringing "fads and fashions" from other countries into the education system. There was evidence from minority communities that the people who would be interested in running those schools were those "who take a very particular view of their faith".

Nick Seaton of the York-based Campaign for Real Education said: "It is a good idea to allow groups to set up their own schools to educate children according to their own values, but they must be regulated effectively and subject to rigorous inspection from Ofsted."

Ofsted would be 'rigorous'

Faith groups will be able to set up state schools under the Conservatives.

Formidable checks and balances would be put in place to stop extremists opening a school.

Ofsted would be charged with leading rigorous inspections of the new schools.

Others allowed to open schools will include charities, philanthropists, existing school federations, co-operatives and groups of parents.