THE two biggest teaching unions have announced they will fight the setting up of a Muslim free school in Derby.
leaders fear pupils at the planned school may not be taught by
qualified teachers and are also concerned that, although it is planned
to open in September, it does not yet have a suitable building.
They also say they are worried the school will not follow a "broad
curriculum" and that it would harm the city's state schools by
attracting away Muslim pupils.
But the school, which would
be a known as Al-Madinah, the name of Islam's second holiest city, has
insisted all children would be taught by qualified teachers and it
would offer a "broad and balanced" curriculum.
Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers has urged Derby
people to voice their concerns during the six-week consultation period
which starts on Monday. The other major teaching union, NUT, has also
spoken out against Al-Madinah. The NASUWT has challenged the school's
trustees to a debate in front of a public audience and the local
Al-Madinah will be a new type of "free" school which the Government is allowing groups of parents to set up.
These operate in much the same way as private schools, outside local authority control, but qualify for Government funding.
The Department for Education allows free schools to use head teachers and teachers without official qualifications.
Wilkinson, branch secretary of the Derby NASUWT, said: "We are not
opposed to faith schools but we are opposed to free schools and we want
people to reject the Al-Madinah School as a school for their children.
should be aware that currently the school has no premises and that
there is no guarantee their children will be taught by a qualified
teacher. It is not even certain the curriculum will equip their
children for life in an ever-changing and increasingly demanding world."
Al-Madinah Educational Trust plans to build a primary and secondary
school for up to 240 pupils initially on a site to be found in
Normanton or Pear Tree.
It has already been given approval
under the Government's Free Schools scheme, which enables any group to
start a school without permission from local councils.
Wilkinson said: "If Muslim parents send their children to the currently
established state schools in Derby, they can guarantee that their
children will be taught by highly qualified teachers in some of the
best equipped, state-of-the-art school buildings in the country."
The NUT has also spoken out against the school and is meeting early next week to decide what form a campaign might take.
Jennison, branch secretary of the Derby National Union of Teachers,
said his members were totally opposed to free schools and he had
concerns about the impact of pupils moving to it from local schools.
said: "We need to have people working together of different faiths and
not having people breaking out into independent and separate schools."
consultation process lasts until April 25 and two drop-in sessions are
planned at the Spot, Sacheverel Street – one on March 18 and the other,
for women only, on March 22. There is a also a public meeting between
7.30pm and 9pm on March 22.
In response to the union
comments, a school spokesman said: "We are working closely with the
Department for Education to ensure we meet all requirements to enable
us to receive approval from the Secretary of State for the school to
"The trust is fully committed to the highest
standards of education and will ensure that all children are taught by
qualified teachers and the curriculum is broad and balanced."
He said Al-Madinah would aim to create "tolerance and understanding of all faiths".
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