Thursday, November 11, 2010

Is Faith Really Working?

Muslim School Helps Out Secular Neighbour
   On the face of it the two schools have nothing in common apart from the city they share.
Tauheedul Islam Girls' School in Blackburn was one of the country's first state-funded Muslim schools, set up by parents who wanted an alternative to the state sector. Ranked as outstanding by Ofsted, it has some of the best exam results in Britain.
Blakewater College has traditionally served a more white working-class Lancastrian community in another part of the city. It has a chequered past, having problems with behaviour and exam performance.
But now Tauheedul is helping Blakewater turn itself round. It is the first time that a Muslim school has been asked to perform a rescue act on a non-faith state school, but the experiment is already paying dividends.
After only eight months the percentage of pupils gaining five A* to C grade passes at Blakewater has risen from 11 per cent to 26 per cent.
Alan Chambers, head of Blakewater College for the past year, said the link with Tauheedul – led by its principal, Hamid Patel – had helped immeasurably. "Hamid is a Blackburn lad and there is no doubt that he wants to put something back into the wider community that both of us serve," Mr Chambers said.
The college now assesses the performance of pupils as soon as they arrive, giving them extra support if they fall short. It has also approached parents to get them more involved in the process – a tactic previously honed by their colleagues across the city.
"At Tauheedul, we get 90 to 95 per cent parental attendance," said Mr Patel. "If they don't come we ring them and say 'Come tomorrow'. We keep doing that until they come." Another of the key challenges, he said, was to raise pupils' aspirations.
Mr Patel has already written to Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, outlining plans for a countrywide network of schools like Tauheedul – using the "free schools" initiative to get them up and running. Tauheedul was run as an independent school for more than two decades in terraced houses, accepting financial contributions from parents.
It joined the state sector in 2006 and has since expanded, now having to turn away more than 200 applicants a year. Mr Patel said that within five years he would like to open the doors to non-Muslim pupils, as white families are already asking for its prospectus on the strength of its exam results.
"Come back in five years and I guarantee [we] will have white families. In some areas of the country there are Church of England schools that are 100 per cent Muslim because they like the ethos of the school," he said.


An Example Of How Faith Can Work
   The stereotypical Muslim school is an institution that isolates itself from the wider community; an establishment that places more emphasis on religious observance than educational attainment. As we report today, the Tauheedul Islam Girls' School in Blackburn confounds that stereotype. Tauheedul began as an independent faith school and entered the state system in 2006. It has the second-best performance of any non-selective school in the country at GCSE level. And now the local council has asked Tauheedul's management to help turn around another struggling state school in the area – a task the school's head, Hamid Patel, is relishing.
And Mr Patel wants to go further than merely offering advice on engaging parents and monitoring performance. He envisages co-operation between the two schools in sport and other extra-curricular activities. Nor does Mr Patel want Tauheedul to be a school exclusively for Muslims. He has already received interest from non-Muslim parents and expects they will be a growing feature of the school's intake as Tauheedul expands. Mr Patel also points out that half of Tauheedul's teachers are non-Muslims. So much for the religious ghetto.
Critics of faith schools will argue that this is only a single school and that not all the managements of these institutions are as progressive as Mr Patel. True, but what Tauheedul shows is that Muslim faith schools do not necessarily have a separatist mentality. It is not a foregone conclusion that these schools will divide communities.
The Coalition's schools reforms – in many respects a continuation of the direction of the previous government – will mean an expansion in the number of faith schools in Britain. The shift needs to be accompanied by safeguards. If these institutions are to receive state funding, the state must require them to play an active part in their local community. Any covert selection needs to be eliminated.
Tauheedul is an encouraging example of how the new system can work. It should not be an excuse for ministers to neglect their responsibility to ensure schools serve communities. A freeing up of the education sector must not mean laissez-faire.


But is faith really working?
Read here  if it works with science and sickness too.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The metropolis Of Kitchener Really going Digital

Look into my site eurocasino