Normacot families welcome first Stoke-on-Trent Muslim school plans
PARENTS packed out a public meeting to show their support for a state-funded Muslim faith school last night.
It was standing room only as more than 70 parents attended the public consultation at the Queensberry Centre in Normacot.
The families came to show their support for the proposed Iqra Academy which, if approved, would open as a free school in September 2014.
Father-of-three Faryad Hussain, aged 40, from Longton, is in favour of the free school.
His two eldest children currently attend different schools with 14-year-old Aleina at St Joseph's in Trent Vale and 12-year-old Hussain at St Peter's Academy.
The self-employed taxi driver said: "The free school would make a big difference because it would mean my children can go to the same school and the education would be better.
"I think it would benefit from better discipline and they will learn to have respect for each other.
"I would feel more comfortable with my children being at a faith school."
Iqra Academy would cater for up to 750 secondary aged pupils.
The bid is being overseen by the Iqra Welfare Trust, on behalf of the Islamic community, and will be submitted by January 4.
Chairman Asif Mehmood said: "The meeting went really well and I was glad to see that so many people turned up.
"People were standing up and lots of people were waiting outside to come in to the meeting.
"I think this shows the community's intent and desire for this school.
"It has been wonderful and it is great that we have the support of the wider community."
Parents had the chance to ask questions on the ethos of the school and how the admission system would work.
Retired headteacher Richard Mercer answered a lot of the queries as a consultant who is leading the bid.
He said: "The support that we obviously have here and from the council suggests that we have the need in the community for a new school.
"But ultimately Michael Gove will have the final say."
If approved the school would be funded by Government money.
Although the admissions policy would not be strictly Muslim, provision for prayers would be made and pupils could choose to take Islamic studies.
Father-of-four Aftab Hussain, aged 40, from Normacot, is fully supportive of the bid.
The taxi driver from Chaplin Road said he would transfer all his children to attend the school.
Mr Hussain said: "I think faith schools tend to benefit the behaviour of the children and they teach them how to be good citizens."
At present his eldest children Alina, aged 13, and Mohsin, aged 12, attend The Discovery Academy in Longton.
He has two primary school-aged children also.
He added: "I believe because this school will have a faith ethos it will encourage the children to have respect for each other.
"And I think because of this they will achieve better academic results.
"Islam teaches youngsters to respect their elders and to have respect in the community which is very important."
The school would not see an intake of exclusively Muslim children and parts of the uniform such as headscarfs for girls would be optional.
Teachers would not have to practise the faith and pupils would still follow the national curriculum.
Chairman Asif Mehmood added: "We want it to be inclusive, because we don't want any segregation."