Plans for Stoke-on-Trent's first Muslim faith school
FAMILIES are drawing up plans to open the first state-funded Muslim faith school in Stoke-on-Trent.
If it wins Government approval, the Iqra Academy would open as a free school in September 2014, catering for up to 750 secondary age pupils from the south of the city.
Now 1,000 questionnaires are being distributed across Longton and Normacot to drum up support for the bid.
Community leaders today revealed they are hoping to take over the former Edensor Technology College site, in Longton, once it is vacated by The Discovery Academy.
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They claim The Discovery Academy's new building, which is due to open in Bentilee next autumn, is too far away for many families to travel to and so they want to create their own school.
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 desire was already there in the community and we've been talking about having a Muslim faith school for some time. Although it would be a Muslim school, it would be inclusive and open to people from other faiths.
"We are quite confident it will be approved. It's on the basis of equality of provision – we have already got Catholic schools and Church of England schools in Stoke-on-Trent."
Teachers would not have to practise the faith and pupils would still follow the national curriculum.
But the school, which would be funded by the Government, would have provision for prayers and pupils would have the option to take Islamic studies.
Father-of-four Khalid Hussain, from Lightwood Road, Longton, is involved in the bid.
The 41-year-old taxi driver, whose children are aged 12, 10, nine and two, said: "Since we started talking to people about this, 99.9 per cent of them have said they want to send their children to the school. Most of the people would be from the Normacot and Longton area."
Mr Hussain's oldest child, Zishan currently attends The Discovery Academy, but he says its new site in Bentilee would be difficult to travel to each day.
He added: "At the moment, my children can walk to school."
Councillor Alan Dutton, Stoke-on-Trent City Council's cabinet member for education, stressed it would be up to the Government to decide whether to approve the bid. He said: "The council will await a response from the secretary of state before looking at options for any prospective sites."
Stoke-on-Trent College, which sponsors The Discovery Academy, said its new building would be a 'fantastic state-of-the-art campus', catering for 'students from all faiths'.
In a statement, the college said there was already 'capacity in existing schools' to meet pupil demand.
A public consultation meeting is being held at the Queensberry Centre, Normacot, on Wednesday at 6pm.