London: Muslims in the north-western British city of Blackburn are awaiting the approval of plans to build the first free Islamic school in the country to serve both Muslim and non-Muslim students, Lancashire Telegraph newspaper reported.
“The planning application has been submitted following months of detailed design work on what has proven a very challenging but equally rewarding project,” Principal Jacquie Petriaho told the newspaper.
Muslims have applied to the Darwen Council to build a free Islamic school in Blackburn in Lancashire County. The application includes moving the current Tauheedul Islam Boys School from its current site in Little Harwood to the former Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) building at Edinburgh House on Clarence Street.
“The scheme submitted meets the schools aspirations, by providing well-ordered learning spaces and innovative working environments and has done this while respecting the qualities of the surrounding area,” said Petriaho, the former deputy head of Beardwood Humanities College.
The new school aims to provide a first-class education for its 700 pupils with the aim of getting many into Britain’s top universities. The school was temporarily located in the Tauheedul Islam Girls’ School, which was relocated to its new site in Beardwood Humanities College, Preston New Road.
If approved, the multi-purpose school will open in September 2014. It will be the first free Islamic school in Britain. British Muslims are estimated at 2.5 million.
There are 400,000 Muslim students in British schools, according to the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB).
About 7,000 state schools in Britain are faith schools – roughly one in three of the total – educating 1.7 million pupils.
Of the 590 faith-based secondary schools five are Jewish, two Muslim and one Sikh – the rest are Church of England, Roman Catholic and other Christian faiths.
The free Islamic school would offer huge opportunities for both Muslim and non-Muslim students in Blackburn.
“The site is in an ideal location to serve our projected pupil intake and offers the opportunity to redevelop a site that has blighted the local community for a number of years,” Principal Petriaho, who is not a Muslim, said.
“Tauheedul Boys’ School will continue to provide outstanding educational opportunities for many young people in Blackburn and our pupils and staff are excited about the opportunities the new building will create.”
Pupils from the Islamic school have been playing a leading role in serving the vulnerable in Britain. Pupils from the Tauheedul Islam Boys’ High School (TIBHS) have succeeded in raising £4,600 for Crisis – the UK’s national charity for single homeless people.
“Although our school only started a few months ago, our boys have demonstrated their commitment to community service and philanthropy,” Petriaho said.
“Through our partnership work with Crisis, we aim to transform the lives of thousands of single homeless people in the UK.”
The 2011 census found that the proportion of Muslims in Britain rose from 3.0 percent to 4.8 percent, becoming the fastest growing faith in the country.