Muslim parents in row over school closure plans

MUSLIM parents fear their children could be moved to a church school under controversial plans being drawn up by Islington Council.

Council bosses are planning to close down Moreland Primary School and transfer its pupils to a new and enlarged St Luke’s Church of England School.

But many pupils at Moreland in Goswell Road, Finsbury, are Muslim – and parents are worried about their children going to a CofE school.

The council insists that St Luke’s is experienced in catering for children of all faiths, and that according to its data at least 20 parents from the CofE school say they are from a Muslim background.

Shukre Salah, 35, believes her eight-year-old daughter child will end up having to leave the school.

She said: “I’m so angry. They are saying that there will be places for Christian children and places for children who live nearby.

“I don’t live nearby. I live in Highbury and I am a Muslim and a single mum. My daughter will have to leave, and what will I do? Where will she go? Other schools are full up. I feel completely discriminated against.”

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Fellow Muslim mum Amara Small, 31, who also sends her daughter to Moreland, said: “I am just totally flabbergasted. I thought when we petitioned for improvements to Moreland, we might get a thumbs-up for a new building. I didn’t know anything about getting rid of our school.

“I don’t have a problem mixing with a CofE school but I do have an issue with the policy. If you look at Moreland, it is a high proportion Muslim. What’s going to happen to all those children?”

A number of non-Muslim parents are also concerned about their children having to go to a faith school.

Ann Salmon, 38, said: “I wouldn’t feel comfortable sending my 10-year-old to a church school. Moreland is a mixed school with different people from various different cultures. St Luke’s is a church school. How would everybody fit that criteria?”

Moreland is currently housed in a leaking and run-down 1960s building – and parents have been petitioning for it to be improved.

But Islington Council has decided that it wants to close down Moreland – which is rated satisfactory by Ofsted inspectors and regularly attracts only half the pupils it has space for – and transfer the pupils to St Luke’s, which is rated outstanding and is regularly oversubscribed.

Council bosses envisage that around half the places at the new school would be for St Luke’s existing – and largely Christian – intake, while the remainder would be for local children of all backgrounds.

In order to accommodate all the pupils, the council would demolish both Moreland and St Luke’s and build a new and expanded St Luke’s School on Moreland’s Goswell Road site.

The current St Luke’s site in Radnor Street would then be turned over to housing – half luxury flats and half affordable – to pay for the scheme.

Councillor Richard Watts, Islington Council’s executive member for schools, acknowledged that the proposals would be of concern to some Muslim parents - but pointed out that St Luke’s already takes in children of different faiths, including Muslims.

He said: “The extra places that will be created at the enlarged St Luke’s will be for children of all backgrounds to apply for. It will be a church school but it will welcome children of all faiths and none.

“Some Muslim parents will have questions about this. But others would prefer a school of faith rather than a secular one.”

Councillor Watts added: “Nobody is going to be forced to go to any school they don’t want to. If Moreland parents don’t want to accept a place at the new St Luke’s, then we will work with them to find a school they are happy with.”

Islington Council intends to consult on the plans over the coming year. If they are given the go-ahead, the new school would open in 2013.