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Labour councillor smears free school as "segregationist"

A Labour councillor in Bradford, Cllr Ralph Berry, has attacked a proposed free school as having a "segregationist vision."

The Sunday Times article (£) seems to be based on some very selective quotes from this report from the Open Society Institute written in 2005. Although Bradford Council claims it was written by the Bradford Council of Mosques just over a year ago. Perhaps there were two reports with one quoting the other.

Anyway the killer quotes are that Muslim children face a:

“cultural heritage that underpins the curriculum is European and Christian”

and that special schools for Muslims could avoid the

 “danger of absorption into the dominant culture”. 

But these are quotes in a section of the report for "arguments for" Muslim only schools. It also offers "arguments against."

In any case the link between this report and the Rainbow School proposed for Bradford is pretty tenuous. They suggest that Ayub Ismail approves of the report. They also note that he is a Director (along with several others) of a non profit making group called ATL which is involved in setting up the school.

But even if he did believe a Muslim only school would be a good idea (which I don't think he does) that is not the approach the Rainbow School will take. I expect most of the children will be Muslim - the schools patrons include Imran Khan and the Muslim Labour peer Lord Ahmed. On the other several Bradford Council schools have a majority of Muslim pupils. The school will be "passionate about inclusion and cohesion". It will devote more time to teaching English than provided by the Bradford Council run schools.

The school says:

Rainbow School will be a co-educational, nonselective and non-denominational school with
a focus on english, maths and science and a secondary emphasis on community and social cohesion.

The Sunday Times story just seems to unravel. We have quotes taken absurdly out of context from a report written by a different organistion than stated, which is supposedly endorsed by one individual involved in the school.

There may well be some extremist groups that seek to set up free schools and it is right that there should be checks in place to safeguard against this. But the attempt to denigrate the Rainbow School on this basis strikes me as thoroughly dishonest.


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