THE first ‘free’ primary school in East Lancashire could open in Blackburn next year for muslim boys and girls, it has been revealed.
Bosses at Tauheedul Islam Girls’ High School and Sixth Form College have applied to the Department for Education for a typical-sized primary school in Blackburn with Darwen.
In a letter to prospective parents the Blackburn school’s principal and chief executive Mufti Hamid Patel said there had been a ‘significant’ demand in the community for a ‘quality’ state funded muslim primary school.
The exact location of The Olive School in Blackburn has not been disclosed, however parents have been registering their interests ready for a September 2013 opening with a reception and year one class.
If successful, the move would leave Blackburn with Darwen Council in an ‘extremely difficult’ position for future planning for school places, a top official has claimed.
The council has been investing heavily in primary schools in the area to meet demands for places due to increasing birth rates in the borough.
If approved The Olive School would fall outside the education authority’s powers as free schools are all-ability state-funded schools set up in response to parental demand. They are in charge of their own admissions.
The school is being created under the Tauheedul Free Schools Trust which has already been given approval for a boys’ school which is set to open in September.
In the pre-application from the trust said: “Learners of The Olive School will find themselves part of an elite, but certainly not elitist, organisations.
“One where high powered learning, progress and achievement is coupled with a commitment to wider personal progression, including intellectual development of character and an intelligent moral and ethical compass.
“Tauheedul Schools have a common and consistent brand identity, reflecting a strong faith ethos, educational excellence and community service.”
A statement from the school said: “The proposal is currently being considered by the Department for Education, until an initial decision is reached, it would really be inappropriate to go into the detail of the application at this time, It is very early days.”
If the school goes ahead it would mean Tauheedul would be able to provide education for pupils from reception to sixth form.
Its boys school for 11 to 16 year-olds was given permission to open in September.
Mr Patel described the application as a ‘milestone’ for Blackburn and a ‘very important endeavour’.
Coun Maureen Bateson, executive member for children’s services at Blackburn with Darwen Council, said: “We have been made aware of a consultation within the Asian community.
“These types of applications are making it extremely difficult for the council to look at strategic planning for school places in Blackburn with Darwen.
“For example the council is just about to expand St Barnabas primary school.
“There is a pressure on school places but we are covering them at the moment.
“Given the growing birth rate the Government has given more money for that.”