THE government’s go-ahead for England’s first free Muslim school to open in Blackburn in September has provoked a mixed response.

Many see variety of choice as a very important feature of good education and it is clear that the Tauheedul Islam Boys’ School, like its sister girls’ school, will have no problem at all filling places.

Tauheedul Islam Girls’ School has also quickly established a formidable reputation for academic success.

But opponents argue that yet another faith-based school is not good news.

East Lancashire already has more Church of England and Roman Catholic schools than most parts of the UK.

Blackburn has been highlighted as an area where too many people live ‘parallel lives’ and there is a need for integration rather than separation.

Faith schools have played a part in perpetuating community barriers in Northern Ireland.

Children will play and mix together from a young age without noticing different ethnic and religious backgrounds.

If they go to religiously-segregated schools, they are surely likely to grow up viewing large numbers of fellow citizens as ‘different’.

And that’s no recipe for a truly integrated, cohesive society.