I decided to go along to the Public Consultation at Andalusia Academy Bristol (“AAB”) on Friday 20 May 2011 and the following is a brief summary for those who couldn’t make it. By way of an introduction the Independent School (not Academy) was set up in 2005 and remains the flagship Independent Islamic School in the South West. Based right next to Cabot Circus it provides Primary education to boys and girls with a ladies-only Secondary.
The Consultation concerned the issue of whether or not the School should become a Free School (and thereby maintained by the Local Authority (“LA”)).
I’ll summarise the main points:-
1. AAB is not a Free School yet. The Chairman was keen to get this point across. The whole point of the meeting was to gather parental and communal opinions on whether or not this would be a good idea. The application has not been lodged yet.
2. Should the School opt for Free School status there will be some changes (unsurprisingly).
3. One of the changes that appeared to be a particular issue with the attendees was the fact that Creationism and/or Intelligent Design could not be taught in Science lessons should the School become ‘Free’. By doing so, AAB will be funded by the LA and therefore under an obligation to implement the curriculum which would not encompass Creationism etc. A teacher did point out that evolution was already mentioned in-class but, being an Islamic School, was taught from an Islamic viewpoint.
There is no doubt that Allah will continue to be mentioned on Science should the School become ‘Free’ and the fact that current pupils are aware of it already should lessen any concerns. I instantly was reminded of Shaykh Hamza Yusuf mentioning that he has books by Richard Dawkins right next to the masterpeices of Imam al-Ghazali. The point is that we should not be afraid of reading “outside the box” so long as we know what’s what. We live such a society that simply saying “I won’t read about this kufr” doesn’t work.
4. The second change that caused a bit of a stir with parents was that the School would have to allow up to 50% of it’s pupils to come from other, or of no, faiths under the Free School status.
At the moment, the School’s policies allow up to 2 non-Muslim pupils per year group (do not quote me on this although a figure not too far off this was given).
If AAB becomes a Free School, its prospectus (available from their website) will listed amongst other Schools on the DfE site and distributed.
On this point, I should mention that a Trustee quite rightly pointed out that the above would be highly unlikely to occur, and although shreiks of “the Islamic ethos will be diluted!” could be heard, the reality is all the more mundane. By the way, there were no such shreiks but you get what I mean.
Personally I don’t see a few non-Muslims to be a hindrance to the School’s Islamic ethos at all. The danger, I believe, lies within environments that support an insular, elitist, view.
5. Funding from the LA could allow the School to acquire larger premises.
6. The School is, and for the forseeable future will remain, an Independent Fee Paying School.
7. Follow up meeting(s) are to be held within the next few months. The aim is to contact other Islamic Schools that have decided to go down the Free School route and take on board what they say.
And there you have it. Please note that the above is all from my own understanding having attended the Consultation. It’s a shame I couldn’t see more faces on the right side of 40. The elders in our community are going to have to pass the batton onto the younger generation (you and I) soon so we should really get stuck in and make the effort. This includes active roles within our Mosques and community organisations.