Muslim school fights back – Principal claims criticism is ‘politically motivated’

Muslim school fights back – Principal claims criticism of teaching standards is ‘politically motivated’

 

Metro eireann (c)

Last update – Thursday, October 22, 2009, 04:34 By Catherine Reilly

 

THE MUSLIM National School in south Dublin has contacted parents over an alleged “campaign to undermine” it.

Referring to an “anonymous text” containing “unsubstantiated allegations” regarding the standard of education in the school, the letter signed by principal Colm McGlade and board of management chair Mohammed Djimani defends pupils’ performance in standardised maths and English tests on the basis that many are EAL (English as an Additional Language) students.

The person co-ordinating the campaign – Kamel Ghanem – told Metro Éireann he withdrew his children from the school last year due to unhappiness over its running, and has since collected 61 signatures from parents who say they are dissatisfied with the overall standard of teaching, and “feel aggrieved at the lack of transparency from the patron”.

Ghanem, who had previously helped the school fundraise, is in the process of collecting results of students’ Micra T (English) and Sigma T tests (maths) tests.

Speaking to Metro Éireann, principal Colm McGlade described the campaign as “deplorable” and the efforts of “a minority of people in the Muslim community trying to undermine and damage the school”.

McGlade, who would not confirm who he feels are behind the actions, claimed the people involved have “a different agenda”.

He referred to 73 per cent of students not having English as their first language, and that in many of the 275 children’s households, languages such as Arabic, Urdu and Malay were the main form of communication, while al-Jazeera and not RTÉ was on the television.

“There are children who do very well despite the language problem,” he added. “I was talking to other principals at a briefing day who’d have a fairly large number of non nationals, they point out the same [regarding the tests].”

He said the results of Micra T and Sigma T, which entails some English comprehension, are used as a “rough guide” in the overall assessment of children’s English and maths abilities. The school has six language support teachers, he noted, and a “committed” teaching staff.

McGlade would not reveal the overall scoring averages of the students, who take the test from first to sixth class, commenting: “That’s privy to the school and not appropriate to discuss, that’s private information between the school and the parents. A number of children did very well. ”

He also had no statistics on the number of pupils born in Ireland.

Disparate sources in the Muslim community told Metro Éireann that the majority of school-goers at the Muslim National School are Irish-born, or have lived here for most of their lives. “It is a bit strange that they have Dublin accents, but seemingly aren’t Irish, ” said one.

Teaching sources concurred that Sigma T and Micra T are rough guides, but one principal at a diverse school said his second class – who’d been in the school since junior infants – had taken the tests and recorded results similar to that expected in an indigenous class of children.

“We do them simply for a global understanding of a child’s ability,” said the source. “They’re open for their own interpretation of results, and good schools wouldn’t be making hard and fast assumptions based on them.”

Meanwhile, McGlade continued: “There’s people in the community not happy with the patron, it’s politics in the mosque – [they think] ‘It’s the patron’s school and this is how we’ll get the patron.’ Maybe because I’m not a Muslim, [they feel] I shouldn’t be a principal.”

He said allegations of poor teaching standards were “irresponsible” as they “undermined” the school’s teachers. In his letter to parents, the principal also referred to “a high absentee rate” due to parents taking children out of school to go abroad for long periods of time, and suggested that others come to the school excessively to receive out-of-hours Islamic and Qur’an lessons.

A request to speak to the chair and parents’ representative at the Muslim National School met with no response. The school’s patron, Imam Yahya al-Hussein of the Islamic Foundation of Ireland, was uncontactable. Meanwhile, a full response from the Department of Education had not been received by press time.

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