New report published on welfare of children in Bradford district Islamic schools and madrassas (From Bradford Telegraph and Argus)
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CRB call over faith schools in Bradford
A report on the welfare of children in Bradford’s Islamic schools and madrassas today calls for openness and new strategies to increase safety, including criminal-record checks for religious teachers.
The Council for Mosques for Bradford, together with the NSPCC, police and Bradford Council, has produced the study as part its commitment to improve the wellbeing of children in Islamic faith institutions.
The study started in 2011, less than a month after religious teacher Sabir Hussain, 60, was sentenced to 10 weeks in prison after admitting assaulting pupils at the Markazi Jamia Mosque in Lawkholme, Keighley, where he was teaching the Koran.
Mohammed Rafiq Sehgal, senior vice-president of the Council for Mosques and the chairman of its safeguarding working group, said: “The report is an uncompromising and honest account of what we heard and is critical and constructive at the same time.
“It’s clear and concise message will serve to improve policy and practice, safeguard our children and help to enhance public confidence in our institutions.”
The key issues tackled by the report are: l Religious schools must stipulate the need for CRB checks for all teachers, teaching assistants, volunteers and other personnel with responsibility for the care of children.
l There should be a register of all teachers and others at the schools.
l Parents should be more involved, demanding accountability and higher standards.
l They should not “dump” their children at the doorstep of a Madrassah to gain respite from home life.
l Teachers should be trained and be able to understand and satisfy the curiosity of young minds.
l Learning should be structured and not left to the whims and wishes of the teacher.
l Women should have greater involvement in the schools.
l There should be openness to counter prejudiced ideas of secrecy within the schools.
Mohammed Mushtaq, president of Council for Mosques Bradford, said: “This is a positive and courageous action on the part of Council for Mosques Bradford.
“I hope our efforts will be seen and received in a positive light.
“We pray its findings will focus attention on the enormity of the task facing our society when it comes protecting our children from the dangers that confront them. Islam places emphasis on nurturing our children with care and affection.”
The study compilers worked with five major islamic schools in Bradford and looked at areas including child-protection policies, staff recruitment, reporting bad practice, recognising signs of abuse, health and safety at work regulations.
Approximately 9,000 children attend mosques and madrassas for Islamic faith-based learning in the district and the majority have an excellent track record of care within limited resources.
But most also recognise they would benefit from support and training on safeguarding procedures to raise awareness among teachers and other staff.
Councillor Ralph Berry, executive member for children’s services, said: “I am sure this report and toolkit will be very welcome in mosques and madrassas where most people want to provide a safe environment for children.”