The independent think tank Civitas reported in an article in a national publication that some private Muslim schools “are preparing children to live separate lives in Muslim enclaves”.

The appearance of the word ‘jihad’ on a website link of Bradford’s all-Muslim girls’ school Feversham College was evidence, the report suggested, of the promotion of religious fundamentalism.

The link, called Al-Islam, was one of several Islamic links on the school’s official website.

After the Civitas report, it was examined by the school’s governors and then-acting head teacher Clare Skelding.

They took the decision to remove it lest it cause misunderstanding.

If Feversham College is a hotbed of Islamic fundamentalism, then I am Cristiano Ronaldo.

If I was Manchester United’s Portuguese hot-shot, I dare say that all Feversham’s 633 girls, 70 female staff and half the male Muslim population of Undercliffe would have packed the school’s Cliffe Road playground when I arrived this week.

Feversham’s girls are bonkers about football and Manchester United in particular, I was told by Rehana Shafquat, the school’s curriculum deputy head teacher. Bit of work to do there by Bradford City.

Because I am not Cristiano Ronaldo, nor as eminent as previous school visitors David Cameron and Imran Khan, I had a bit of difficulty getting into the building. Men are not allowed in except by prior invitation and in spite of the school’s equal opportunities policy, there are no male teachers.

Eventually I was admitted and asked to wait in a small vestibule. Far from being a waste of time, this gave me an opportunity to gauge the feel of the place.

A pile of children’s books on a shelf, I noticed, were in English. Members of staff came and went. A couple of girls in hijabs (head-dresses) poked their heads round the door. Behind a wall a teacher took a register of girls’ names. The only language I heard was English, usually with a ‘Bratfurd’ accent. After registration the teacher told the girls (in English) to collect their bags and go about their business – PE, I think.

I took up the matters of equal opportunities and the absence of men with Feversham’s newly-appointed head teacher Clare Skelding, deputy head Rehana Shafquat and head of religious studies Sajda Khan (also responsible for Feversham’s Islamic customs and practices).

The college is a voluntary-aided faith school for 11 to 19-year-olds, which abides by the National Curriculum. The school’s regulations allowed for an all-female environment, explained Rehana. There are GOQs – General Occupation Qualifications – which permit exemptions to the sex discrimination law. Women can request a female doctor, for example.

Clare said: “An all-female school contributes in a positive way: it’s easier to take risks.”

Rehana added: “It’s safer for their studies. If there are no distractions it gives them opportunities to perform.”

What, then, would deter the girls from taking risks, and what kind of risks?

“I think it’s fear of ridicule,” said Clare. “Girls don’t like to be shown up. While they are growing in their faith they are more vulnerable if boys are around.”

She and Rehana used the word confidence a lot. The risks the girls took included asking questions in class, leading school assemblies and addressing their teachers.

I experienced a couple of examples of this self-confidence as I was leaving. For the sake of protocol Clare escorted me to the exit. A few girls, however, were still in the building. One said to Clare: “Where were you this afternoon Miss, I missed you.” Another said: “Congratulations Miss, I heard about the job.” Clare’s appointment as head was confirmed last week.

Civitas made a big deal out of the word ‘jihad’. The common assumption is that the word means holy war. Sadja Khan explained that jihad actually means the struggle to conquer the self. Whatever other means have been ascribed to jihad by political activists, when the word is discussed in classes of 15 and 16-year-olds at Feversham, the only idea that Sajda Khan promotes is the struggle to become a better person.

Faith is central to the school’s existence.

Rehana said: “We try to make our students confident in their ability as Muslims living in Britain, and be confident with that rather than pretend to be something else.”

Clare said: “We have more than 600 applications for 95 places. Faith is an important part of life. I’m a Catholic, a non-Muslim head of an all-Muslim girls school.”

Although the 70 staff, including support staff, are all women, surnames such as Bailey, Fisher, Hirst, Rose, Smith, Harrison, Reilly and Walker, indicate that there are plenty of non-Muslims among them.

While the staff are not obliged to make a declaration of faith, the pupils are. They don’t get in unless they have a signed statement from an imam at a mosque.

When the Civitas story came out some of the girls were asking: “Are they going to close us down, Miss?”

Perhaps the school should invite Civitas to visit. Feversham’s problem with the outside world is that, outside of education, not many people have any experience of what the school is really like.

The results of the 2008 Ofsted inspection are there for all to see on the school’s website. The inspector, Jan Bennett, wrote to the school in January last year, congratulating staff and pupils: “The quality of teaching and learning is outstanding. Lessons are extremely well planned and managed. They include a wide variety of activities to challenge and engage you and move at a very lively pace…”

Don’t be surprised if the girls invite Cristiano Ronaldo along to their next prizegiving.