The new look for a ‘faith school’ in the UK

Tauheedul Islam Girls School, in Blackburn, scored top in England for pupil progress. Its “tough love” ethos has earned it a reputation so high that only those girls who live within a couple of miles have any hope of gaining a place.

It opened in 1984 as an independent school serving its local community and became a voluntary aided school in 2005-6. An on-site sixth form opened last September and girls are currently applying for top universities including Oxford. It has 770 pupils with the capacity to grow to 800.

Hamid Patel, who has been principal since its change in 2005-6, ascribes the school’s success to uncompromising high standards with regard to attendance and performance, and a focus on individuals rather than numbers.

The focus is on educational excellence and aspiration, and there is a determination that the context of a pupil’s home background should not become “an excuse for failure”.

The school is still small enough to allow a personal approach to each pupil. Every one has their own plan drawn up alongside their targets. “We focus on progress and the results look after themselves,” said Mr Patel. “Students are pushed. They are expected to work hard. It is tough love.”

Although it is a progressive faith school, with non-Muslim as well as Muslim teaching staff of both sexes, he believes the faith ethos is crucial.

“It is important because it creates the conditions for success. It is about creating that sense of purpose, accountability, belonging and an environment of respect. There is a focus on values and the girls do a lot of charitable work across Blackburn,” he said.