How Preston Muslim Girls’ High School gained an outstanding Ofsted rating
- Credit: Paul Adams
A Preston school has overcome the odds and been given a glowing report. Paul Mackenzie reports.
Pupils chatter happily as they throng the corridor between lessons while around the corner a group sit hunched over books as they prepare for their exams and, through an open classroom door, a teacher chats with a couple of girls about their upcoming lessons.
They are scenes that are repeated thousands of times a day in schools all over Lancashire, but there are signs that this high school is a little different.
Outside, staff halt traffic while girls cross the road to another school building which doubles as the sports hall and canteen and houses the school’s only science lab. Pupils chat and laugh in the tiny outside area and many will be back at school in the evening for more lessons – some could be there at weekends or during the school holidays too.
Preston Muslim Girls’ High School is hemmed in on two sides by roads and a haulage yard stands on the other side of an overgrown tram track which runs just a few yards from classrooms and which the city council have plans to re-open. A third school site is in a converted chapel building further down the road and PE lessons often take place on a public park half a mile or so away.
But despite these obstacles, and sitting in a deprived corner of Preston city centre with few of the facilities most schools take for granted – there is no playground or field and classrooms are so small that special reduced-size furniture had to be made to accommodate pupils – the latest Ofsted inspection rated the school as outstanding.
Inspectors gave the school top marks in all four areas: leadership and management; teaching and learning; personal development, behaviour and welfare; and pupil outcomes. They praised the school’s ‘cultural awareness of life in modern Britain which has created tolerant, respectful and considerate pupils.’ Deputy headteacher David Foster joined the school almost five years ago. There were fewer than 200 pupils then. In September they will have about 500 on the roll.
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‘In many ways it is just a school, so it is just the same as other places I have taught, but it is also very different,’ he said. ‘Religion here is embedded throughout everything we do – everything is in that context.’
The school was founded in the old Deepdale Mill about 25 years ago with part-time teachers and few local girls. After the Quwwat Ul Islam mosque was built, a madrassa was added over the road (an evening and weekend school for learning about Islam).
‘The school has grown quite rapidly and over time it outgrew the mill,’ added David. ‘We now use the upper floors of the madrassa – there’s a nursery on the ground floor – but it was never built to be a school. It has fewer facilities you would find in most other high schools and only a very small outdoor space.
‘Pupils are here from 8.15am to 3.15pm and we work them hard. Many also attend the madrassa from 5-7pm Monday to Friday for intensive Islamic education. Then they have homework – these girls don’t sit in front of the TV very often. They are very ambitious and driven. When they leave here, many go to sixth form colleges. And even though we only have one lab, a lot of girls go into science.
‘We make sure the girls are citizens of the wider world. We take them out as much as possible. We take part in the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme and the Lancashire Schools Book of the Year awards. We also work with other schools and we try to encourage out-of-school activities. There is also an emphasis on charity – the school has raised more than £23,000 last year.’
The school’s headteacher, Mufti Javid, is hoping a new two or three storey school building on the mill site can progress and allow them to offer post-16 education.
He said: ‘The money has been approved but now they are looking at what they will do with it. We would like to bring the school together on a single site but we are now waiting for a decision.’
Mufti has two daughters at the school already and third will join in September and he added: ‘I have been here 11 years. We had 60 pupils then in the mill building and although we have grown, we are still small enough to be a family school but we are big enough to offer a broad curriculum. We give extra support to pupils who need it, at weekends or in the holidays.
‘We are a faith based Muslim school in a quite deprived Muslim community but we don’t want to feel isolated. We work with other schools and we would like to grow the exposure of the school and its work. We are delighted that the school has got the recognition we feel it deserves and we will continue to improve.’ w