A FEE-PAYING faith school in Bolton is set to move into the state sector.

Bolton Muslim Girls School has put forward proposals to give up its independent status and become a non-fee paying school.

It will become the latest in a number of fee-paying schools to move into the state sector, following the Government's overhaul of education to establish independent state schools managed by trusts. Its annual fees are currently up to £660.

The school, in High Street, near the town centre, hopes to expand and will offer places to girls from other religious denominations, although preference would be given to Muslim girls.

Headteacher Idrish Patel said the move would open the school up to more girls who could not otherwise afford to attend.

"It is an idea we have considered in the past," he said. "We have a lot of parents who want their daughters to come here, but some cannot afford it and we cannot accommodate the demand.

"Given the Education White Paper, I think now is the right time to move into the state sector and become a part of the Bolton family of schools.

"This will allow us to keep the ethos of the school, while at the same time we can expand."

Bolton Muslim Girls School was established in 1987 by the Bolton Muslim Welfare Trust to educate girls in a religious environment.

There are 385 pupils and, if the bid is successful, the school hopes to double those numbers in the coming years and expand its opening times.

At present, the school is open from 8am to 1.15pm, when pupils leave for prayers.

The time that school ends would be extended and prayer rooms are likely to be built at the school.

Mr Patel said: "The school is well established with good results. Last year, 76 per cent of girls received GCSE A* to C grades and we can build on this."

An independent body, the School Organisations Committee, will consider the school's proposal at the end of summer.

The committee is a regional body made up of six organisations, including Bolton Council and school governors. It decides whether a school opens, closes or can change its status.

Mr Patel said he was confident the school's move will be approved and then it could start moving forward.

"By moving into the state sector, we can also help break down barriers by working more closely and integrating with other schools.

"There are misconceptions about Islam and we can help dispel those. It will also help the girls to integrate." William Hulme Grammar in Manchester and Belvedere School in Liverpool have also announced plans to move into the state sector and become non-fee paying.