All 400 pupils at The Rosary Catholic Primary School in Saltley, Birmingham, attend Catholic assemblies, mass and lessons in Holy Communion and Confirmation.
Statues of Our Lady, various saints and popes are placed in corridors and classrooms while crucifixes and pictures of clerics and saints adorn the walls.
Yet only around 40 children who attend the school are actually Catholic.
The school is based in an area which is largely populated by Muslim families.
Some of the pupils’ parents are Imams. Some of them live in mosques nearby. And it is regularly oversubscribed.
Yet the school’s ties to the Catholic church are currently stronger than ever.
As they approach the summer holidays, the pupils are joining the parish church, Our Lady of The Rosary and St Therese of Lisieux, to celebrate its 80th anniversary on Friday.
And some recently took part in a Rosary Rally run by the church on June 30 in which a statue of Our Lady was paraded around the streets on a specially decorated stand.
Some of the Muslim pupils serve as altar servers during school masses.
The Catholic archdiocese built the church, primary and secondary school next to one another in 1932.
The area was to a huge Catholic population at the time – mainly of Irish origin. Collections were held across the UK and Ireland to help fund it.
The secondary school was taken over by the city council’s local authority in the 1982. But the Catholic church continues to manage the primary school, which moved to its new site, also next to the church, in 1950.
Head teacher John Gubbins says: “It’s all about community cohesion. We offer good standards of education here.
“We’ve got good Ofsted results and our children achieve well. Several go on to grammar school.
“We follow the Catholic Diocese programme for religious education (RE) which pupils are taught for ten to 15 per cent of the week. All children take part.
“They also take part in our religious plays to celebrate Christmas and Easter and principals help at mass.
“Standards are a key thing for the parents. They want their children to be happy and well-taught. More than anything, we want our classes to achieve very high standards.
“This year, 89 per cent in year six attained level four or five in English or maths in their SATs, higher than ever before. We’ve got outstanding teaching.
“We also get very high results in RE. Ofsted gave us a good grading with outstanding features. They said that our RE teaching was outstanding.
“Our ICT (information, communication and technology) teaching is also very successful.”
It is a sign of changing times that most of the pupils are Muslim – and there may yet be further changes to come.
Mr Gubbins says: “When I came here 11 years ago, it was 30 per cent Catholic and 70 per cent Muslim. Signs are that we will see another change in the make-up soon.
“In September, eight out of our intake of 50 pupils (16 per cent) will be Catholic, and many of them are from Polish or African families.
“Most of the children who come here do not have English as their first language. But from year one onwards they are fluent. We have a teacher dedicated to teaching them.
“It is fantastic working here. The pupils’ behaviour is outstanding and it is a great working atmosphere. The teachers enjoy coming here and the pupils do.
“All of the children attend classes for Holy Communion and confirmation but only those who are Catholic take the sacraments.
“The Muslim pupils who attend the classes often attend the masses to support their Catholic friends and as they make their Holy Communion and confirmation.”
The Rosary School is not unique in Birmingham. High percentages of Muslim pupils also attend English Martyrs’ Catholic Primary School in Sparkhill and Holy Catholic Primary School in Small Heath.
Rosary’s chairman of governors is Father Bernard Kelly, parish priest at Our Lady of The Rosary and St Therese of Lisieux.
“This is a changing parish like all parishes in strong Muslim neighbourhoods,” he says.
“Our school is largely made up of Muslim children whose parents are happy to have them attend a Christian school. The pupils participate, with the consent of the parents, in the religious ethos and various celebrations.
“For the church, this is a new reality. The same thing has happened at the Holy Family and English Martyrs.
“The task or challenge for the church is if there are no Catholics or Christians attending the school, do we continue the school?
“We will continue it if local families want it. And they obviously do, even though they are not Christians.
“At school, the pupils hear about the teachings of Jesus but they are not imposed on them.
“In their holy book, the Koran, there are many references to Jesus and Mary, especially to Mary.”
Father Kelly’s parish has long been establishing links with the Muslim community in its neighbourhood. In 2005 the church opened Maryam, a community centre in its grounds used by all those living nearby.
Maryam is the name given to Mary the mother of Jesus in the Koran.
Following the Rosary Rally, the community gathered there for a craft fair and food.
It is hired out for birthdays and weddings by those living nearby, including Muslims. The school also uses it for functions and activities, including parenting classes.
Father Kelly, who has been at the church for 17 years and previously worked in Latin America and New York, adds: “One of the reasons for calling the parish centre Maryam House was because it related to Catholics and Christians, and to Islam.
“We saw that as a bridge. The church is on Bridge Street, too.
“Between the school and Maryam House something wonderful is happening. It has given the Catholic parish a reason for staying here, even if no more Catholic families move into the neighbourhood.
“I’m sure we will be here in another 80 years time. Why not? Will there ever be a sense or need of people not wanting to build a community on goodwill?”
Up to 20 priests are due to attend a special mass to celebrate the 20 years of Our Lady of The Rosary and St Therese of Lisieux, including the retired Archbishop of Southwark Kevin McDonald, originally parish priest in English Martyrs.