Parents told faith school or no school by local council

Jul 5, 2014

By The National Secular Society

Eleven children whose parents refused places at a Hindu faith school in the London borough of Redbridge have been left with no school place for September.

Families of children allocated places at Avanti Court Primary School in Essex refused the places, saying the school’s religious ethos is at odds with their own beliefs and values.

Redbridge Council has sought to evade responsibility for the lack of suitable school places by saying that none of the children would be of statutory school age before January. Under current law children in England must be in education from the term after their fifth birthday, but the law also allows for pupils to start school earlier.

Naz Qureshi, the Muslim mother of a four-year-old daughter from South Woodford, said: “I was gobsmacked and outraged when they told me I didn’t get any of my six chosen choices of schools.”

“I didn’t want her to go to a Hindu school so I am surprised the council would think I would accept a faith school which I didn’t even apply for.”

Ms Qureshi told BBC Asia Network that the family would now have to consider paying for private schooling as a last resort.

Liz Beck, whose four-year-old son was due to start school in September told the BBC: “Culturally it’s quite different and even though we don’t want to shelter our son from other cultures, we feel it would be difficult for him to be in that environment where it’s quite different from what we believe”.

12 comments on “Parents told faith school or no school by local council

  • Many of these problems have been created by the drive to reduce “surplus places” in schools, as these incur the cost of maintaining partially empty buildings, and/or small classes with low pupil numbers per teacher.
    The downside of this policy of filling up buildings to capacity, is a lack of flexible capacity for geographical population shifts, and local year-on-year variations in birth rates.
    Legislation on maximum class sizes, and financial pressures to top up school pupil numbers to fill classes to maximum capcity, means that there are problems with “bulge age-group numbers, and rapid population changes.
    These mean that certain areas may not have enough places for some year-groups. This entails this sort of shunting children to distant schools, or in the case of infants who cannot reasonably travel far from their communities, shoving them into whatever places are locally available under this finance driven system.

    Just over 4 million pupils are educated in primary schools maintained
    by local authorities in England and Wales, at a cost of around £4,500 million a year . -(Page 6 of 44.)

    Surplus capacity absorbs expenditure. This money could otherwise be used to improve educational provision or redeployed to improve other local authority services or to reduce taxation. Government Departments’ estimates show a surplus of 900,000 places in English and Welsh primary schools. A cautious estimate of the cost of these places is £140 million a year. National estimates of the size and significance of surplus capacity can only give an incomplete picture because:— national figures are built up from data on LEAs ‘net surpluses but in practice a surplus and a shortage in the same county do not cancel out unless the y are close enough for primar y pupil s to travel between them

    When considering normal child-care costs, this does not seem particularly high for an education service.

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  • 2
    Miserablegit says:

    A wonderful combination of schooling driven by numbers and the insistence that faith schools have a place in education.

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  • I’m not a parent, so I don’t know how much the issue of faith schools is discussed by parents, but my impression is that it is almost never discussed. In general life, I’ve never heard anyone even mention faith schools or anything to do with religion in schools. It only appears to be specialist secularist groups and forums, like this, where the issue is discussed.

    I find this extraordinary because in Britain so few people go to church or have any firm religious convictions, so I cannot understand why the vast majority of parents aren’t saying, “Hang on, why are we allowing our state schools to be taken over by religious groups? Why are some of us having to travel miles to take our kids to a non-religious school? How can my child be refused a place at the local school because we’re not the right religion, when we’re taxpayers and should have every right to send our child to the local taxpayer-funded school?”

    I’ve never heard of any mass protest by parents against faith schools. It seems like the vast majority, even though they’re not religious, just accept the imposition of faith schools without any question or concern.

    It’s very weird!

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  • As a matter of principle I distrust articles with quotes from only one side. Lack of school places is a general issue and there are too many possibilities of reasonable, if unfortunate, reasons underlying this story for me to get excited by it.

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  • 5
    tubaman says:

    This is a perfect example as to why the push for vouchers and to put religion back into public schools in the United States are so dangerous. No parents should be faced with a choice of having to send their child to a school that teaches dogma, especially if it is inconsistent with the dogma they believe. The only way to make sure that parents aren’t faced with issues like this is to ensure that all schools that receive public funding are completely secular. If you want to have a “faith based,” i.e. irrational, education, then you can do that with your own money. I know that the system in the UK is different, but there are plenty in the US who would be happy with state funded religious schools.

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  • 6
    abrahims says:

    ‘muslim’ parents. .typical response. . .firstly i dont believe govt wud activly promote any school which is known to indoctrnate its studnts into specific cults. . .secondly and more imprtntly, if muslims of this world had the gud luck of attnding a ‘hindu’ school, the world wud b a better place. . .

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  • abrahim Jul 8, 2014 at 9:51 pm

    . . .firstly i dont believe govt wud activly promote any school which is known to indoctrnate its studnts into specific cults. .

    Unfortunately in the UK:-

    We think it’s unjustifiable that a number of publicly funded schools with a religious designation (faith schools) are still permitted by law to teach RE from their own exclusive viewpoint. Such a situation not only undermines the integrity of the state education system, it also undermines young people’s religious freedom.

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  • Laura Jul 9, 2014 at 1:47 pm

    and most denied that government funding was used for faith education.

    The know-it-all ignorant will deny almost anything. Most of them do not have enough skills or intellect to even look it up on Wiki !

    A Voluntary Aided school (VA school) is a state-funded school in England and Wales in which a foundation or trust (usually a religious organisation), contributes to building costs and has a substantial influence in the running of the school. Such schools have more autonomy than Voluntary Controlled schools, which are entirely funded by the state. In most cases the foundation or trust own the buildings.[1] In some circumstances Local Authorities can help the governing body in buying a site, or can provide a site or building free of charge.

    Voluntary Aided schools are a kind of “maintained school”, meaning that they receive all their running costs from central government via the Local Authority. The majority are also faith schools.

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  • The Avanti Court Primary School in Redbridge is a Hindu Krishna Consciousness project, paid for by the British taxpayer. The movement was founded by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. You remember these chaps in orange robes with shaven heads that used to run through the streets chanting Hare Krishna, beating drums ? George Harrison, the late Beatle, was one of their sponsors.

    It calls itself the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). They have four schools in England at present. A huge expansion of faith schools is on the cards as the government moves schools from local authority control to private trusts, with the taxpayer footing the bill, of course.

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  • Roman Catholic Schools are all (I think) Voluntary Aided Schools — and, as we see from this topic, at least one Hindu school. But the Free Schools policy of the UK government is leading to the opening of still more faith schools.

    It’s UK government policy to use taxpayers’ money to create more faith schools. As if there weren’t enough already. It’s not only the main religions that are being asked to help themselves from the education budget. The Greek Orthodox Church is getting in on the act.
    “St Andrew the Apostle Greek opened in September 2013 as a free school, and is the first state funded secondary Greek Orthodox school in Britain.”

    Some bureaucrat had bright idea of allocating a place at the school to a Cypriot boy. Cypriot? Greek Orthodox School. Just the thing. The family, however, is Turkish Cypriot and definitely not ‘over the moon’ about a Greek Orthodox education. Even less so, since they’re not religious at all.

    How can British voters put up with these subsidies being given to support religious organizations, as will be more and more the case as the free school policy gathers steam.

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  • aldous Jul 12, 2014 at 9:40 pm

    How can British voters put up with these subsidies being given to support religious organizations, as will be more and more the case as the free school policy gathers steam.

    The problem is that Tory twits like Cameron, tell Tory voters that all the problems of local council politics and bureaucracy, can be solved by letting unsupervised Tory ideologues take over the running of schools.
    This has been compounded by allowing “faith schools” to have cherry picking admissions policies, so they can dump anti-education problem families, into LEA schools, and then take a holier than thou posture with a better proportion of high examination results.

    It is a policy of opportunities for opportunists to take over schools and promote their ideological policies.
    Naturally, it would not occur to “faith-thinkers”, that other opportunists would do likewise with different ideologies!

    Stupid politicians, and gullible voters, just HAVE to make mistakes BEFORE they eventually (occasionally?) recognise the results of their lack of foresight or ignoring of warnings!

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  • To make things difficult, there is a chaotic mix of different types of school in England. Even, having to say ‘in England’ shows the beginning of the mess, since statistics exclude Northern Ireland and Scotland as a rule and sometimes include Wales and sometimes don’t.

    These figures are from 2011 and, as you can see, are not clear and complete, even for that year.
    State secondary schools 3,446, including 1,300 academies and 164 selective grammar schools.

    Increasng nubers of free schools, which religious organizations find a useful way of imposing their creed on pupils.

    16,884 primary schools in England. 7,000 of these are faith schools.

    2,415 private schools

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