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UK's first state Hindu schools set to open
by Dominic Hayes And Rob Singh ("Evening Standard," June 23, 2005)

London, England - Britain's first state-supported Hindu schools are set to open in London.

The voluntary-aided primaries in Harrow and Brent are expected to be rubber-stamped by ministers, who have to give approval, and could be taking their first pupils by 2007.

Hindu parents are concerned about their children losing touch with their culture and religion, and want the same high standards of faith education offered in the state sector to followers of other religions.

London already has many state faith schools, including Catholic, Church of England, Jewish and Islamic primaries and secondaries.

A charitable foundation has had its plans for the Harrow school approved by the council. The borough has Britain's biggest single Hindu community, with one in five people there a member of the faith.

The I-foundation, a notforprofit organisation made up of local religious community leaders, is linked to the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (Iskcon).

Iskcon's website says the school would be "dedicated to developing each child's full potential spiritually, morally and academically. Its vision is to deliver a high standard of education within a spiritual atmosphere, preparing students to become individuals of good character, discipline and competence."

The school, which has not yet got a site, is likely to see a huge demand for places from parents keen to benefit from the better results associated with faith schools.

The other school is proposed by the Akshar Education Trust, a charity which runs the private Swaminarayan School in Neasden but wants to move it to Brent, where there are more Hindus and many who can't afford its fees.

The Department for Education and Skills will announce whether the school bids have been successful in the autumn. If they are, the primaries will have to follow the national curriculum, obey equal opportunities laws and pay teachers national scale salaries.

Islamia Primary School in Queen's Park, which was founded by former singer Cat Stevens (Yusuf Islam), became the first Muslim state primary in 1998.


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