The first Hindu school to built in Britain opens its doors today (Monday) to welcome its pupils.
This morning marks a historic moment as teaching begins in the Krishna Avanti Primary School, in Edgware.
The faith school has been founded by the I-Foundation, a Hindu charity, with class of 30 reception-age pupils joining today as the school opens in temporary accommodation.
They will be taught for the first year in classrooms at Little Stanmore Primary School, in St David’s Drive, Edgware, while the £10m Krishna Avanti Primary School building is completed in Camrose Avenue.
The school is planning to move into the new state-of-the-art building at the start of its second year, in September 2009.
Krishna Avanti Primary and its backers have met criticism from opponents of faith schools, who have said they encourage racial segregation and are not good for the local community.
Alistair McBay, spokesman for the National Secular Society, said last week: “The problem with religious schools is that racial and social diversity is reduced, not just at that school but at surrounding schools too.
“It is not denying people the right to practise their own beliefs, but this can be done at home or in the place of worship.”
Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, chairman of Accord, a religious and secular coalition promoting inclusive schools, said: “Anything dividing schools is not good for society as a whole.
“Krishna Avanti is a voluntary-aided school, meaning it can opt out of the national religious education syllabus if it wishes.
“There is no guarantee the children will be gaining a good knowledge of other faiths as well as its own, something essential for the social harmony of any society.”
But Nitesh Gor, chairman of governors at Krishna-Avanti, rejected the argument, saying faith schools provided a good education and helped children form strong identities.
He said: “By helping children to develop strong self-identities, the best faith schools also give children the confidence to play a full part in the wider community.”
Naina Parmar, headteacher of the new school, has said a section of the curriculum will be dedicated to studying other religions, and promised the school will be following national curriculum guidelines.
The first lesson in the school this morning will be led by Ms Parmar, and teacher, Sandra Clark.
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