Concerns over racial segregation surround the opening of England’s first Hindu state school in Edgware.

Krishna-Avanti Primary School, due to open in Camrose Avenue on Monday, has drawn criticism from religious and secular groups for its promotion of Hinduism over other faiths.

Alistair McBay, spokesman for the National Secular Society, said: “The interesting thing is that until now the Government has quoted the Hindu community as a model for integration, yet it has always managed to hold onto its cultural and religious values.

“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: “Any-thing 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, so 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.”

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: “Faith schools have an excellent record of providing high-quality education and out- performing comparable non-faith schools. 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.”

Shakil Ahmed, headteacher of Muslim school Ayesha Com-munity Education, in The Broadway, West Hendon, also claimed secular schools were as segregationist as faith schools.

“Even the Government categorises secular or humanist schools as a faith in its own right,” he claimed.

“In those schools, often religion is looked down upon.

“It can become a sort of joke and this stigma sticks with children.

“In most faith schools, religious tolerance and harmony with others is taught as part of the curriculum.

“It is not about separating people, it is about offering an option to parents who want it.”

Krishna-Avanti’s first class of children will start in Reception on September 15.

The pupils will spend a year having lessons in temporary classrooms while its new £10 million campus is built on adjacent playing fields.