The Wrong Kind of Faith School

Here’s a new complication with religious free schools;

What if your child ends up being sent to the “wrong” faith school?

The National Secular Society’s newsline this week includes the story of a family whose daughter has been allocated a place at a Hindu primary school after missing out on the non-faith preferences listed on their application form.

Faith schools are increasing in number in the UK; this is deemed acceptable  as we are a multicultural nation. The problem for this family is they are not of the Hindu faith and they are worried their daughter will feel like an outsider in a school where only 3 children come from non-Hindu families.

We are told a little about the school, Avanti Court Primary in Redbridge;

“The development of “spiritual insight” is at the heart of the school’s curriculum, which draws on the teachings of Krishna Chaitanya, a 16th century Indian saint. Collective worship includes Kirtan (chanting mantras), meditation and prayer. Children are not permitted to bring in packed lunches for fear that children may share food which may be against individuals’ dietary requirements.”

Hmm, spiritual insight, meditation, food taboos- where have I heard that before?

On the Nailsworth forum yesterday someone commented “If you don’t like the Steiner free school don’t send your kids there”.

Simple? Apparently not.

If, as has been suggested, existing schools in the Stroud area are threatened by a brand new 600 place school opening, we could easily end up with a situation where some unfortunate children will be allocated places in an anthroposophy [Steiner] school, where if they don’t like the eurythmy and the religious verses, or if they want to watch tv, use computers and eat chocolate, they will be outsiders.

It’s difficult to imagine a Steiner school being over-subscribed, so there will always be places available for the unfortunate ones who have failed to gain a place at their first choice school.

Another family was offered a place at the Avanti school despite their Muslim beliefs.

Redbridge Council say  “…all faith schools must take a number of children who are not from that background”. That implies there must always be some families whose children will have to go to a faith school where the faith is not their own.

No-one considers the reduction in choice for the 70% of the population who have no religious conviction at all. The number of schools available to these families declines with each religious free school that opens. I find myself in agreement with the NSS who say no child should be expected to attend a religious school against their parents’ wishes;

“The best way to achieve that is to move away from the concept of faith-based schools that teach religion-specific values, and move towards truly inclusive schools that teach universal shared values”.






  1. Jim

    I suspect some who went to old style CofE schools may think this is a bit overstated – all it meant was that the non CofE kids stayed out of the religious part of assembly and missed out one RE lesson a week. The rest of the week everyone went to the same classes which had no religious content. So what’s the problem?

    They have to bear in mind that these schools are not like that, whether we’re talking about Steiner schools or the more fundamentalist schools of whatever flavour. In these schools their religion permeates every lesson and influences not only how they are taught but also what they are taught. So if you opt out of the Steiner elements in a Steiner school you are not going to be spending much time with your classmates! Even were it possible to isolate the specifically Steiner “lessons” and sit out of those we have had ample evidence of how those parents regarded as “difficult” are ostracised so it it would seem impossible for a Steiner school to fulfil the obligation to take a number of children “from outside the faith group”. Which perhaps answers the question I recently posed of why Steiner schools were adamant that they are not faith schools.

  2. Helen

    “So if you opt out of the Steiner elements in a Steiner school you are not going to be spending much time with your classmates! ”
    Ha Ha! You will have to miss most of the ‘main lesson’ for starters – according to the Handbook for Waldorf Class teachers it’s stuffed with anthro-related creation myths and ‘delineating the contours of the soul’ etc.
    I wonder if children from non-Steiner families can opt out of being put in a ‘temperament group’ too?

    • Helen

      David I’m sorry but I don’t understand either of your comments so far, and on each I have had to delete your e mail address from your name when posting, so please could you just put your name if you intend commenting again?

  3. Teeto

    There’s hardly any religion in these hindu schools as Hindus are worried about upsetting other faiths all the time an example of this is the meditation is to water sounds rather than om chanting, further the council are at fault for not making enough spaces available in other schools. An example of hindu leaderships thought or lack of it is that even after partitioning India on Hindu Moslem grounds the so called hindu leaders kept India a secular country rather than declaring it a hindu state while Pakistan became Islamic Republic from day one.

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