Inside Britain's First Hindu State-Funded Faith School

June 21, 2009

Author: Emily Dugan

Source: The Independent

"I like the tree position best," says five-year-old Sadhana, standing perfectly still on one leg, hands clasped in prayer. She is one of a row of children perched like stalks on miniature yoga mats as calming music tinkles in the background. Half an hour earlier, when a crocodile of 21 four- and five-year-olds filed into the room, this had looked like any other school. But after they had launched into a Hare Krishna prayer, singing, patting a mrdanga drum and touching the floor in a low bow, it was clear that things are different here.

Sadhana attends the Krishna-Avanti Primary School in Harrow, Britain's first state-funded Hindu faith school, which opened its doors last September. Last week, The Independent on Sunday became the first newspaper to see the school at work.

It is one of the latest in a growing number of non-Christian faith schools. And its opening coincides with unprecedented levels of government funding for faith-based education, despite polls suggesting that public support for state-funded faith education is dwindling. A YouGov poll this month found that more than half of Britons think faith schools damage community cohesion, and 72 per cent want state schools to be forbidden from discriminating on religious grounds. Nevertheless, there are now 6,867 faith schools in England, with 395 in Scotland and 263 in Wales.