The Big Question: Are faith schools divisive?

Each week, we’ll speak to the people who count, people like you, and post their opinions on the big issues in the education world.  Read it and comment to make it a lively and insightful debate.

This week’s question:  Are faith schools divisive?

The first state-funded Hindu school is now open for business. Initially beginning with a small intake of 30 children, there are plans to increase this to over 200 pupils when a new multimillion pound building is completed in six years time.

The new Krishna-Avanti primary school is located in Edgware, London, which is home to a significant proportion of Hindus.  At its core, the school will have a culture of yoga and meditation and will be of significance to the one million Hindus currently in Britain.  It will follow the national curriculum and children will be taught Sanskrit, the Hindu classical language.

Some groups have expressed concern that this will limit children’s integration with other cultures and create divisions.  Others have said that faith schools help children to develop a strong sense of self and they offer high quality education.

Here are some thoughts from the wider school community.  What do you think? Add your voice to the debate and post your comments below. 

Keranjit Kaur, Key Stage 2 classroom teacher, gifted and talented co-ordinator,  says:

“Through education, cultural values rather than religious values are passed on that match the society we live in which is steeped in Western, Christian history.

“Existing in a democratic society allows people to practice different religions and hold their own set of beliefs. We do not want our society to become divisive but more cohesive. Faith schools to some degree lead to a divisive society as children who attend them only learn with children of similar backgrounds and beliefs.

“It is my opinion that children need to be taught with children of different religious backgrounds, after all inclusion has been the buzz word in education for some time now. Inclusion and cohesion are needed for a more tolerant society. “

Cassim Ashraff, PGCE student, Secondary Science, Chemistry, says:

“I don’t have an issue with faith schools at all.  Children who attend these schools are usually from similar backgrounds and share a common belief which, I believe, helps them to form a good sense of identity.

“Faith schools often have children who behave well and this is largely down to the fact that they are brought up in a religious environment where they learn respectful behaviour. 

“Of course, one of the disadvantages is that they don’t have the chance to mix with other cultures and religions and this could lead to the formation of prejudices.  I guess that’s down to the school to ensure that they learn about other ways of life.

“There is less chance of religious, or racist bullying in a faith school so children will be protected from that.”

Lionel Thomsett, parent to Ebony aged 12 years, says:

“I want my children to mix with children from all kinds of backgrounds and religions, so I was concerned to hear about the opening of another faith school. 

“More faith schools means less chance of creating a democratic and integrated society as children will grow up in schools where their only contact will be with others who are like them. 

“Instead of building walls to separate the community, we need to knock them down and create understanding, acceptance and diversity. “ 


Jonathan Dennison, Primary School Headteacher, says:

“I have no concerns around faith schools.  After all, we live in a rich cultural society and we need different sorts of schools to meet different kinds of needs.

“Many faith schools have an ethos of care and community which is evident through their nurturing, happy and holistic approach to the education of the whole child.  They seem to have a high level of success which I think is partly down to the commonality of beliefs and dedication from staff, parents and pupils that furthers the school’s development. 

“Of course, there are some very good non-denominational state schools, but proportionately there are more very good faith schools. 

“Children should still learn about other cultures and religions as the new Hindu school will be following the National Curriculum.”

What do you think? Post below and let others know.

Related stories
Admission row rattles Hindu haven of peace
Hare Krishna school angers Hindus