Parents in Leeds have been shocked to discover that their local authority has allocated places to their children in a Sikh free school, despite their not having chosen the school.
Over two-thirds of the new intake at the Khalsa Science Primary Academy will be pupils whose parents did not choose the school. Thirty children have been given places, when just eight had put the school down as part of their preferences – and only four of these were from Leeds, according to the secretary of the local National Union of Teachers branch.
This follows objections last year when the Department for Education granted Khalsa free school status in spite of clear lack of demand for such a school in the area. It has spaces for 30 children per year group, yet there are currently 20 children in year one and just 12 in reception.
Now the empty places are being filled with children whose parents don’t want them to go to Khalsa, or indeed to a religious school at all. Some of the parents smell a rat. One father pointed out that Khalsa is a significant distance further away than all the schools they had chosen.
Another parent said that there are 13 schools nearer to their home than Khalsa, and that anyway he objects strongly to sending his child to a religious school. What’s more, because Khalsa is on the site of a Sikh temple, the child would have to bring vegetarian-only packed lunches, a rule which this parent said he found offensive.
Last year the council was ordered by former schools minister Lord Nash to hand over a new site, which they had earmarked for a special needs school, to the Khalsa Trust. Now it appears that the site will not be ready for September, so parents are being asked to send their young children to a school miles away from home, when most don’t even want the school.
Yet again, the government spends millions of pounds to open a free school, in the name of parental choice – which demonstrably is unwanted – and which promotes religious ideas to young children. And local authorities are forbidden to open new community schools in response to real local need.
Last month parents in South Buckinghamshire voiced their dismay when their daughter was allocated a place in another free school from the Khalsa stable in Stoke Poges. It appears that 24 parents have been allocated places for their children at the secondary school, when they did not choose the school.
So never mind if the schools are not wanted – just stuff them with unwilling children!