Thursday, 14 February 2013


This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:

Anger as family told to try Hindu free school for place 
A family have been told to send their five-year-old two miles away to the city's Hindu free school after they were informed three local primaries were full. 
Micayla Dodd and her partner, Ryan Thompson, moved from Thurmaston to Lymington Road, in Netherhall, in October, along with Micayla's daughter, Grace, five. 
They have since been told none of their three nearby primaries, including Scraptoft Valley, at the end of their road, has places. 
Leicester City Council has instead suggested the family apply to Krishna Avanti Primary, which is more than two miles away, in Spencefield Lane.
The family said they would prefer Grace studied closer to home than this school, which has a Hindu ethos and takes half of its pupils from the Hindu faith.
Krishna Avanti Primary said it "promotes educational excellence, character formation and spiritual insight through holistic, responsible lifestyles and a vegetarian diet, as well as a curriculum that integrates yoga and meditation".
It draws on the teachings of the Indian Saint, Sri Chaitanya, to "emphasize equality, love, compassion and selflessness that stretches across all faiths".
Mr Thompson said: "I have nothing against the faith, but, it's not the type of school we would consider sending Grace to. It's disgusting the local authority can't find a local school to send her to and is suggesting one that's not even part of the local authority."
Krishna Avanti is the city's first free school and has control of its own finances and curriculum. In keeping with its Hindu ethos, the school provides only vegetarian food.
Mr Thompson said: "It's not good enough that although we applied in November for a place, Grace still doesn't have one, let alone that the only one available is Krishna Avanti, and not any of the three schools close to where we live.
"The council needs to do something about the fact there are no places.
"Grace was thriving at her old school, Church Hill Infants, and now she's really withdrawn. She had lots of friends there and the best thing to do would have been to start her new school straight away.
"Now, she's scared about going to a strange place where she doesn't know anyone. She's lost all her confidence."
A spokesman for the city council said it was only obliged to ensure there were a sufficient number of places within the local authority area.
He said: "This includes voluntary-aided, trust and free schools, as well as academies and community schools. We are not obliged to provide solely community school places.
"We were unable to offer a place at any of the applicant's three preferred schools as they were all fully subscribed and advised that places were available at the nearby Krishna Avanti Primary. We also advised the applicant of their right to appeal the decision.
"We're exploring a range of options to increase capacity and create additional primary places across Leicester. This work is ongoing and it's too early to discuss in detail."
The council needs to find thousands more primary school places to tackle a shortage caused by an increase in the city's birth rate and more people moving to the area.
Options could include some secondary schools taking pupils from the age of four and expanding some schools for pupils aged four to seven into all-through primaries.

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