By Madhava Smullen on 29 Jan 2010
The I-Foundation—the leading Hindu charity behind the UK’s first and so far only Hindu state school—has already announced plans to build at least one secondary school within the next six years, with sites earmarked in North London and Leicester.
Although the Krishna Avanti School only officially opened in September 2008, and moved to a permanent premises as recently as September of last year, it is already receiving five applicants for every two of its 240 places.
There’s a reason why the school, located in the London borough of Harrow, is so popular. Hindus feel that after integrating so quietly into British society, this is a chance for them to celebrate their own identity and to educate their children in a setting that evokes their motherland’s faith and culture.
Krishna Avanti’s look is the first unique element that makes it stand out from the crowd. The state-of-the-art design has the highest aspirations for sustainability and conservation, with wood-clad buildings, large expanses of light and grass-covered roofs. And rising from the center of the campus is a white marble Indian-style temple, looking distinctly out of place against the surrounding suburban landscape.
Students at the School study the national curriculum, but they are also taught much that pertains to their faith. Every morning, they chant Sanskrit prayers in front of deities of Krishna-Balaram, and take lessons that include meditation and yoga. They also tend the garden and learn concepts such as the equality of all living things.
The heart of the School’s ethos is harmony with the environment—it has just been formally acknowledged as the greenest school in Britain, according to the widely accepted BREEAM industry standard. Its unique eco-systems including wildlife zones, vegetable, fruit and flower gardens; and the building structure itself features rainwater harvesting and ground source heat pumps, which provide 70% of the school’s heating.
Krishna Avanti is also Britain’s first vegetarian state school, with meals being prepared for the children on site from scratch using fresh ingredients.
Parents are enthusiastic about all these innovations. “Krishna-Avanti School offers to our child the rare opportunity to grow and develop at all levels: socially, emotionally, academically and especially spiritually,” says Mrs Elena Beltran-Clarke, mother of six-year-old Bodhini.
The project has also achieved a UK BREEAM Schools ‘excellent’ rating with a score of 75.91 per cent—currently the highest rating score of any school in the UK.
With all its success in delivering the £13.5 million Krishna-Avanti Primary School, the I-Foundation believes it should now be given the opportunity to prove it can do the same in secondary education. Hence the plans for two new secondary schools in North West London and Leicester, the two areas with the largest Hindu communities in Britain.
“It is patently absurd that, alone among the major faiths in the UK, Britain’s one million Hindus are deprived of the option of a faith-based secondary school education for their children,” says I-Foundation Director Nitesh Gor.
Mr Gor, who is also the Chair of Governors of the Krishna-Avanti School, explains: “Parents see the school’s open ethos, its work with local schools of other faiths and of none, its curriculum which teaches about all major world religions and its ethnically diverse intake, and they see the best of both worlds. We combine the ethical values and moral discipline which accompany faith education with a willingness to engage with the world beyond and prepare our children to play a full part in British society.”
Parents as well as the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), which has worked with the I-Foundation as official Faith Partner for the School, look forward to further developments.