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One of the UK’s well-known privately-run Hindu faith schools here has announced its closure from July next year due to increasing regulatory requirements, declining pupil numbers and difficulties in recruitment and retention of teachers, a decision which has left parents surprised and disappointed.The Akshar Educational Trust, which runs the Brent-based Swaminarayan School, said in a statement that it plans to exit the education sector completely by July 2020. It blamed increasing regulatory requirements, difficulties in the recruitment and retention of teachers, ready availability of fee-free state-funded Hindu schools, and declining pupil numbers for the decision. “It is indeed very sad, particularly for our pupils, staff and parents. We explored several options before arriving at this difficult decision.
We have given all parents one year’s notice to find an alternative school as well as a commitment to our staff that their employment is secure for the academic year 2018-19,” said Jitu Patel, Chair of the Trust. The Swaminarayan School, set up in 1992, is popular within the large Indian-origin community based in the borough of Brent in north-west London, many of whom were willing to pay the 4,310 pounds per-term fees to enroll their children. The news of its closure has been received with surprise and disappointment by the parents, who will now have to look for alternatives from the next academic year. But the trust said that mounting pressures in recent years had hampered its ability to invest in the resources required to sustain the improvements needed in the school, both educationally and for its infrastructure.
Nilesh Manani, Head of the Senior School since it opened, said: “The children and staff are some of the very best I have had the privilege of supporting and we will strive to ensure that our education standards are maintained until the very end.” The trustees have planned two phases for the closure of the school, associated with the Bochasanwasi Akshar Purushottam Sanstha (BAPS) Swaminarayan Mandir in Neasden – one of the world’s largest Hindu temples outside India. The closure timetable is intended to give a full academic year’s notice in order to allow all parents time to apply to other schools. The prep school and senior school will continue as normal from September 2018 until closure in July 2019.
This applies to all pupils, except those taking state-level exams known as the General Certificate of Secondary Educations (GCSE) or A-levels in September 2018, who will all be able to complete their GCSEs and A-levels at the school until July 2020, it said. The Trust also said it had held discussions with the Avanti Trust, which is already looking for a suitable site to open a state-funded Hindu school in the area. “If the Avanti Trust is successful in opening its school by September 2019, parents will be able to apply for places available at that school – subject to meeting the school’s admissions criteria,” the Akshar Educational Trust said in a statement. Umesh Raja, Head of the prep school, said: “It is very sad, but the most important thing now is for everyone to work together over the next two years, especially for the pupils remaining at our school.” The school, opened by Pramukh Swami Maharaj, has a mission to “promote Hindu and British culture and values and way of life”. Under the UK’s educational system, privately-run faith schools must follow a national curriculum but can have a particular religious character or formal links with a religious organisation. They are allowed to have different admissions criteria and staffing policies from state-funded schools.