Sponsor of planned new Sikh school loses control of existing school

Sponsor of planned new Sikh school loses control of existing school

School sign

The government has ended the funding arrangement of a Sikh faith school which has been judged inadequate, while the academy chain behind it applies for funding for another faith school.

The Department for Education issued a notice to Khalsa Academies Trust to terminate its sponsorship of Khalsa Secondary Academy in Stoke Poges in Buckinghamshire last week. The school was judged inadequate in an Ofsted inspection in December.

The department told the trust it had failed to demonstrate its ability to tackle failings in multiple areas, including leadership, safeguarding and special needs provision.

The news comes as the DfE considers an application to open another Khalsa Academy, in Sandwell in the West Midlands. This is one of 19 proposed faith schools in the latest wave of its free school programme.

The termination letter expresses the wish that the academy in Stoke Poges maintains its Sikh ethos through its new sponsor.

No More Faith Schools campaign coordinator Alastair Lichten criticised this and said the notice to the school in Stoke Poges should prompt the government to reject the application in Sandwell.

"It can't be appropriate for organisations responsible for serious failings to open more publicly funded schools.

"And while the Department for Education has shown near total disregard for protecting the community ethos of non-faith academies, when it comes to a faith school that ethos is suddenly sacrosanct. Ministers' priority should be addressing the school's failings and urgently improving outcomes for its pupils.

"Time and again the DfE's enthusiasm for faith schools has trumped concerns over inclusion, appropriateness, and basic governance. Schools should be inclusive and accountable to the local communities they should serve equally."

Parents assigned school against their preferences

The school was theoretically allowed to select up to 50% of its pupils based on faith, as well as those of other faiths and no faith, provided they "support and respect the religious ethos of the school".

But low demand meant some non-religious and Christian parents were allocated the school despite not including it in their list of preferences.

Historic opposition to the school

  • Local residents and groups including the National Secular Society, which coordinates the NMFS campaign, opposed the opening of Khalsa Academy, Stoke Poges when it was proposed in 2013.
  • In 2016 two local councils lost a legal challenge to the proposal to open the school in Stoke Poges after arguing that it was "neither needed nor wanted".