Kirpan row hits north London school

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Family forced to enrol son into £6,000 a year private school

A BRITISH Sikh family have been forced to take out a £6,000 loan to help pay for private school fees after their son was removed from a north London school for wearing the Kirpan.

The boy, aged 14, was told by Compton School in Barnet he would not be able to wear the traditional Sikh dagger for health and safety reasons when he turned up for start of term last month.

The decision brought to an end a two-year struggle between the school and the boys parents over his right to wear the ceremonial dagger on school premises. 

Fearing for their son’s education, the family were forced to enrol him into a private school earlier this week with yearly fees of £6,000.

The family, who sought legal representation over their fight, had been in talks with Barnet Council about the issue for two years.

The council told the boys family they were willing to allow his return to school if he substituted his Kirpan for a two inch replica which is welded shut in its sheath.

When the family refused the council said it had no duty to find the boy another school as he was not excluded and left voluntarily.

Since the incident the boy’s family struggled to find him an alternative school.

“We knew that no school in the Barnet borough would take my brother as they would be bound by the same legal advice given by the Council’s lawyers,” the boys elder brother Ravjeet Singh said.

“We looked at schools in other boroughs even though it meant my brother would have to travel an hour each way to school or live away from home. Even that was a challenge as schools had a waiting list.”

The youngster’s father, Bhupinder Singh, said the family were hopeful of securing a place at the Guru Nanak Sikh School in Hayes but were turned away because of a waiting list.

The family were then forced to take out a £6,000 loan to secure a place at a private school.

Mejindarpal Kaur, Legal Director at community group United Sikhs,said the decision taken by Compton School was a “blow to religious freedom”.

“The Compton School’s decision is a blow to religious freedom in Barnet schools whilst schools throughout the UK have accommodated Sikh students who wear a Kirpan,” she said.

“The school should recognise that the Kirpan poses no greater risk to other students than scissors, cutters or cutlery that exist in greater numbers in schools and are regularly handled by students. Sikhs have a statutory exemption under the Criminal Justice Act 1988 that allows them to wear a Kirpan in public, including at schools.”

A statement from Barnet Local Authority released on behalf of Compton School said they had tried to reach an “agreement” with the family for two years and had “examined potential compromises” after looking at how the issue had been dealt with in “other schools, education authorities and elsewhere within the Sikh community.”

It said a place was still open for the boy at Compton School “should he feel able to wear a Kirpan suitable to bring into school.”

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