Swaminarayan School closure: Free Hindu school ‘could open in Northwick Park to replace doomed private school’, Commons told

The Swaminarayan School in Neasden.

The Swaminarayan School in Neasden. - Credit: Archant

The government’s schools minister told a Commons debate he cannot step in to save Neasden’s Swaminarayan School – because it is not state-run.

But rumours persist about the possibility of building a free replacement school in Northwick Park to serve the Hindu community.

Education minister Nick Gibb MP held a meeting in the House of Commons on Wednesday secured by Ealing’s Labour MP Virendra Sharma.

As reported in the Brent & Kilburn Times, the school in Brentfield Road – run by the operators of Neasden Temple – announced its shock closure last month.

Trustees had decided to shut from 2019 because of falling income and increased competition. Following a series of heated meetings with parents, it was agreed to delay the closure first to 2020 and then prospectively to 2021.

Mr Gibb said: “It is right to acknowledge that the closure of a school with a specifically Hindu ethos is a matter of regret, simply because at present there are relatively few other schools of that nature in England.

“There is nothing the government can do to stop the closure now that the trustees have taken the decision. We do not fund independent schools, and nor do we come to arrangements that are designed to help them overcome financial difficulties.”

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Bob Blackman, Harrow East MP (Con), was leader of Brent Council when the Swaminarayan School was created in 1991. Previously the state-run Sladebrook High School it was sold to the Swaminarayan Hindu Mission.

He said a state-funded Hindu secondary school was opening in his constituency in September.

He also told the school’s minister he’d heard “rumours” that the Avanti Schools Trust wants to set up a Hindu school in Brent which could “be resisted” as there is a “surplus of places in Brent schools at the moment.”

He added: “I understand that there is a potential proposal for a school to be set up on what is loosely called the Northwick Park site. That is an opportunity for the matter to be advanced, which would help residents of Ealing, Harrow and Brent to get a Hindu-ethos education, if they so wish.”

Mr Gibb said he was “happy to work with” the Harrow and Ealing MPs “if they want to meet to discuss particular proposals for a Hindu free school to replace the Swaminarayan School”.