The Department for Education (DfE) has confirmed that it will consult with all key stakeholders before deciding the fate of Seva School in Coventry.
Parents of pupils at the school, which has put into special measures by Ofsted, had been protesting against proposed changes, saying that the DfE was ignoring their concerns.
Seva School in Walsgrave is a free school currently part of the Sevak Education Trust. A faith school opened in 2014, it describes its ethos as ‘grounded in the Sikh faith’. In 2016, it was rated ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted and has been in special measures for the past two years.
On 26th November, hundreds of parents along with Seva School pupils protested outside the DfE office in Coventry, following notification from the Regional School’s Commissioner that the school would be transferred to another trust, the Nishkam School Trust. Parents and pupils carried placards that read: ‘Save our Sikh Faith School’, ‘DfE Stop Bullying’ and ‘We Deserve Equal Rights’.
One mother at the protest said: ‘I am terribly disappointed to possibly change it into a multi faith school. We worked so hard to keep this school as a Sikh School.’ Other parents have been just as critical; as many as 500 letters have been sent by parents of pupils in opposition to the proposals.
This proposed course of action has opposition from the Sevak Education Trust and many parents of pupils at Seva School. Both the Trust and the Parents of Seva School Action Group have undertaken legal correspondence with DfE, seeking them to pause activities ‘pending further consideration of the issues.’ The Sevak Education Trust have put forward alternative proposals, namely a transfer or ‘re-brokerage’ to Khalsa Academies Trust which already has three Sikh schools across the country. This option is preferred by the Parents of Seva School Action Group who fear that a transfer to the Nishkam School Trust would compromise the existing Sikh ethos of the school.
The Sevak Education Trust had been arguing that its counter-proposal of the school coming under the Khalsa Academies Trust had not even been considered as an option by the Regional School’s Commissioner, who – it is claimed – have refused to engage with Khalsa Academies Trust.
Notable Sikh figure Kam Singh, who has a child at Seva School, welcomed the news saying: ‘All Sikhs have wanted is to be a part of the process and have equal rights and ensure that the right model is chosen for Seva School. Respect and thanks to all those children and parents that have worked so hard to ensure their voices are heard.’
In an earlier letter to parents, Seva School said: ‘The Khalsa Academies Trust has a religious ethos and values which are closely aligned with Seva School, and would seem an obvious better fit for the purposes of maintaining and developing the positive aspects of this ethos.’
The school acknowledged that it has received ‘an overwhelming response against the DfE’s proposal’ and cautioned: ‘Changes to Seva School’s ethos would cause significant disruption […] and represent a very definite departure from the Sikh faith academy we promised.’ The Khalsa Academies Trust has already engaged with the school which included attending a public meeting on the situation.