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Hindu body wins contest to sponsor Bishop's Stortford North's three new schools

Bishop's Stortford North secondary school plans (13572289)
Bishop's Stortford North secondary school plans (13572289)

A Hindu faith organisation has beaten a bid from the Herts and Essex High School to run the new secondary school and two new primaries at Bishop’s Stortford North.

On Tuesday last week (July 2), education authority Herts County Council announced that the Department for Education had approved the Avanti Schools Trust – which runs five schools in London and two in Leicester, all Hindu designated – as its choice of sponsor.

Its schools for Stortford Fields and St Michael’s Hurst families will be non-faith.

A disappointed Cathy Tooze, head of the Herts and Essex Multi Academy Trust, which includes Thorley Park's Manor Fields Primary School, said: “Having consulted extensively with our community and having received fantastic support from many people in Bishop’s Stortford and its surrounding areas, we are still very much of the view that our vision is a powerful one.

“We offered an outstanding local partnership which was carefully designed to enhance and complement other local provision, in tune with our community. We know that we would have led the new schools very well indeed.”

Herts and Essex High School’s sponsorship bid had the backing of Stortford’s other secondaries.

Cllr Terry Douris, HCC's executive member for education, said: “The bid from Avanti Schools Trust was by far the strongest.

"Their experience in setting up a number of successful free schools and their commitment and passion for an all-through education provision in the town made them the best choice for this exciting and ambitious project.”

Avanti’s first Vaishnavist tradition school opened in 2008. It now operates seven – five primaries, one secondary and one all-through institution – with close to 2,700 students and 250 staff in Barkingside, Croydon, Harrow, Pinner, Stanmore and two in Leicester. Those inspected by Ofsted are rated as good.

The trust’s website says: “Our current schools all have Hindu faith designations and the next exciting phase for Avanti is to develop our group of non-denominational schools, underpinned by Avanti’s purpose to contribute to society through the systematic pursuit of human values and spiritual development.”

Mike Ion, Avanti's head of school improvement, said: “The development of this exciting new project will allow us to establish high-quality provision for the families and the community.”

  • Tomorrow's Indie features an interview about Avanti's next steps with Mr Ion, who formerly worked for the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, where he helped to establish the Face to Faith schools programme for 12- to 17-year-olds, which is now active in 19 countries. It also features a letter from Herts and Essex High School governor John Barfoot.

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