School opts for multi-faith approach: Fran Abrams finds east London pupils being given an insight into several beliefs

TOP CLASSES at Malmesbury Junior School in Bow, east London, are learning about Sue Ryder in religious education this week. The founder of charity shops for the sick and disabled comes under the heading of 'Caring for other people'.

Malmesbury has children from almost every religion among its pupils, including Chinese and Vietnamese Buddhists, Sikhs, Hindus, Muslims and Christians. The Christian creation story is taught alongside those of other faiths, and each child visits a Sikh and Hindu temple, a mosque and a synagogue, as well as a church during his or her four years at the school.

Doreen Franks, the school's religious education co-ordinator, believes it obeys the law that religious education should be 'in the main Christian'.

'Attitudes such as friendship, kindness, generosity and charity go through most religions. Christianity tells you to 'love thy neighbour', so we are basically looking through the eyes of Christianity even if we are studying another religion,' she said.

She is worried about the demand in the new syllabuses that pupils aged seven to eleven should learn about Christianity and just two other religions. At Malmesbury, the 300 pupils learn about six religions.

'To study the geography and history of this area, you would need to do the French Huguenots, Jewish immigrants, Irish Catholics, Afro-Caribbeans and now the Somalis. The Sikhs have been here since the 1940s. It would be an insult to them to ignore them - they are part of Tower Hamlets,' she said.

Although every class at the school spends between 45 minutes and an hour each week on RE, many of the lessons are about basic values rather than Christianity. Malmesbury bases its RE policy on a syllabus drawn up by the now defunct Inner London Education Authority, under which children learn social skills such as respect for others, and moral values such as the difference between right and wrong, and compare different faiths.

The headteacher, Michael Russell, does not think it is the school's job to reinforce Christian or other beliefs.

'We are not a synagogue, a mosque or a church. We are a school, and children come here with a rich range of experiences,' he said. 'What we can do is to get them to reflect on their own circumstances and to reflect the major themes such as birth, death and separation.'

Most Malmesbury parents supported its approach to RE, he said, though one mother did complain that her child had been asked to sing 'Bengali songs' in a pre- Christmas concert. Mr Russell did not have the heart to tell her that the song in question was 'Jingle Bells', sung in French.

(Photograph omitted)

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Sport
Esteban Cambiasso makes it 3-3
premier league
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
News
people'I hated him during those times'
News
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
News
i100
News
Dame Vivienne Westwood has been raging pretty much all of her life
peopleFirst memoir extracts show she 'felt pressured' into going out with the Sex Pistols manager
Arts and Entertainment
Lauryn Hill performing at the O2 Brixton Academy last night
musicSinger was more than 90 minutes late
Sport
Lewis Hamilton in action during the Singapore Grand Prix
Formula OneNico Rosberg retires after 14 laps
News
i100
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: 'Time Heist' sees a darker side to Peter Capaldi's Doctor
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam