Secular mum offered a faith school place

Secular mum offered a faith school place

 ‘If the offer weren’t so offensive it would be comical’, said Sonya Karafistan (above right).

A TURKISH Cypriot parent from London has branded the offer of a Greek orthodox faith-based free school to her son as “wholly unacceptable” and an “insult”.

According to this National Secular Society report, Sonya Karafistan’s son was allocated a place at the St Andrew the Apostle Greek Orthodox School in Barnet despite the family not listing it in their list of preferences.

Members of Ms Karafistan’s family lost their lives in the civil conflict in Cyprus between Greeks and Turks between 1963 and 1974. Ms Karafistan said “if the offer weren’t so offensive it would be comical.”

The family refused the place, but have been told by Barnet Council that her son has not received a second round offer for any of the six secondary schools she applied for. Their son has now been offered a place at what Ms Karafistan describes as a “sink school” three and a half miles away from where the family live.

In order to secure an appropriate secular education the family have now opted to educate their son privately, but say this will have a serious impact of their family budget and lifestyle choices, and should not be necessary.

Ms Karafistan has written to the Department for Education to express anger at how the presence of a Greek Orthodox school has limited her family’s choice of local school.

The family say they are aware of others in their position and say a Greek Orthodox faith school fails to meet the needs of the local community.

A Freedom of Information response has revealed that of 18 families offered places at this school who did not list the school in their admissions application form (for September 2014), just six have accepted the offer.

Ms Karafistan told the NSS:

We are a secular family. We do not believe that faith has any place in education. It is an abomination that tax payer money is being used to fund the creation of niche religious schools that fail to serve the community as a whole.

Secularism is fundamental to our family beliefs and morality, while we respect the view of others and the choice they make to send their children to religious schools, we hold the firm belief that religion has no place in education and shouldn’t be funded by the state.

Any religious school would offer an education inconsistent with our family beliefs and our son’s moral education to date. A Greek Orthodox school is ideologically and culturally unacceptable to us, so to be offered it as our local state school is very offensive to us.

St Andrew the Apostle Greek opened in September 2013 as a free school, and is the first state funded secondary Greek Orthodox school in Britain. The school was been established jointly by Russell Education Trust, the Greek Orthodox Church and the Classical Education Trust.

The school says its ethos is based on Christian beliefs of the Orthodox Church but is open to families of all faiths and none.

In other parts of the country, parents contacting the National Secular Society have been angered by the allocation of places at Christian, Jewish, Sikh and Hindu schools that have an ethos that runs counter to their own religious or philosophical convictions.

Stephen Evans, NSS campaigns manager, said:

The Government claims that most free schools are in areas in need of school places, but there are serious questions as to whether faith based schools adequately meet the needs of local parents who don’t share the faith character of the school.

With a finite number of places available, a state education system made up of schools delineated along religious lines is clearly inefficient and impractical. It also spells trouble for social cohesion, and makes it difficult to ensure all parents’ beliefs are equally respected during their children’s education.

The best way to ensure everyone’s rights are protected is to have truly inclusive secular schools that are equally welcoming to pupils regardless of their religion or belief background. A religious upbringing should be the responsibility of parents that want that, not the role of the state.

Hat tip: BarrieJohn


14 responses to “Secular mum offered a faith school place”

  1. Bubba T Flubba says:

    Why why why o why are my taxes being used in my country to pay for a Greek orthodox faith-based free school? Why? Nothing against Greeks you understand but why have a Greek orthodox faith-based free school in the uk? It’s time for this to stop. The government must eliminate all faith schools, get the pious and dogmatic out of education and give every child access to a secular education. And attendance must be compulsory. No flitting of to a madrassa or some other incubator of underachieving misfit intolerant burdensome halfwits.

  2. Vanity Unfair says:

    “A TURKISH Cypriot parent from London…”
    “…a Greek orthodox faith-based free school…”
    “…the civil conflict in Cyprus between Greeks and Turks between 1963 and 1974.”
    “Secularism is fundamental to our family beliefs and morality….”
    This is obviously a tricky situation on many levels and nobody at the local authority suspected a problem.
    The comments are as instructive as the report.

  3. Stephen Mynett says:

    A bit OT but a petition from the NSS site worth signing:

  4. Broga says:

    Stephen: I have signed.

  5. Barry Duke says:

    Signed too.

    Speaking of being off-topic, the Christian Post reports that a man called Walter Eagle Tail died at a Fourth of July hot-dog eating contest in Dakota. I searched for a religious angle to this one, but there just isn’t one. Am I missing something?

  6. Norman Paterson says:

    I am thoroughly fed up with people parading their offense as it if had any objective reality. The local authority might have been stupid in assuming that anyone with a Greek-sounding name would want to go to the “faith school”(and what an idiotic concept that is) but hey – everyone is stupid sometimes. Meanwhile we get “My feelings have been hurt! Oh my poor precious feelings!”


  7. Paul Cook says:


    she isn’t Greek she is Turkish.

    The stem of Kara means black in Turkish.
    I don’t know what the ‘fistan’ has come from. If they have been in the UK for a while, it could have been altered.

  8. Broga says:

    Meanwhile Govey, as they would say it the football world, is having a great time scoring so many own goals that they make Brazil’s efforts look brilliant. In his obsession to get his ideas across, to impose his prejudices Gove has been given the right to take our money. We are victims penalised for paying taxes with no influence on where the money goes.

    The Education morass Gove has plunged into will take decades to escape from. Meantime, Gove will have moved on feeling he has done great things. That’s the great thing about being a politician. You can create havoc, oblige the voters to pay for it and leave someone else to clear up the mess.

  9. remigius says:

    Paul, fistan apparently refers to female clothing in Turkish.

    And as you can see, that’s her in the black clothing. Uncanny.

  10. Norman Paterson says:

    Paul – that’s why I said “Greek-sounding name.” Most people in Britain cannot tell Greeks and Turks apart, and in using the Greek faith school they were most likely trying to do what they thought was best. The alternative interpretation, which this woman seems to have chosen, is that the placement was a studied insult.

    She has chosen to be “offended.”

  11. Matt Westwood says:

    @Norman: Yep, I completely get you. It’s like sending an Irish Protestant to a Catholic school because, “duh, you’re all Irish, yeah, you’ll get on okay!”

  12. AgentCormac says:

    @Stephen Mynett

    Good call. Petition signed.

  13. AgentCormac says:

    @Barry Duke

    Having spent some time touring the Dakota and Montana regions of the US and getting to know people on some of the ‘First Nation’ reservations, I make no excuse for again trying to bring the following ‘Idle No More’ campaign to the attention of all here.

    These people are anti-chrisitianity and doing what they can to preserve whatever’s left of the environment and culture they had before idiots like Potty and Birdshit went over there and, at the end of a gun, stuffed their superstitious claptrap down the throats of people who clearly could have taught them a thing or two about how the world really works.

  14. Paul Cook says:


    you might see Greeks with names ending with ‘oglu’ or ‘ci’ or ‘dis’.
    These are actually [Turkish] Ottoman ending of names. As of course, the Ottoman Empire did hold Greece for quite some time.
    [Oglu is pronounced ol-lu the g being a soft ? in Turkish and not Og-lu as Brits might.]

    The easiest way to tell Greeks from Turks is by sound only!, simply listen to the whining of a Greek about Cyprus. I have never here heard a Turk even mention it.