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Last Updated: Monday, 20 August 2007, 19:40 GMT 20:40 UK
Sikh girl in Catholic school row
Bal Singh and daughter Maya Kaur
Mr Singh has already lost an appeal over the school's decision
The parents of a Teesside Sikh girl say they will convert her to Catholicism in order to get her into the best school in the area.

Maya Kaur, four, has attended a nursery at St Paul's RC School at Wolviston, near Billingham, for two years.

But her parents have been told there is no place for her at the school when she starts primary education next month.

Now her father, Bal Singh, says he is prepared to change her religion, if it helps his daughter stay at St Paul's.

The family, from Wynyard, near Stockton, have been told St Paul's is oversubscribed and the youngster has been offered a place at another school.

I would have changed her religion from day one if they had asked us
Bal Singh

But Mr Singh says his daughter is upset at the prospect of switching schools and wants to stay with her friends. An appeal has already been turned down.

The Roman Catholic diocese of Hexham and Newcastle, which oversees admissions policy at the school, said it was following correct procedures.

But Mr Singh said: "At the moment she has not got a religion. She follows Sikhism because we are Sikhs.

"But we should learn about all different religions. I would have changed her religion from day one if they had asked us.

"It would have been no different for the religion, it is just I'm happy if my child is happy at school, and she likes the way it is run and I am happy with the way she is progressing with her work.

"That is one of the reasons I do not want her to move to another school."

St Paul's RC Primary School, Wolviston
The family have been told the school is oversubscribed

A diocesan spokesman said it welcomed adults who wanted to become followers of Christ's teachings, but that children were "another matter".

He said only parents who are themselves Catholic Christians could make such a commitment for their child.

The vice chairman of the UK Sikh Federation, Jagtar Singh, said children should be allowed to choose their own religion when they were old enough.

He said: "When a child is born, the parents try to bring up that child on the basis of what they think is best.

"So if they practice any particular faith they are likely to bring that child up in that faith, knowing the child will make their own decisions when they grow up.

"They may choose to not believe in that faith, move to another faith, and that will be the individual's choice."


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