Teachers have been advised that up to 2,000 Sikh students in schools across a county should be allowed to wear a ceremonial DAGGER – to SCHOOL.
New guidance issued to head teachers and governing bodies in Bedford states that baptised Sikhs can wear a dagger – or Kirpan – with a blade of up to SIX INCHES.
The dagger, usually worn discreetly beneath clothing, is one of the five ”articles” of faith worn by Sikhs who have gone through the Amrit baptism ceremony.
Members of Bedford’s Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education (SACRE) agreed the guidance developed by members of the Sikh community on Wednesday.
The advice was issued after parents asked for clarification on the issue and states that there should be no objection to the practice of wearing the five Ks.
These include the Kirpan, a steel bangle (Kara), unshorn hair (Kesh) a comb, (Kanga) and special underwear (Kacha).
According to guidelines, the Kirpan should be sheathed and out of sight and should be removed for PE lessons.
Tirath Singh Bhavra, of the SACRE committee, said that there were around 2,000 Sikh children in Bedford but that only a few of these would be baptised.
“It should never be brought out in an attack”
He said: ”There’s no age limit on children being baptised but it’s best if they are grown up and can make their own decisions.
”I haven’t been made aware of any schools that have turned Sikh children away for wearing a Kirpan.
”I think people need to be educated as to why Sikhs have the five Ks but the communities in Bedford get on very well.”
Individual schools can determine their own policies following the guidance issued by the council.
Robin Rice, Head of RE at Biddenham Upper School, Bedford, and a member of SACRE, said that the Kirpan was not designed as a weapon.
He said: ”If you work in a school that isn’t very multi-faith and suddenly a Sikh student turns up with a Kirpan you might think ‘what do I do?’
”The Kirpan should be hidden and it should never be brought out in an attack.
”I have taught for years and have never had an issue with Sikhs wearing the Kirpan. It’s more like a knife than a sword. They are not made as weapons.”
A spokesman for Bedford borough council said: ”There have been no incidents of Kirpan misuse reported in Bedford Borough schools.
”The advice from SACRE, which confirms the existing position taken by schools, is that the Kirpan can only be worn with the four other signs of the Sikh faith and schools will expect to remove it from any student not wearing all five symbols or who unsheathes it.
”It is always worn out of sight.”
In 2008, 14-year-old Sarika Singh won a High Court case against her school after it excluded her for breaking its “no jewellery” rule for wearing a Kara.
Last year, an unnamed boy, 14, was removed from Compton School in Barnet, London, after governors ruled his 5in (12.7cm) kirpan was a health and safety risk.
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