A TRAIL-BLAZING school made history this week when it welcomed 23 youngsters into the classroom for their first lessons.

The Krishna-Avanti Primary School, at Little Stanmore School Nursery, First and Middle School, in St David's Drive, become the first Hindu school to open with state funding..

But the idea has come under attack from secularists who say faith schools are divisive.

The inaugural reception class started their first day of education where they will practise Hindu rituals and prayers.

Pupils will also learn the ancient language Sanskrit as well as taking part in yoga and meditation in addition to national curriculum classes.

Headteacher Naina Parma was excited to see the first pupils in the school.

She said: "There is a lot media attention and concern that faith schools can be very insular, but this school is dedicated to working with the Government."

VIkram and Sheetal Kaicker, have placed their four-year-old son in the school.

Mr Kaicker said: "I wanted to send him here because of the Hindu values. They pray before they start classes and we will be with like-minded parents and students.

"He is getting the best of both worlds." But a spokesman for the National Secular Society said the school was "a backwards step".

Alistair McBay said: "This reduces diversity in other local schools where these children would otherwise have gone. This is children aged four or five being separated off from children of other faiths.

"The Hindu community in Britain has integrated well while retaining their beliefs and roots. Why are future generations of Hindu children going to be educated in a segregated environment?"

Harrow Council's schools boss Anjana Patel said the school was "a large step forward for the UK's Hindu community.

"Harrow has the highest number of Hindus following the religion and they will have a chance of sending their children to a Hindu school."

The Krishna-Avanti will only be in its temporary home for the next year before moving to a building in nearby Camrose Avenue, Edgware, in September 2009.