Bastion of moral values or outdated aberration? Our panellists battle it outby Andrew Copson, Ruth Gledhill / September 18, 2014 / Leave a comment
Is it time to abolish faith schools?
This year is the 70th anniversary of the Education Act which, among other things, established the system of state-funded religious schools we currently have in England. “Faith schools,” as they’ve come to be known, have since become a source of discrimination within our educational system that is out of step with today’s plural Britain and out of keeping with the standards to which we should hold our public services.
Every school is different, but here are just a few key aspects of faith schools as a category that highlight their objectionable nature. First, they select pupils on the basis of their parents’ religion, which fosters and entrenches religious (and in many cases ethnic) divisions in society. It also perpetuates socio-economic disadvantage. When the first ever ranking of every mainstream state secondary in England was published last year, it found that religious selection strongly correlates with socio-economic selection. This is bad for social cohesion.
Religious schools can select both teaching and non-teaching staff on religious grounds, which is unfair on applicants and hampers the efficiency of the school. Headteacher posts in religious schools are more likely to have to be re-advertised than those in community schools.
Our state schools are public institutions; they should be open to all. Schools should also be places where minds are opened and children encounter ideas they may never come across in the home or elsewhere. The fact that faith schools are permitted to give religious instruction—rather than the balanced education about religious and non-religious worldviews that is increasingly given in community schools—is wrong. When I have visited religious schools I have encountered some good, open practice in teaching; but I have also seen lessons that are designed to transmit an uncritical acceptance of one particular worldview. The law allows this and many faith schools embrace it. I believe in the right of every child to grow up with access to a variety of perspectives so they can arrive at their own conclusions—and that is certainly what our state schools should be promoting.
On the 70th anniversary of the Education Act,…