I wrote the following article for
the Parliamentary Monitor
FAITH SCHOOLS: DIVISIVE, SELECTIVE AND
By Lynne Jones MP, October 2005
In encouraging faith schools, the government believes the ethos
and character of faith schools helps them perform better. I would challenge this
conclusion. Any selective school can achieve better than average results, and faith
schools are usually selective. They take less than their share of deprived children
and more than their share of the children of more ambitious parents, a point the
Government should be well aware of, as Ofsted said when the Government was expanding faith
schools in 2001 "Selection, even on religious grounds, is likely to attract well
behaved children from stable backgrounds,". This covert selection goes a long way
towards explaining their apparent academic success.
I do not accept that the ethos of church schools is somehow
superior to that of non-denominational schools where staff show just as much love and
professional dedication. It is comprehensive schools, genuinely open to applications
from all races and religions that have the authority to claim they have the good of our
whole society at heart.
Religious schools discriminate against everyone not of that
faith - in their admissions and employment policies, their curricula and their assumptions
about religion. Some faith-based schools will not even try to serve the whole
community and will divide children not just by religion but also ethnically. Northern
Ireland and Bradford are examples of what happens to communities where children are
educated separately and grow up knowing little of each other. In the wake of the
9/11 atrocity in New York and the 7/7 bombings in London it is even more important all
groups in our society feel included and are given every possible opportunity to integrate.
I uphold the right to freedom of belief and understand the
desire of parents to bring up their children with the family's beliefs. However, it
is not the job of publicly funded schools to instil a religious faith in children and the
state is not obliged to provide schools catering for every shade of belief or philosophy.
The state has its own interest in ensuring children grow up to be responsible and
capable citizens. Schools should, of course, teach about religion and philosophy but
they should do so in an objective, critical, and pluralistic manner.
We need to have all our children educated in schools that
believe concern for others is not a religious virtue, but a human virtue; and where all
the faiths are equally respected.
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