Tag Archives: faith schools

A liberal case for faith schools

At the age of 11 I had a choice. I could either attend a Catholic secondary school or a secondary school without a religious character. I chose the Catholic secondary school. This school, Notre Dame, had a catchment area covering half the city of Sheffield. This meant that there were pupils from affluent and less-affluent areas, from the inner city and the suburbs and from the families of many nationalities. I had classmates who were Anglican, Methodist, Catholic, Muslim and of no-faith at all. Had I chosen the non-Catholic school, all of my fellow pupils would have lived in the same neighbourhood and would been almost uniformly white-British.

My experience was not an exceptional one because Catholic schools are diverse. They have more pupils from deprived neighbourhoods, one third of the pupils attending Catholic schools are not Catholic and the percentage of black and minority ethnic pupils in Catholic schools is significantly higher than in non-faith schools. They are also more likely to have an Ofsted grade of good or outstanding. Not only that, Church schools provide a rounded education with a strong emphasis on the social and moral development of everyone, helping each person to recognise the importance of being active in their communities.

Critics of faith school frequently argue that allowing faith to be used as an admissions criterion is discriminatory and that everyone should be able to study at faith schools. An obvious response is that many pupils in Church schools do not share the faith of the school they attend. For example, there are over 26,000 Muslim pupils attending Catholic schools in England and Wales. It is important to remember that the Church provided the land, buildings and ongoing financial support for Church schools. Is it liberal to argue that central government should insist on one set of admissions rules for every school, of whatever type, in every circumstance without faith communities having a say?

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An end to religious discrimination in our schools

This Sunday, Conference will decide our party’s policy on state-funded faith schools – and in particular on whether schools should be able to select children on the basis of their religion or belief.

I would like to think this would be an uncontentious issue.

Surely we are defined as a party by our rejection of discrimination, and by our determination to oppose entrenched privilege and inequality.

And yet there are some within this party who believe that our children should be segregated by their religion – so that Catholic children only play and learn with other Catholic children, Jewish children only play and learn with other Jewish children, and so on.   And that the Jewish child whose local state school is in the same road but happens to be a Catholic school should be barred from that school because they are Jewish.  

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David Laws on faith schools and the Liberal Democrats

As the issue of faith schools has often been debated on this site, and it’s been back in the news with the question of sex and relationship education, we’ve asked David Laws to explain the party’s approach to these issues:

The recent Government climbdown over sex and relationship education in state funded faith schools has prompted further debate amongst liberals about what role, if any, faith schools should have in English education.

Some liberals argue that in a free society faith groups should be free to deliver a faith education, and that parents should be free to send their children to such …

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Opinion: Losing faith in the Lib Dems

There must be few things more insane that we do as a nation, than to segregate our children’s education along the lines of which one or other of the ancient and now defunct religious mythologies are subscribed to by their parents. Simply writing it out in full has me reaching for the revolver. And if ever you wanted to hear an argument against faith schooling in just two words, they would have to be “Northern Ireland” – and so right on cue, following Saturday’s debate at Harrogate, we were given a chilling reminder of the havoc wreaked by generations of religious apartheid in that province, with its thirteen miles of “peace walls” still dividing the warring communities of Belfast.

But evidently this is a state of affairs insufficiently insane for Liberal Democrats who rejected sensible proposals to phase out faith schooling in England, instead opting narrowly for Tim Farron’s hopeless compromise of requiring schools to prove their inclusiveness over a five year period, whatever that means. James Graham has written an excellent piece (with lively discussion) about everything that is wrong with Tim’s amendment, describing it as being, “little more than a state-commissioned fig leaf scheme.” Certainly its full subtleties were lost on the BBC, who declared simply that, “Lib Dems back state faith schools.” Needless to say, that is not the headline I was looking for.

Under the Farron scheme, while we avoid the unspeakable evils of selection by ability or aptitude, faith-based selection for existing schools would remain intact. Yet if any form of selection were to be permitted, this must surely rank as the most absurd. As if parents didn’t suffer enough angst over the prospective quality and location of their child’s school, they also have to contend with questions of theology which are as ludicrous as they are obstructive. Under present Lib Dem policy, there would be no end to the spectacle of pushy parents with an eye on the local faith school, attending church for the first time in their lives and pretending to worship God alongside the regular churchgoers who have just been pretending for a bit longer.

Posted in Op-eds | 107 Comments

Conference: Sunday

Morning, campers, and apologies for the hiatus in updating, owing to (a) the nervous illness of your correspondent after a thrillingly successful Lib Dem Voice inaugural fringe meeting last night and (b) the apparent inability of the rest of the team to put up a post saying “this is happening this morning, and here’s how it went.” Tcoh.

Fortunately, in the LDV cupboard with me are George Crozier and Rupert Dewey, who have been, well, doing what we’ve been doing for the last two days on the official website but, er, better, and with fewer made-up words. Heavens, we might …

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Conference: Schools paper

We’re doing our education papers in timewarped reverse this weekend, opening with the Adult, Further and Higher Education papers this morning, continuing with age 5-19 Education this afternoon and finishing with under-5s childcare tomorrow.

This paper has had a record number of amendments offered – 16, of which four have gone forward, three of which concern faith schools. The first calls for one critical provision to be removed from the policy paper, the provision which prevents the establishment of new schools which select on faith. Jonathan Davies speaking in support of the motion, stresses that he does not impose his faith …

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Religious groups urge Lib Dems to keep schools faith selection

Today’s Guardian reports:

In an exclusive letter published in the Guardian today, a cross-denominational group of religious leaders, led by the Church of England Board of Education, defends selection of some students and staff on the basis of commitment to their faith. The letter comes ahead of a policy debate on 5-19 education in England at the Liberal Democrats’ spring conference tomorrow, which calls for a ban on selection by faith in religious schools, and follows a critical report by academics at the London School of Economics.

The letter – signed by representatives of the Church of England, the Catholic Education …

Posted in Conference and News | 14 Comments

Opinion: Secularise education

At our Spring conference we are going to be debating two highly contentious issues around education policy: tuition fees and how we should approach the question of faith schools.

With the latter in mind it is interesting to look at the recent report published by The Runnymede Trust. Entitled ‘Right to Divide?’. It is a comprehensive report which consulted parents, teachers,education experts, religious leaders, local authority officials and pupils. So, it cannot be easily dismissed as reflecting the experiences or biases of one particular grouping.

Rather than try and cover all 76 pages of the report in this piece I intend to focus on the 6 key recommendations. Let’s start at the top with the headline grabber:

(1) End selection based on faith.

The report rightly justifies this thus:

Posted in Op-eds | 69 Comments

Nick Clegg on faith schools

From an interview given this week to The Jewish News:

If we are to create a society in which everyone has a fair chance in life, we need to focus on education, above all. Faith schools have an important role to play in that, and I am keen that they become engines of integration, not of segregation. I would like to see faith schools working together, so you get a network of different schools and faiths. That way children will grow up in an environment where they are aware of the plurality of faiths and views around them.

The interview also covers …

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