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faith schools: changing the agenda

A new coalition was launched today, which aims to change the agenda on faith schools in Britain. The Accord website is here. The group’s aims are stated as follows:

We believe all state-funded schools should:

1. Operate admissions policies that take no account of pupils’ – or their parents’ – religion or beliefs.

2. Operate recruitment and employment policies that do not discriminate on the grounds of religion or belief.

3. Follow an objective, fair and balanced syllabus for education about religious and non-religious beliefs – whether determined by their local authority or by any future national syllabus or curriculum for RE.

4. Be made accountable under a single inspection regime for RE, Personal, Social & Health Education (PSHE) and Citizenship.

5. Provide their pupils with inclusive, inspiring and stimulating assemblies in place of compulsory acts of worship.

Advance press coverage of this, see for example New pressure over faith schools at the BBC and Faith schools accused on employment from the Press Association and Campaigners fight to stop schools recruiting staff based on religion in the Guardian produced some strong reactions, notably Melanie McDonagh: Faith schools work. Until you take the faith away at the Independent.

A counter-coalition called the Faith Schools’ Providers Group issued a press release reported in Mainstream religious leaders unite to defend faith schools.

And the Catholic Education Service also issued its own press statement: Catholic Education Service rejects ‘spurious’ claims of group opposing faith schools.

Today, Simon Barrow has written repeatedly about what Accord is really seeking:

Ekklesia A Christian case for Accord

Open Democracy Changing the agenda on faith schools

Comment is free Changing the faith schools’ agenda

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drdanfee
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drdanfee

As usual I find Simon Barrow’s remarks clear and clear-headed. Silly me, I should have supposed a whole lot of faith folks could agree. Oddly, Ms. McDonagh simply tries to confuse the issues and the meanings of unavoidable boundaries by reasserting her own specialized lexicon of plausible sounding, but profoundly off-kilter, meanings. Of course, all institutions distinguish between this and that and the other thing – rather besides the point that the rest of us are making. I find myself echoing Barrow’s question: What is Ms. McDonagh afraid of? She sounds afraid of anybody who is not already just her… Read more »

Robert Ian Williams
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Robert Ian Williams

Faith schools that take no account of the Faith they serve ….this is simply secularisation !

its like asking breweries to stop making alcohol!

WSJM
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Once again the English re-invent the wheel! (Yes, I am predominantly English and Scottish.) The other week there was a great uproar in the Church of England about consecrating women to the episcopate, quite oblivious to the fact that elsewhere in the Anglican Communion there have been bishops who are women for almost twenty years. Now we have this brouhaha over church-run but state-funded schools. Has no one over there noticed that (1) the English school system is largely associated with the Church of England or the Roman Catholic Church, and yet actual participation in the life of the Churches… Read more »

Simon Sarmiento
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It is incorrect to associate the English school system as a whole with faith schools. Faith schools in total constitute only about one-third of all schools. And the proportion is much lower at the secondary (high school in American?) level.

john
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john

I’m against faith schools, especially as – in effect – state-funded. In education wider societal needs trump religious ‘rights’. And countless research shows that children from badly performing backgrounds never have a chance of improving if they are all kept together.

Churches should not be selfish about this.

Sara MacVane
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Sara MacVane

re Simon’s comment:
Yes, but one third is a high percentage, and anyway (from my American point of view) why should public funding go anywhere except to public (ie: state) schools?

Simon Sarmiento
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From the CofE website:
How many Church of England schools are there?
25.3% of all state primary schools in England are Church of England schools – that’s 4,470 schools.
5.8% of all state secondary schools in England are Church of England schools – 220 schools.

There are about 2,300 RC schools in the state system.

Simon Barrow
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Quick comment back to Robert Ian Williams. Accord is not saying that no account should be taken of faith and belief in schools, just that it should not determine *admissions*. There are a number of faith schools that model good practice already, and the world hasn’t ended. The Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), one of Accord’s founders, which has members working in faith schools and has produced a very good ‘position paper’ on them, stresses that *all* schools should be aware and sensitive towards the beliefs and backgrounds of their pupils. Rightly so. That’s different to favouring one group… Read more »