Comments: Faith Schools and Trojan Horses

This present crisis is also the result of Gove's attempt to undermine state education by allowing free schools and academies. Millions have been poured into these ventures.

As for British values.. I am not sure I share them all, and maybe I have more in common ground with Muslims in some areas.

Posted by robert ian williams at Tuesday, 10 June 2014 at 8:34pm BST

The undisguised contempt for the BHA's foolish and misleading reaction to this important enquiry turns this into a religious war rather than a cool statement of how deeply flawed their statement is. I was sorry to see this opportunity wasted by Arora's bile and invective.
He is the wrong man for this job.

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Tuesday, 10 June 2014 at 10:07pm BST

Oh I don't know Martin, Arun's prose looks quite mild alongside some LGCM press releases of yesteryear.
Perhaps you would like to indicate in more detail what you think should have been said?

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Wednesday, 11 June 2014 at 6:55am BST

Arun Arora comes from Birmingham, is a Christian from a minority ethnic background and is a former lawyer. I think that qualifies him to do this much-needed demolition of the BHA's shambolic attempt to cash in on the crisis in these Birmingham schools. His piece is not vitriolic - indeed it is a model of cool reason written in an engaging way.

(Oh dear - I taught Arun at Cranmer Hall - that last sentence reads like a comment on one of his essays...)

Posted by Charles Read at Wednesday, 11 June 2014 at 9:12am BST

Another very misguided comment in the Times from Alice Thompson on a similar lines - she recalls looking across as a pupil herself to the (presumably private) Jewish enclosed school nearby, whilst at her ('formerly run by Anglican nuns, and so presumably CofE) school they learnt about all faiths in openness, but still goes on to condemn state-funded religious schools. The real issue surely is that there are and always will be parents who desire to have their children brought up within the bounds of their strong faith. The challenge is, do we restrict this (by not allowing strong faith identities in schools) and so driving people into private and less-regulated religious schools (or even home-schooling, not uncommon among conservative Christians), or encourage the uneasy and difficult partnership with the state, through which mutual respect might be reached.

Posted by Neil Patterson at Wednesday, 11 June 2014 at 10:56am BST

In the US atheists object to a pledge of national allegiance that references a god, opening a board of management meeting with prayer (much less a school assembly) and sues any school that remotely acknowledges Christmas. I wonder if the BHA would argue that the US system is less likely to lead to fundamentalism than the UK or even Irish systems. The ones currently in place here have been very successful in promoting secularism.

Posted by Andrew F. Pierce at Wednesday, 11 June 2014 at 12:44pm BST

I am against faith schools of any description. Although the BHA's reaction is misinformed in some respects, Arun Arora doesn't respond to the central charge. And teaching people about religion doesn't require faith schools.

Posted by John at Wednesday, 11 June 2014 at 1:18pm BST

I am encouraged that Simon is able to recall LGCM press releases from so long ago the fact that they continue to have some impact is heartening, and glad that too Mr Arora has fans though we were recently reminded by Mr Fittall that only friends call him Arun.

My view stands. He missed the high ground and that was a serious tactical error.

I cannot find much reference to his piece and there's the rub.

However the Daily Telegraph front page today carries a major story saying the CofE plans to abandon the religious qualification for its schools. Am I the only one who thinks there is a failure in joined up thinking at Church House?

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Wednesday, 11 June 2014 at 2:51pm BST

I do not always find myself in agreement with Mr Arora and would not describe myself as a fan but in this case I do not find the "bile and invective" or "undisguised contempt" that Mr Reynolds suggests. Perhaps I am not looking hard enough....

Posted by Fr Paul at Wednesday, 11 June 2014 at 4:54pm BST

For once - o res mirabilis! - I agree with RIW. What exactly are these "British values" our schools are supposed to inculcate? If the Education Secretary is the embodiment of "British values" then I very much doubt I share any of them.

One increasingly strident answer - exemplified by the statement from the BHA - seems to be that secularism in all its many forms should be our national religious ideology. Those promoting this view do so by arguing spuriously that secularism is not a religious ideology at all, but merely an ideological vacuum: an unadorned space like a Reformer's chapel emptied of all the gods and idols that have been swept away into the private sphere. Of course this is untrue and it is dishonest; secularism is a system of religious values and normative claims like any other. I'm tempted to say that in this sense all schools are 'faith schools.' And I'm inclined to place more trust in those that expound a faith rooted in ancient religious communities than in those that subscribe to Mr Gove's made-up "British values."

Posted by rjb at Thursday, 12 June 2014 at 11:21am BST

What is wrong with Mr Arora's response?

Firstly, it seems to rather blatantly misrepresent what BHA actually said. Mr Arora asserts that they confuse religion in non-church state schools (Birmingham) and faith schools (the CofE elsewhere). But actually, their statement is very clear about the distinction - they seek a review of religion in state schools, not just of faith schools, and they advance an argument why the Birmingham fiasco in non-faith schools is linked to faith schools. Mr Arora may believe they are wrong but in that case he should point out why, not lampoon them for confusing things that they didn't confuse and criticise something they didn't say.

Secondly, his language is, if not laden with "bile", unworthily snooty in places - "so far off the mark as to require special measures", "Even the BHA, in its more reflective moments..." I would hope the church could debate these issues with a little more respect and charity in evidence.

Third, his final section trumpets the virtues of St Aldan's. I don't find this terribly relevant to the argument - it smacks of saying "if we tell you often enough how virtuous we are you’ll forget about the criticism" - and his statistics on the background of the pupils are uninterpretable unless you know how it compares to the background of the community it draws on.

All in all, this struck me as par for the course for a press release from a political spin doctor or campaigning group - but not the style I would like to see the church adopt.

Posted by John Swanson at Thursday, 12 June 2014 at 3:10pm BST

"they advance an argument why the Birmingham fiasco in non-faith schools is linked to faith schools"

I'm really struggling to find this argument about any specific link with the Birmingham situation in the passage from the BHA that I have quoted above. Please could you explain it to me.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Thursday, 12 June 2014 at 6:46pm BST

Simon

You've got me questioning my own reading of the words now! But "while these situations are allowed to continue, it is no surprise that some people of another faith will take existing schools of no religious character and effectively treat them as their own "faith" schools" seems to me a clear argument that the alleged behaviour of some Muslims in Birmingham is driven partly by the existence of church schools. We may think it's a weak argument - but that's kind of my point - if the argument is weak, why not address (and demolish) it, why misrepresent and evade it instead?

Posted by John Swanson at Thursday, 12 June 2014 at 9:39pm BST

The issue is state schools being made quasi-independent..the deliberate Tory policy to undermine state education.

Academies and free schools now free from local authority control.. a disaster. My school is under a first rate local authority and we do not have such aberrations in Wales. Gove's authority has no sway west of Offas's Dyke.

Posted by Riobert ian Williams at Thursday, 12 June 2014 at 10:25pm BST

"...a child is left distressed or sidelined because of Christian proselytising in an assembly in a school with no religious character" describes the situation in the United States, where religious fundamentalists have been conducting worship services in public schools. They confuse children by making them believe one must do a particular brand of religion. Katherine Stewart has written an excellent book The Good News Club on this topic.

This battle is ongoing in American courts.

Gary Paul Gilbert

Posted by Gary Paul Gilbert at Friday, 13 June 2014 at 5:06am BST

What I wonder do TA readers make of this article
http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jun/11/michael-gove-assault-on-schools-naked-discrimination

in yesterday's Guardian which inter alia asks this question:

But has Gove sent inspectors to root out anti-abortionism and homophobia in Catholic or evangelical-sponsored schools, or cultural isolation in mainly white schools where racism is rife.
Not at all. Nor has he investigated the influence in schools of far-right extremists.
--

On the other hand, the detailed list of failings catalogued in this letter to one of the schools is quite scary.

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/318398/140609_Oldknow.pdf

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Friday, 13 June 2014 at 8:58am BST

And here is the Church Times report on the matter

http://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2014/13-june/news/uk/ofsted-reports-grave-concerns-in-birmingham-schools

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Friday, 13 June 2014 at 9:02am BST

Like others, I think A. Arora's tone is quite inappropriate. Especially on such a weighty matter: much weightier than his casual attempts to dismiss academics who had pointed out that his history was wrong.

Posted by iain mclean at Friday, 13 June 2014 at 12:24pm BST

Matthew Parris' piece in 'The Times' was a refreshing corrective to all the hysteria.

Posted by John at Saturday, 14 June 2014 at 4:30pm BST
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