Faith schools need to change


5:13 pm - December 4th 2008

by Alex Kennedy    


      Share on Tumblr

The report launched by the Runnymede Trust today, Right to Divide? Faith Schools and Community Cohesion’, is serious, balanced and well researched.

The Right to Divide report recommends that faith schools should:
* End selection on the basis of faith
* Give children a greater say in how the school is run
* Make broad-based RE lessons part of the national curriculum
* Do better at serving the most disadvantaged
* Stop privileging religious identity over those of gender, ethnicity, age, ability or sexual orientation

But it also says that faith should continue to play an important role in the education system.

It places the current system of mixed religious and community provision within its historical context (religious organisations have long been involved in education) and also in the context of competing New Labour policy objectives.

For while separate religious schools have seemed to help towards the goal of choice and diversity, they have done so at the expense of disadvantaged students, children’s rights, respect for other identities such as gender and sexual orientation and community cohesion.

As Accord only launched at the start of September, we did not exist at the time that the research for Right to Divide was being conducted, although Accord members such as the Association of Teachers and Lecturers and the British Humanist Association were consulted. So too were religious organisations, teachers and parents at faith schools.

What this report and, we hope, the launch of Accord show is that there is a new public mood that recognises the need to tackle exemptions from equality laws for religious state schools. More importantly, perhaps, we are also finding that the public media and politicians are often very receptive to the idea that you don’t have to be anti-religious to realise that the current system does not work.

Over the coming weeks and months Accord will continue to argue that children from different backgrounds are best educated together and that it is in the benefit of pupils and society for schools to teach about the full range of religious and non religious beliefs. It is not going to be easy and we need as much help as we can get, so if you think things must change please sign up to support Accord.

    Share on Tumblr   submit to reddit  


About the author
This is a guest post. Alex Kennedy is the Coalition Coordinator for Accord, which aims to promote more inclusive schooling.
· Other posts by


Story Filed Under: Blog ,Education ,Religion

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.


Reader comments


Good education is about teaching people to think. In these days with Google and Wikipedia, this is more important than teaching facts. However religions tend to teach people not to think, or at least not to think certain thoughts.

To counteract this, faith schools should be required by law to teach these thoughts:

* What evidence, in the form of repeatable experiments, is there that God exists?

* Religion gives status, power and wealth to clerics and religious hierarchies. These people therefore have a motive in promulgating religion. Maybe then, religion is the world’s biggest scam, albeit one that most of the scam artists actually believe in.

* Maybe our holy book is just a book of made-up stories written by fallible humans, and is therefore no more privileged as a source of truth than any other book.

* There are lots of religions. The things they say contradict each other, so they can’t all be true. So maybe none of them are true.

* People tend to believe in the same religion as their parents, which is one reason why different religions are prevalent in different parts of the world. But that’s a silly reason to believe something; if someone said “I believe the number of prime numbers is finite, because my father and his forefathers believed it”, we’d all laugh at him. So why not laugh when someone believes in religion for such reasons?

* Our holy book, if taken literally, says that the earth is only a few thousand years old. But there is an enormous accumulation of scientific evidence that the world is far older. So maybe our holy book is wrong.

I think that you are approaching from the wrong angle, Cabalamat.

>Good education is about teaching people to think. In these days with Google and Wikipedia, this is more important than teaching facts.

Yep. Assuming you include thinking about how to check the accuracy and relevance of facts.

> Religion gives status, power and wealth to clerics and religious hierarchies. These people therefore have a motive in promulgating religion. Maybe then, religion is the world’s biggest scam, albeit one that most of the scam artists actually believe in.

I think that a general critique of “religion” is too crude.

>However religions tend to teach people not to think, or at least not to think certain thoughts.

I’m tempted to ask for examples, and a decent sample for each religion and thought, because I think that is a broad generalisation, and anybody can argue in generalisations. “Religions tend…” is – to me – a lazy argument that is almost itself a statement of belief.

> Maybe our holy book is just a book of made-up stories written by fallible humans, and is therefore no more privileged as a source of truth than any other book.

If a community of people decide to make it their source of truth, then surely it *is* more privileged.

But I think you are over-qualifying “truth”, insisting that only the “scientifcally proven by experimental proving of a hypothesis” is truth. A made up story is totally capable of communicating truth – take something as simple as a made up political anecdote showing an insight, or – if you prefer – the Parable of the Sower. That is also communicating “truth”.

The issue is about putting “holy books” in their proper context. I’d make the same point about “scientific truth”. “Holy books” cannot properly address some data, and it’s about showing those who try to push them beyond those limits that they are wrong. I think the demand for “repeatable experiments to prove the existence of God” is exactly the same mistake the other way round: it’s an aggressive asking of the wrong question.

> There are lots of religions. The things they say contradict each other, so they can’t all be true. So maybe none of them are true.

That looks very black and white. Different interpretations can be perfectly compatible and illuminate different insights.

> People tend to believe in the same religion as their parents, which is one reason why different religions are prevalent in different parts of the world. But that’s a silly reason to believe something; if someone said “I believe the number of prime numbers is finite, because my father and his forefathers believed it”, we’d all laugh at him. So why not laugh when someone believes in religion for such reasons?

I don’t think that is strong, because you can make precisely the same correlation for an agnostic or atheist worldview. Therefore lets all laugh at agnostics for swallowing the views of their parents etc.

> Our holy book, if taken literally, says that the earth is only a few thousand years old. But there is an enormous accumulation of scientific evidence that the world is far older.

Yep

>So maybe our holy book is wrong.

Depressingly closed reasoning. That’s what Dawkins would say, but he’d leave out the maybe.

Prof Michael Reiss would be more sophisticated and say something like:

“So maybe our holy book isn’t an historical textbook or a scientific treatise”, which is far more likely to achieve the desired result of getting people to reflect and understand a proper role for religion.

But then – unlike Dawkins – he doesn’t do witch-hunts.

I must, respectfully, disagree with Cabalamat regarding his assumption that, “religions tend to teach people not to think, or at least not to think certain thoughts.” This may be true of some religions. I cannot speak to those as I only affirm one faith. But as a Christian who has spent substantial time in a religious, academic setting, I can say that my experience has been one of synergy. Faith and reason are not antithetical.

I received my undergraduate education from a sectarian school. My professor opened his first class with this statement, “Follow the truth wherever it leads. If it doesn’t lead to Christianity, do not be a Christian.” Jesus claimed to be the way the truth and the life. If he is God, if his statements are true then one should be able follow, via right reason, truth straight to Christ. Philosophy was, obviously, highly valued in this school and held in esteem similar to that of theology.

My school valued science. Many Christians do. But we do distinguish between fact and truth. A fact may be true, it also may be false. But some things that are true will never be facts. They cannot be scientifically proven.

One objection to the scientific method is that it can only produce very specialized forms of truth – facts. Given a set of conditions, a certain fact is true. Change those conditions and it may no longer be true.

The principal objection to Christianity, and many other religions, tends to be their assumptions. Some of the greatest thinkers in history have been religious. The popular objection is not the quality of our thinking, but where it has come from and where it is going.

May God bless,
Joshua

I think you have all missed the point here .The attempt is to impose further state control over the production of the next generation by prohibiting an education outside its control. The Runymede Trust is a lobbying group promtiong multi culturalism and as such dislikes any institution which it cannot influence via the state`s institutions .

“A fact may be true, it also may be false. But some things that are true will never be facts. They cannot be scientifically proven.”

“One objection to the scientific method is that it can only produce very specialized forms of truth – facts. Given a set of conditions, a certain fact is true. Change those conditions and it may no longer be true.”

Oh dear, oh dear. Post-modernism meets theology, they shack up and have faith-based relativistic offspring.

Please, can we knock this “non-overlapping magisteria” stuff on the head.

If people want to argue for a supernatural being that has agency in the physical world, then it’s fair game for evidence-based investigation / experimentation / however you want to describe it precisely.

As Hume didn’t quite put it – extraordinary truth-claims require an extraordinary quality of proof to support them.

Highly recommend Ophelia Benson & Jeremy Stangroom’s book “Truth Matters” to anyone who’s remotely convinced by either Matt or Joshua – or, indeed, just swing by the
Butterflies and Wheels website.

(hope that link worked…?)

Ho hum. Right, time to go and do some more grumbling somewhere else…

Matt said everything I could have wished I would have… I’d like to add though that religion doesn’t do anything to close minds and shut down educated or academic thought. In fact if you were to take texts like the Bible and actually use them as moral studies (extremely outdated ones with more than acceptable levels of sexism and homophobia for starters) then there’s nothing to say that they can’t start someone down the path of thinking for themselves.

Ultimately it is the organisation of religion and the tacit indoctrination that can cause, and that is why faith schools are, at best, doing nothing to advantage open minds above natural ability. Religion needs it’s place in schools, it currently doesn’t get taught enough in secular education and not enough religious philosophy and ethics is discussed to get people to truly understand the differences we have, but it doesn’t need to be the central tenet that a school revolves around as far as I’m concerned.

If people want to argue for a supernatural being that has agency in the physical world, then it’s fair game for evidence-based investigation / experimentation / however you want to describe it precisely.

Not sure I agree with this – how can anyone prove or disprove God? Its a matter of belief. And frankly though, that debate is a bit moot because spending all our time telling believers or atheist they’re stupid is a waste of time.

It matters more about how to deal with faith schools – which are clearly part of the system but must be reformed.

the recommendations made by Runnymede are spot on.

>>* End selection on the basis of faith
* Give children a greater say in how the school is run
* Make broad-based RE lessons part of the national curriculum
* Do better at serving the most disadvantaged
* Stop privileging religious identity over those of gender, ethnicity, age, ability or sexual orientation

In other words… stop being faith schools. And in the last point, quite possibly stop practicing their faith the way they are doing at the moment.

It basically says that there’s nothing wrong with religion, provided children aren’t impacted by it in any way. Aware of it, taught about it, but only in a liberal free-choice and multi-denominational way.

Rubbish. Faith schools were a terrible idea from the beginning, and I agree with the report, but there’s no way most of the schools will adopt these practices.

The burden of proof depends upon what one is asserting. If one applies to characteristics to a concept that have agency in the supposed physical world then one requires empirical evidence.

Still…

“…some things that are true will never be facts. They cannot be scientifically proven.”

Now THAT is scientific fact. There’s no real evidence for it, but it is scientific fact.

Incidentally, I am religious. But mine isn’t a mainstream monotheism and doesn’t go in for dogma or literal claims. I am quite happy for people to make religious experiences part of their lives, I think it adds something a lot of people genuinely have and need. But most of the accusations levelled at “religion” in the Dawkins style only apply to the traditional monotheisms.

Precisely why there shouldn’t be faith schools, of course. If they were willing to say “this is one road to the ultimately uknowable divine, but others are also valid” there’d be far less concern about indoctrinating children, but that’s literally heresy in most organised religions.

11. douglas clark

Well.

As it seems to be my week for disagreeing with everyone on Liberal Conspiracy, here goes.

You have an example in your own land of how legislation, that is passed for an immediate good, can result in a long term stratification of societal differences.

See here: http://tinyurl.com/6ldrb9

Specifically:

The Catholic community in Scotland

For the purposes of this article, the Catholic community will refer to all those who claim some form of family or historical allegiance, no matter how tenuous, to Catholicism. The history of the Catholic community in Scotland is one that can be recounted from different, but inter-connected and often complex, perspectives. There is a rich pre-Reformation history of the early Scottish church and medieval monasticism. The post reformation history is marked by the continued existence of small groups of indigenous Scottish Catholics, scattered throughout parts of Scotland, whose numbers were to be swelled by the waves of immigration of Irish, Italian, Lithuanians and Poles in the 19th and 20th centuries. The history can be viewed through the lenses provided by the experiences of these different national-cultural groups (it is interesting to note that the Catholic community in some areas of Scotland is changing once more in the 21st century as a result of the influx of a considerable number of Polish Catholics).[viii] The 19th and 20th century history of the Catholic community, however, is often understood primarily in terms of the socio-economic struggle of the Irish Catholics and their descendants, the largest immigrant group, to secure some form of social mobility in a Scottish society that, at times, usually times of economic crisis, could be hostile towards them. In these circumstances, Scottish society could even sanction forms of structural sectarianism towards this immigrant group which was perceived to be an economic burden on Scottish society. Sectarianism has become a popular perspective in its own right. The history can be viewed from the relationship between the 19th and 20th century Catholic Church and the Church of Scotland, a relationship that, initially, was uneasy and fraught with theological and sociological challenges, but eventually led to a strong joint commitment to ecumenism and increased solidarity in addressing public issues. The history can be understood in terms of the emergence of a variety of expressions of Catholic identity, including, as secularism of the late 20th and early 21st centuries appears to have an increasing impact on church attendances, secular forms of Catholic identity. Amid the development of these histories, and sometimes creation of self-sustaining and self-justifying mythologies, the Catholic schools in Scotland, heavily supported by the Catholic community, have played a pivotal role in the growth and the development of the Catholic community in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Faith school debate in Scotland

Although there was a variety of Church schools in Scotland in the 19th century, most had diminished or disappeared, for a variety of reasons, by the early 20th century. Catholic schools, founded to educate the large Catholic population that had grown in the 19th century as a result of (mainly Irish) immigration, were to benefit from the 1918 Education (Scotland) Act, when they became fully state-funded, and were able to retain Catholic ethos, Catholic religious instruction and the right to approve teachers.[ix] The Catholic community also considered Catholic schools to be the key to social mobility and retention of Catholic ‘culture’. By the early 21st century, the state-funded faith schools in Scotland, apart from a handful of Episcopalian schools and one Jewish primary school, are almost exclusively Catholic schools (the other state-funded schools are referred to as non-denominational schools). There are currently 56 Catholic secondary schools, 331 Catholic primary schools and 5 Catholic Special Educational Needs schools in Scotland.[x] They are concentrated in the central belt, especially the post industrial areas. Although this is the area of greatest density of Catholic population, there are also Catholic schools in Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen and in the Highlands and Borders.

All of which is true, but all of which gives a specific religion and it’s ethos a huge boost over secular values, which I’d hazard didn’t really exist in 1918. Threaten that status quo, and you will find the entire Scottish Catholic Establishment falling around your neck. For the simple reason that it gives them power and influence.

The facts of the matter were that Catholic Primary Schools were incapable – post 1980s – of supporting their school roles without allowing entry to other denominations and, indeed, other religions. Muslims, in particular, absent their own primary schools, filled the places left free in Catholic Primaries by enroling their own bairns. On the alleged grounds that some sort of religious ethos is better than none at all.

I think this is adsurd, however, the Catholic Church does not. Talk me down.

To that point in time, everything that was said about

12. douglas clark

I wish we could edit. Ignore the last para:

To that point in time, everything that was said about

>Not sure I agree with this – how can anyone prove or disprove God? Its a matter of belief.

As is – of course – any other philosophical view, including the various varieties of atheist belief (which are all different, so perhaps none of them is true either .. ;-).

Since this is Alex’s thread and he’s from the BHA, I’ll note that their “what is humanism” page begins with the somewhat circular:

“Humanism is the belief that we can live good lives without religious or superstitious beliefs. ”
http://www.humanism.org.uk/site/cms/contentChapterView.asp?chapter=309>

>And frankly though, that debate is a bit moot because spending all our time telling believers or atheist they’re stupid is a waste of time.
Usually but it keeps all the trolls at CiF happy, and it’s going to be important to have both sides put so that the public don’t just swallow the prevailing narrative.

>the recommendations made by Runnymede are spot on.
If they are supported by the data, and data in general about faith-based schools is very weak.

This para is interesting:

>4. Faith schools should also serve the most disadvantaged
>Despite histories based on challenging poverty and inequality, and high-level >pronouncements that suggest a mission to serve the most disadvantaged in society, >faith schools educate a disproportionately small number of young people at the lowest >end of the socio-economic scale.

I’m reminded of Wesley’s statement that he had trouble keeping his chapels serving the poor because they naturally had what I’d call a social upswing.

They seem to have got beyond the media hysteria/posturing about creationism, which is good.

* Four initial question marks:

“1. End selection on the basis of faith” and “6. Faith should continue to play an important role in our education system” look like a contradiction in terms.

They quote the Stonewall “more homophobic bully in faith schools” stat based on a sample size of 110 that I questioned earlier. Have to ask Stonewall about that.

I think there is a second serious tension between the centralised proposals – all schools shall do THIS – and the claim to support diversity, which I think is crucially linked to real autonomy for local schools.

They have quoted the “one third of our education system is faith-based” meme without noting that it is more like a quarter of children.

>>how can anyone prove or disprove God?

*cough*

There are a number of theoretical cosmological models of the universe that would, if one were proved to be valid, ‘disprove god’, or to be much more specific, they would disprove the existence of a creator god.

So there a sense in which the idea of a ‘personal god’ can be invalidated but what cannot be disproved is the Spinozan/Jungian conception of god, which more a psychological construct than anything else.

Basically, depending on what kind of evidence the Large Hadron Collider kicks out, science could bugger up the exoteric monotheistic religions a treat but the more conceptual versions of god would remain fairly robust as purely metaphysical ideas go.

Matt:

If a community of people decide to make it their source of truth, then surely it *is* more privileged.

Sorry, but that one doesn’t fly.

You’re just not going to get away with justifying ‘privilege’ by deploying the argumentum ad populum fallacy.

Cabalmat’s on the money in suggest that what popularity buys is the right of access to the public square on the same basis as everyone else, but it doesn’t get you any privileges, in fact its the privilege thing that often causes all the problems and most needs getting shot of.

>You’re just not going to get away with justifying ‘privilege’ by deploying the argumentum ad populum fallacy.

* wonders why scientists are rewarded and develop reputations based on their citation count*

It seems to me that practically that is exactly how it usually works, and the same goes for the long term viability (centuries) of a philosophy/religion/whatever as a way of life for a community. If it is not beneficial and successful as the value system for a community, it dies in the long run. Quite Darwinian really.

🙂

It would appear Liberalconspiracy has the same view of choice as Henry Ford had in customer chosing the colour of the Model T Ford ” You can have any colour you want provided it is back”.
Faith Schools have been set up because some people believe faith should be a part of education.
Surely people have right to agree and disagree with this principle and send their children to schools they consider suitable for their needs.

When it comes to education, the Church was fundemental to scholarship in Ireland and in Europe after the collapse of the Roman Empire . The universities of Oxford and Cambridge( plus Paris) were largely religious establishments. Many churchmen( Wykham) founded schools e.g Winchester College( which has superb reputation for maths and the sciences) and New College Oxford. Roger Bacon and William of Occam started the process of empirical and rational though in medieval Europe.( both were priests) William Tyndall ( a priest) translated the Bible from Latin and Greek into English “so every ploughboy could read’s God’s Word”. Tyndall’s English did much to develop the language of Shakespear and the King James Bible. By saying religion prevents people from thinking , then who was responsible for educating Europe between 410AD and 1800 AD when state education started to appear? Atheists may disagree with religion but to totally disparage the scholarship of the Christian Church seems somewhat prejudiced. Why does’nt the Runnymede raise money and set up it’s own schools? Bearing in mind how bad some state schools are , I am sure parents in deprived areas would love to send their chidren to a Runnymede Trust School. Surely there should be a wide variation in the types of school so that parents have choices ?

Surely people have right to agree and disagree with this principle and send their children to schools they consider suitable for their needs.

Well no , that is exactly the ‘ Freedom’ that Sunny and his co conspirators wish to prescribe . Really this falls into a wider debate about the failure of Comprehensive education (and my god it has failed) arguably because middleclass parents have colluded with schools to maintain their distance from the lower social classes and/or those with lower aspirations. Education education education became location location location and with the development of the housing market the access schools have become even more stratified than they were as Grammars and Secondary moderns .
As almost any attribute can be used for selection any right to choose on the school`s behalf is to the socialist , an opportunity for selfishness. Faith schools are under constant and probably justifiable suspicion of covert “Selection”

I might have been more sympathetic to these ideas ( The collapse of social mobility under Labour has been a tragedy) had I not watched the lottery scheme in Brighton fail when aspirational parents showed themselves willing to re-mortgage rather than let their children be the subjects of an experiment in social engineering . The Runymede trust is only a socialist pressure group and has nothing much to add but the same old attack on freedoms for the “Greater good “. It is only repeating what any left wing Labour MP would say. So what

On balance although I understand the problem I would prefer greater freedoms for faith schools and for other reasons greater freedom for parents to set up their own schools , this should be funded by the taxes they have spent on nothing in voucher form . As so often socilast thinking runs against the new . In Holland and the US there have been great improvements across the board by freeing up supply . New Labour were heading that way ( against the wishes of Brown).

Education badly needs reform and new thinking . Throwing money at it has been tested to destruction with dismal returns the last thing that is required is more state control we need less and we need it soon .

There are a number of theoretical cosmological models of the universe that would, if one were proved to be valid, ‘disprove god’, or to be much more specific, they would disprove the existence of a creator god

What a silly thing to say. Hamlet is as likely to prove or disprove the existence of Shakespeare; personally I am unable to maintain the effort of faith required for atheism

I think you guys have lost the plot. First of all why don’t we have a list of the best performing public and private schools and see how many are at the top. Is it the fact they work that’s upsetting you?

Secondly, what do you guys think a community is? To me its a collection of people who have the same world view ( which is basically what religion is) and not a bunch of people that share the same postcode. Faith schools create communities with parents choosing to send their children to get a particular education, they are often much more involved with their children’s education and this creates greater cohesion. As someone who went to a faith school overseas – not government funded – they had a sliding scale and no child was turned away due to cost. Charity begins at home – cliche I know – but nevertheless true.

Thirdly, why would a Christian child want to go to a Jewish school or a vice versa – if there was a choice, and why should a Christian child not have a place in a Chrsitian school because a Jewish child has been accepted – how does that make any sense?

Finally, its only someone who understands and respects their own ancestors and culture that will respect someone else’s right to do the same. This is why you will have a very strong coalition of religious leaders protesting this report. Please God successfully.

Personally, I find this Report deeply offensive, especially on a liberal forum. They are basically saying that because there are some underpriveledged and disadvantaged children, we don’t have the right to educate our children in the way we want to. Its hilarious in the fact that they will probably most helped by the very same religious community.

Charity is the foundation of all religions – not politics!

>>Finally, its only someone who understands and respects their own ancestors and culture that will respect someone else’s right to do the same.

Erm… I’d have to disagree with that.
Several groups promote ‘respect’ for their own ancestry and culture and find it only helps to denigrate and exclude others. To truly understand your own culture might help, but that’s rarely on the agenda with organised religions (let alone national or race groups).

>>Charity is the foundation of all religions – not politics!

Hilariously, provably untrue.

Could possibly argue the case that it should be at the heart of many of them, but it certainly hasn’t been the driving force behind the historically successful organised religions. And charity is not intrinsically embedded in all religions – you can have a religion without it, but not without deity or some form of sacredness.

“Finally, its only someone who understands and respects their own ancestors and culture that will respect someone else’s right to do the same.”

Agree with Steve B. That’s an argument for secular teaching of religious history rather than teaching and promoting faith as such.

Steve B and Alix, you’re looking from the outside in so you can’t possibly know what is or is not on the agenda of organised religion. From the inside, I can tell you that the amount of hours spent learning about culture is huge.

Have you actually looked at the Directory of Social Change publications of Grant making organisations, to see how many of them – I’m betting a very large proportion – are faith based. That’s my proof – where is yours?

I say again, just because there are poor underprivaleged children in this world who don’t have parents capable of giving them culture and education does not mean that – in the name of equality – you have to take it away from the others that do.

Faith based schools achieve better results so make more of them so everyone can have a place not less of them so everybody suffers.

Lilliput – on the contrary, I’ve had years in organised religion. Catholicism mainly, with a lot of study and interaction with others. In none of them was there any emphasis on the need to study other cultures as part of the religion.

I am also very aware of charities and religion. I know many neopagans who would love to have an official or even just large publicly-known charity in their name. The reason that won’t happen is not because the support isn’t there, but because public acceptance wouldn’t allow it.

The reason many of the monetary awards to various causes and individuals can come from faith-based charities is that they have a national collecting box to draw from.

>>Faith based schools achieve better results so make more of them so everyone can have a place not less of them so everybody suffers.

You’re completely missing the point. Faith-based schools have money, and often do well at exams. The problem many people have with them is the mix of religion and children, and education. “Everybody” doesn’t suffer if there are less schools promoting an unproven fantasy you don’t personally agree with.

Would you be in favour of more Scientology-sponsored schools?

why don’t we have a list of the best performing public and private schools and see how many are at the top. Is it the fact they work that’s upsetting you?

Simply not true. Or at least – there’s no proof that it is the religious element that results in these schools performing better, rather than a combination of selection by the schools and positive feedback loops resulting in house price rises that price the poor out of houses near well-performing schools. To say “these faith schools now do well therefore all faith schools are good” is either disingenuous, or ignorant, in the extreme.

sanbikinoraion said and positive feedback loops resulting in house price rises that price the poor out of houses near well-performing schools. To say “these faith schools now do well therefore all faith schools are good” is either disingenuous, or ignorant, in the extreme.

Thats a bit strong but certainly contains a large dose of truth . It is equally demonstrable that selection benefits both the selected and the selected against and that almost any escape form the state system is an improvement, hence academies. This is primarily about selection not faith. Its is also about escaping the NUT and the failed unaccountable state system with consumer power . Central targets have inevitably flopped encouraging silly exams and degrees for spelling your name right

I also think some sort of cohering and disciplining structure is essential in a school especially for boys . It does not have to be faith based but a sense of higher purpose and pride has to be re -injected after years of education being reduced to …”All round in a circle and lets talk about our feelings “. In Holland and the US where they have allowed funded faith and parent schools to beset up they have worked best in deprived areas where the state has ceased to function at all . Some times it involves highly structured environments .

I think this whole thread badly needs to get into context just how bad our schools are , we are not looming for perfection , almost anything would be better . We are spending on £80 billion pas its about to run out and we are producing an unemployable underclass .

Steve B, maybe I missed the point about teaching culture in faith based schools but why should there be an emphasis on the need to study other cultures as part of the religion? I’m Jewish myself and believe there is no law that states I have to know anything about Catholicism. The law states that just like I have a freedom to practice my judaism so I should allow Catholics, Muslims, Pagans etc to believe and practice as they wish.

From personal experience, I went to a very religious jewish school with no less then 4 hours a day religious lessons and very little instruction on other cultures or beliefs – probably because I was taking science and language subjects. I went away to University and from Freshers week I successfully intergrated myself into multicultural campus life – lunch with the Hare Krishnas on Monday, Happy Clappy’s on Tuesday, Dancing with the Pagans on Wednesday, listening to Imam’s chanting on Thursday and Friday night Jewish Sabbath. Obviously Saturday and Sunday were for worshipping the greek Gods of Hedonism with drink, drugs and dancing.

I feel this was all possible because I knew who I was and where I came from – and would give this to my children. This is exactly why Faith based schools have money – because parents choose to support them because that’s where they want to send their children – don’t they deserve that freedom? As long as Scientologists don’t kill or harm anybody else then I must respect their wish to educate their children in the school of their choice – otherwise I can’t have the freedom to educate my child how I wish to.

As to the Neopagan charity not being accepted – do me a favour – if Scientologists are accepted – people will not even bat an eye at a Neopagan charity.

sanbikinoraion = If the schools select on the basis of faith only it seems that those of faith are the ones rich enough to buy the houses close to that school – what does that tell you?

>>The law states that just like I have a freedom to practice my judaism so I should allow Catholics, Muslims, Pagans etc to believe and practice as they wish.

The secular law states that. Many religions have laws saying the exact opposite.

I will say that I’ve found Judaism (in the UK) to be pretty much the most tolerant. They encourage questioning and interpretation, and discussion of the texts. This immediately puts your experience in a much more liberal place than many faiths that could contribute to a ‘faith school’. Teaching all religions and encouraging respect for all of them would be fine, but it’s vanishingly rare in the UK as a whole.

>>people will not even bat an eye at a Neopagan charity

Oh, really? You think Wicca would get a big national response, without any talk at all from evangelical christians (and I suspect also some mainstream sects) about giving money to the Witches? If you don’t think there’d be newspaper headlines, you might not have seen the 80’s and 90’s with the “ritual abuse scandal” based on absolutely nothing. I don’t expect it to improve, there’s a lot of very normal reasons why wide acceptance is unlikely to ever happen, but please – don’t think that the public as a whole are as enlightened or tolerant as you. They’re definitely not.

>>As long as Scientologists don’t kill or harm anybody else then I must respect their wish to educate their children in the school of their choice – otherwise I can’t have the freedom to educate my child how I wish to.

But that’s precisely what I’m saying. We need to determine whether teaching their ideas and potentially displaying a bias to other ideas in education constitutes “harm”. We can all educate our children in our own faith – outside of a classroom. It doesn’t belong in a school. I went to a catholic secondary school, I don’t have a problem with using the ethos as something to bring the children together and promote standards and school spirit, but this issue goes far beyond that.

I believe (a personal opinion) that Scientology would harm children. It uses brainwashing techniques on adults, and wouldn’t even need them on 7 year-olds. I have problems with the issue of deliberate selection, of the wealth issues, and of pushing religion that strongly onto children.

It tells me, frankly, that you’re an idiot.

Imagine a school which is 1% better than all the others nearby. Just 1%. The people who want the best for their kids and who have the resources to get it will game whatever selection system there is – be that geographical or religious – to get their kids in. Let’s say that because richer kids are less likely to be disruptive, more likely to be intelligent and motivated, that the first intake of rich kids raises standards by another 1%. Well, now the school has better children than the others, so when it’s recruiting teachers it can offer an easier lifestyle for applicants, thus get better applicants, thus get better teachers. Now it’s 5% better than the surrounding schools. So more middle-class people think “actually, now it is worth the stretch to move closer / send the kids to Sunday school” so the school gets 10% better. Any sort of selection criteria at all is going to lead to exactly this circumstance. Faith is just the method by which the rich play the system to get their kids in, and of course since the faith schools themselves benefit very well from this, they are quite content to keep quiet…

sanbikinoraion

You are right obviously but that doesnot mean that faith school might not be a better environment for some . Catholic Schools in Scotland do very well in extremely deprived areas because of their rigidly structured methods (arguably).

But my point is that the faith part is incidental. I don’t disagree with you – I am hardly an expert on Catholic schools north of the border! – but my premise is that the faith part is irrelevant – any school offering “rigidly structured methods” would do just as well, be it in the service of the Christian God, the FSM, or, er, humanity.

I am sure thats right personally but we start from where we are and faiths are prepared to set up schools . Also your argument about selection applies equally to any area with or without a faith school . One school is always slightly more popular and so on as you describe . The attempt in Brighton to impose a lottery has failed utterly ( I was quite enthusiastic). Parents would not have their children bussed for the purposes of social engineering and went private even if it cost everything they had

Perhaps the answer is to work with Selection not against it .. and allow a greater variety of schools ?

I think that the only way to avoid polarization in schools is something like Nick Clegg’s pupil premium, that actually gives schools a good incentive (extra money) to actively seek out poor and deprived children to admit to their schools.

Accord seem to have conflicting aims: “the goal of choice and diversity” with “Accord will continue to argue that children from different backgrounds are best educated together”. To achieve the latter you will need to remove choice.

The idea that “children are given a greater say in how the school is run” sounds like typical, impractical 60s socialist idealism. I hope they are being facetious and actually mean something like student forums.

RE was part of the curriculum in the 70s/80s in the secular schools I attended, but was widely ridiculed by the pupils because we came from fairly secular backgrounds. This is undoubtedly different now, due to mass immigration, which is why “faith” is now such an issue in education.
“Why does’nt the Runnymede raise money and set up it’s own schools? Bearing in mind how bad some state schools are , I am sure parents in deprived areas would love to send their chidren to a Runnymede Trust School. Surely there should be a wide variation in the types of school so that parents have choices?”
I agree.

I wonder what range of people was used to compile the report. Do they ever get the opinions of low achievers or are they all middle-class, university educated and reliant on the State for employment?

They are many factors affecting achievement at school, you cannot just focus on one area and then just set targets or enforce change. The location, the local population, immigration, the background of the parents, the aspirations of the parents, peer pressure, discipline, the quality of teaching, the existence of mentoring, career advice, etc, are all influencing factors. As someone who wasted their education and left school with very little, but discovered learning later in life, I now appreciate those influences.

The key to solving our education inequality is improving the low achieving schools. The new Academies are helping, but a new, pretentious building and a token specialisation will not solve the inherent problems. Govt can help by ensuring teaching quality. However the Govt’s main approach (other than denial and lying) is target setting which has been a failure and just lowers standards. If a school is judged on the number of exclusions it makes, the disruptive pupils just ruin it for everyone else.

The ruling class realise education is failing for a significant portion of the lower social strata. However, there is a reluctance to seek out the root problems and make changes because a) it exposes the failure of their own policies, b) the patterns in education choice show a marked determination by many parents not to participate in the mass immigration and multi-cultural experiments of this Government and some of their predecessors, and c) the solutions may compromise the superior education of their own offspring.

“Give children a greater say in how the school is run”

What fucking nonsense. Who cooks up these ideas? Has he bothered to canvas the views of parents or teachers about this?

Our schools are a national and international disgrace and all the Runnymead trust seems concerned about is the minority of schools that make a half-hearted effort to teach christianity as the received religion. Its just another brainless think tank with absolutely nothing to say

sanbikinoraion – where do you think these “rigidly structured methods” come from? And if they could be achieved by “er humanity” why haven’t they been achieved yet?

Also, Nick Clegg’s idea is ludicrous if you look where it will lead. If schools get “a good incentive (extra money) to actively seek out poor and deprived children to admit to their schools” they will simply allow more and more of them in the school leading to lower standards, while the richer kids get taken out of the school as their parents worry about the bad influence. How can you not see that happening?

Finally, why are you so discriminating against parents doing whatever is necessary to give their children the best education possible? Surely if every parent in England was doing that we wouldn’t have half the problems we do. I say lets have even more parents involved and fiddling the system, the more parents pushing for better schools the more noise they make about falling standards – the quicker the powers that be will respond.

PS Steve B – There are covens all over the world who can communicate via the net, set up a bank account and a Charitable Trust and start donating and supporting projects of their choice – you don’t need a media campaign, to start a charity. They’re not doing a recruitment drive, they are raising funds for helping their community. I’m still not understanding – sorry.

Lilliput: I was talking about a slightly different idea re: charities, which would be to have an openly Pagan charity to match the (many) large Christian charities. Individuals can get together on the net and keep it quiet, but that’s not the same. The accusation is often that neopagans don’t care about charity “like Christians do”, but that’s actually not the case at all.

>>they will simply allow more and more of them in the school leading to lower standards,

Do you mean lower results? Which standards change due to the presence of poor people?

>>while the richer kids get taken out of the school as their parents worry about the bad influence.

Yes. Can’t have a set number of poorer children provided for by grants, the answer must be to *take my child out of that school*. Er… I’m not sure that would happen to the extent you’re suggesting.

You can do all of this without religion. The Catholic school I went to in Sussex had children from a wide range of backgrounds (including a large group of Somalis who were provided for by dedicated funding) and the parents didn’t seem too upset. The school’s results may drop on average if you bring in a group who have to work harder, but it never affected other students.

Steve B,at my school we had prayers so at your Catholic school, did the Somalis and the other non Christians have to pray to Jesus – or was their no prayer – or were they each seperated into their own religion for prayer?

Without prayer – it can’t really be called a faith school.

If everyone has to pray to Jesus – thats not ideal and Non Christian parents would only be ok with that if there was no other school around.

If they are split up for prayer – then why call it a Catholic school – it should be the “Multifaith School”?

Lilliput: They all attended Catholic prayers at my (Catholic) school.

As someone mentioned in an earlier comment, parents will do anything to get the best schools. They’ll go private, they’ll move house. They’ll certainly send a child to a faith school when they themselves aren’t bothered. However, I don’t think they’ll react to the idea of funded children from poorer backgrounds by pulling their own kids out – we didn’t see that, for example.

There are certain issues which drive the Faith School discussion.
1. Many poor state schools in poor areas.
2. Poor teachers in some schools.
3. A lack of discipline and the incredibly difficult job of expelling disruptive and violent pupils to a reform type of school.
4. An education system designed by middle class arts trained teachers/academics/ civil servants whic totally boors up to 40% of pupils who would prefer high quality crafts training post 14 years of age.
5. Uneducated, unskilled and unemployed parents who are un willing to work or gain skills, who treat education with contempt and pass this attitude onto their children. The Matthews case in Yorkshire typifies these sorts of people.
6. Very low aspirations for their pupils by the teachers. I have witnessed a left wing teacher try to persuade a working class pupil from applying to Cambridge after he had received unconditional offers from red brick universities. The pupil ignored the teacher and went up to Cambridge where he enjoyed a happy and successful time, including the friendship of undergrads from public schools.

A former headmaster said if 25% of class or a school are troublemakers one is not involved in education but riot control.

The left middle class civl servant who looks upon employment as a meal and mortgage ticket for life completely ignores the views of most of the hard working and honest parents. It does not matter whether the parents are poor or rich; religious or atheist , many do not want their chldren to educated alongside the ignorant , violent and devious who are are contemptuous of education and are happy to ruin the learning of their children. Until we reform our education system and create reform type schools with specially selected and trained staff to deal with the ignorant, violent and devious and a rigorous discipline system which includeds expelling the disruptive from comprehensives; then many parents will do one of 4 things
1 Move to affluent areas and better schools, 2 send their childrendren to religious schools ; 3 send their children to grammar schools, 4 send their children to public schools.

The first loyalty of a parent is to their child. The welfare state employs many excellent people, however there are many middle class failures who have created a system which does nothing to help the hard working and honest poor who only wish to improve their quality of life through their endeavours. This why there is Jewish school in Birmingham, which teaches Jewish religious customs whose majority of pupils are from Muslim families because they know they will receive a better education than that at the local comprehensives.

The idea of comprehensives is not wrong. What is wrong is the educational system created by left wing middle class humanities based civil servants and academics which has larely removed an effective discipline system and strived to create equality, based upon outcome not opportunity. Consequently,many of the worst schools are largely influenced by the ignorant , violent and disruptive pupils and parents and not the hardworking and honest. Too many poor schools are jungles where the strong and violent pupils prey on the weaker and more peaceful ,while a bunch of middle class left wing failures as teachers avert their gaze or even backdown from confronting the disruptive .

Steve Bso you agree with me that faith schools must be better if parents who are not religious prefer to send their children there and i’m sure that faith schools already have poor pupils enrolled – adding the incentive of money will change a balance that is obviously already working.

Thanks Charlie but are you for or against faith schools?

I’m saying that some faith schools perform better. I’m also saying that money plays no small part in this, and parents will choose the better school even if they’re not religious.

>>obviously already working.

That’s a matter of opinion.

40. Lilliput. Faith schools have a right to exist provide they teach to the national curriculum or better. For example ,Faith Schools could teach the IGSCE which is a higher standard than the GSCE. The demand for Faith schools , especially in poor inner city areas is greatly increased because many state schools are so utterly useless. The debasement of standards whether academic, sporting or artistic has been so great and so prolonged, within so much of the state sector within inner city UK, that if Faith Schools can provide a better education , especially for the poor, than I support them. The poor rarely have the choice of moving to North Oxford and sending their children to comprehensives attended by the children of the University’s dons. A friend who teaches at a Roman Catholic School within inner city UK mentions how they have discipline at the school and the option of expelling disruptive pupils. These are major reasons for their success. If we had many Reform Schools which enabled disruptive and ignorant children to be taught by specially selected and trained staff , then I am sure many comprehensives would improve and the demand for Faith Schools would decline. Many teachers, especially women have a great problem controlling large teen age boys . As a foremen in the construction site said ” If someone does not obey his orders they get a smack in the mouth and told to F. O.” There are not many weaklings as formen in the construction industry , especially the heavier and more physically demanding sectors.

What a silly thing to say. Hamlet is as likely to prove or disprove the existence of Shakespeare;

Not in the slightest.

The issue at stake is that of the ‘act of creation’, the proposition that the universe has a finite beginning and definite starting point at which it could be said, either colloquially or in explicitly religious terms, to have been ‘created’.

If that premise falls – and there are a number of cosmological models which predict the rapid inflation of the universe associated with the Big Bang but without there being a Big Bang singularity – and the universe is shown to have had no defined starting point then the premise of the creator god ceases to have any significant meaning.

“I’m saying that some faith schools perform better”

Great – then can we make sure that they survive please.

“I’m saying that some faith schools perform better”

Great – then can we make sure that they survive please.

First off, the idea that ‘faith’ schools perform better is extremely questionable given that there’s a substantial body of evidence which shows that the latitude given to these schools in terms of their being able to use ‘faith’ as a basis for allocating school places is commonly parleyed into a form of selection on the basis of social class.

I’ll need to dig around for it, but there’s at least one solid study which demonstrates that if you control for ‘selection’ by social class, using the proportion of pupils on free school meals as an indicator of poverty, then the supposed edge that ‘faith’ schools have in terms of performance rapidly evaporates.

That said, the central issue here isn’t that of whether ‘faith schools’ should survive but whether religious belief should be afforded a privileged status within the education system, not just in terms of state funding for ‘faith schools’ but also in terms of the legal requirement that non-faith community schools should be required to incorporate a ‘broadly Christian’ act of worship in their daily assemblies and deliver an RE curriculum devised by a statutory standing committee made up, in most cases, entirely of members of the priestly caste and an assortment of lay religionists. Let’s not forget that, only last year, a secondary school (which I think may have already been an Academy) requested that the the mandatory religious provision be waived in order that it could operate as a secular school on becoming one of the new Trust schools only to be told by a scutter at the DCSF that this was impossible because the government regards religion as being ’embedded’ in the education system.

The fair and equitable way to resolve this issue is to move to a Swedish-style system of free schools, funded by vouchers, giving parents a much wider choice in regards to the kind of school they send their children to. ‘Faith schools’ would continue to exist where there is a clear demand amongst parents for such a school but, equally, those parents, like myself, who would prefer their children to be educated in a secular school would be able to come together to open a school that meets our needs and requirements.

How about all the white middle-class socialists who have been responsible for the failed policies that have ruined the education for so many start sending their children to the local poor performing schools? This will improve the performance of those schools and make them more attractive. Their children may suffer slightly, but surely it would be a fair price to pay for the belief in their principles? Jon Cruddas can put his kids in the local Dagenham comp. Diane Abbot can put her faith in one of Hackney’s new academies. Alastair Campbell and all the other New Labour luvvies can stop clogging up Camden’s best schools and put their kids into those in the south of the borough, where they can even study for a Somali GCSE.

Unity – can you elucidate the free schools with vouchers option? What are the pros and cons?

There really isn’t a short answer to that question, Lilliput, but you could start with a review I did of a Civitas pamphlet, which should get you started.

http://www.liberalconspiracy.org/2008/06/16/swedish-lesson/

I think that faith organisations should have no role to play in any maintained school, full stop.

Religionism strictly for the private sphere alone.

You’re so stupid. I go to a catholic school right now and you have no idea what you’re talking about… You need to go visit a public school and then a private religious school, then you tell me which environment you learn better! Hey, i guess everyone’s entitled to their own WRONG opinion, right?

… and I guess everyone’s entitled to extrapolate from their own experience of one single private religious school to what it’s like at every other religious school in the country. While disregarding any sort of positive feedback effects that selective schools have experienced over the ages. And the gender and sexuality discrimination that they’ve ingrained into generations of children. And the fact that God happens to be completely made up.

Apart from that, I totally agree with you: you’re completely entitled to your own WRONG opinion.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs




Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.