According to this news release from the British Humanist Association:
Before MPs have had a chance to debate the Academies Bill, the government has already stated that it has no plans to prevent creationist teaching in its new “faith” Academies, citing its desire to free schools from prescriptive curricula. This is remarkable given the fact that it is nonetheless requiring all of its new Academies to teach RE and hold daily acts of collective worship.
My emphasis. As I wondered earlier would it be possible for someone like Richard Dawkins to set up a Free Thinking School only for it to be compelled by law to hold acts of worship. On the other hand, a religious group could set up a school and would have no statutory requirement to teach basic scientific fact.
I really don’t understand this desire by all UK Governments to promote religion in schools. Even a Government prepared to let some schools ditch the National Curriculum. Why is this? I genuinely don’t understand.
It has widely been reported that Richard Dawkins may be thinking of setting up – or help set-up – one of the Coalition Government’s new Free Schools.
Whatever else one thinks of the Free Schools idea, secular groups setting up “free-thinking” schools is interesting because the Tories (promoters of Free Schools) are enthusiastic supporters of faith schools, the Established Church, etc. It may not be what they intended; most secularists up ’til now have worried that Free Schools will lead to an increase in religious bodies controlling schools.
It will also be interesting to know if such Free Schools can ditch collective worship. I read that they will be free from the National Curriculum but – as I understand it – collective worship is not part of the National Curriculum but is statutory.
I expect things will become clearer over the next few months, but it looks like the new Coalition Government is set to oversee the creation of many more faith schools. The National Secular Society comments.
This doesn’t surprise me about the Conservatives as they have always promoted faith schools, but the Lib Dems had, before the election, a policy that would, if not reduce faith schools, enforce employment and admissions equality on them. Some religious vested interests got quite jumpy about this. Seems that this is not a priority when you are cutting coalition deals.
It will be interesting to see how many “free schools” and “new academies” are run by religious groups. At present this aspect of it seems absent from much of the news coverage. It may, as the NSS suggests, increase the number of faith schools much more dramatically than the last Government managed.
This now means that none of the main parties have a policy to reduce or restrict the unfair practices of such schools.
I wouldn’t like this Blog, whatever it’s merits or lack of them, to become a place to point out the nonsense about faith schools spouted in the newspapers (usually the Telegraph) but I was struck by this article in The Independent by Dominic Lawson.
It really is an object lesson in how to miss the point. It seems that Mr Lawson has seen a well-run Catholic School so he argues that this makes all faith schools good.
- He notes the picture of the Pope in the hall and links this to children standing up in class – with little evidence.
- He states that the social mix, whilst not as disadvantaged as the local surrounding community schools, is not enough to explain the better results of the Catholic school. The evidence is really not on his side, and he is on the verge of admitting it.
- He covers his lack of evidence with some assertions about the discipline in school against the undisciplined family backgrounds of some pupils. Again, this is just the opinion of the Headmaster who, I would guess, will have limited knowledge of the family backgrounds of children in the area who don’t attend his school.
- He quotes the research on Ofsted and Community Cohesion which has been largely criticized (including by me).
With the exception of the last point, he is still generalising from one good school with attribute A to assume that all schools with attribute A must also be good. He makes the concession that there are probably some good non-A schools. He does not consider A attribute schools that are not good – although presumably there are some. All this would lead most of us to conclude that there is a lot more to good schools than A-ness or the lack of it. But not, it would seem, when you are Dominic Lawson and the A attribute is religion.
Perhaps Mr Lawson should look at this school and see what generalisations he can make?
..if you define a government minister as “good company”. According to the Telegraph David Milliband, an atheist, is sending his son to a faith school.
Unusually, for the Telegraph they give space to the anit-faith schools position:
Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, which seeks the abolition of faith schools, said: “Mr Miliband joins the thousands of parents forced into hypocrisy by the education policies of his own government.
“It is a vicious circle because, as faith schools get a reputation for better results, the most assertive – and, I suppose middle-class – parents choose them and that pushes the results up even further.”
Leaving aside the myriad of inaccuracies in these stories, do they think faith-schools are so popular that they are a good way to beat the Labour Government and build support for the Tories? They should read the evidence that shows many parents don’t want faith schools (an example here).
I should stop reading the damned thing.
There’s been a lot of coverage of the recent ruling on concerning the JFS (formerly Jews’ Free School in London): they have been told that they cannot racially discriminate against a pupil. (This has something to do with the Jewish notion that they are a ‘race’ – the Chosen People – and inheritance going through the mother. To be honest, I couldn’t care less about the arcane and bizarre rules they may have; I do care about tax-payers funding discriminatory practices.)
I was struck with a certain part of the Telegraph’s report on the topic:
Mr Balls insisted that action could be taken to allow England’s 7,000 Christian, Sikh, Muslim, Hindu and Jewish schools to continue selecting along religious lines.
He said: “We are going to need to look carefully at the implications of this, and all faith organisations will as well. We must make sure that the role of faith schools is properly protected in our state education system. Any further steps which have to be taken should only be taken once we have studied the judgment.”
So, this won’t give the Government pause for thought in its promotion and expansion of faith schools, rather they will change the rules if necessary to allow discrimination to continue.
Why am I not surprised?