The Church of England wants to end segregation in their schools, but does the government?

Francis Gilbert's picture
The news today that that the Church of England is intending to sweep away the requirement for children to have a religious background should be welcomed. Clearly, the C of E has figured out that the current system has lead to chronic social segregation with "Voluntary-Aided" schools -- largely C of E ones -- containing disproportionately high numbers of children from prosperous backgrounds. This has happened because well-off parents have played the "faith" card, attending church diligently even if they are not religious, and therefore getting their children into a C of E school.

However, the government seems intent upon increasing social segregation in our schools. Many of their policies which include bribing schools to become academies and encouraging parents to set up free schools will lead to greater social segregation in our schools as many commentators have said, most recently the Advisory Centre for Education. The Education Bill with its proposals to sweep away Admissions' Forums and curtail the powers of the Adjudicator will only make the situation worse because schools will know that they will be able to get away with "cherry picking" students.
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Allan Beavis's picture
Fri, 22/04/2011 - 16:50

And what about the recent consultations on the Equality Act and and the National Curriculum in which the questions included should we do away the Equality Act and the Citizenship Curriculum altogether? These erosions of rights opens the way for discrimination.

Ben Taylor's picture
Fri, 22/04/2011 - 20:56

The solution to demand for C of E schools being insufficient is to make more of them

There is a theological arguement to be had about the role of Christians about being in but not of the world, shall we discuss that?

In the meantime I look forward to your investigations in to the Islamic, Catholic, Sikh, Hindu, Jewish and ANOther religions including atheism etc. and what provision for the subjective value systems of the children and parents exist in the comprehensive sector (usually nil swept in to the dustbin).

Still you can prove me wrong, be my guest

Francis Gilbert's picture
Sat, 23/04/2011 - 08:41

There's an excellent Comment piece by Polly Toynbee in The Guardian today which addresses the issue of social mobility and faith schools.

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 23/04/2011 - 08:42

The Bishop of Oxford is but one voice - and he will face opposition despite the fact that he is right. The Bishop reminds the church, parents and taxpayers that schools are there to serve the wider community even if more open access results in a drop in league table position.

The Bishop is practising what the Church preaches: "But Jesus called them [unto him], and said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God." (Luke 18:16 King James' Version).

The Church should welcome all comers, as their faith dictates and not discriminate.

Ben Taylor's picture
Sat, 23/04/2011 - 10:43

You are right Janet, when demand for C of E places can not be met the places should be increased and if necessary this means reallocating resources from other state schools which are not wanted.

Georgina Emmanuel's picture
Sat, 23/04/2011 - 11:09

We live in a world of increasing cultural, ethnic and linguistic diversity and sadly a lot of the conflicts now facing our global society are often ethnic/cultural/linguistic in origin.

I therefore think it behoves us to create spaces for children where they can interact with other children of diverse faiths, attitudes, assumptions, values etc.In these spaces it is possible to encourage discussion in an open and non-threatening way. I think this is possibly a better way of encouraging tolerance than just talking about different religions in a mono-faith school.

In our school, we respect and celebrate all faiths to the best of our ability. We have a prayer room for Muslims, lunch time bible groups for Christians and Eid and Chinese New Year celebrations. RE classes cover all religions and I know that the RE teacher invites students of different faiths to take the class on occasion to share their personal beliefs. These lessons are always treated with utmost respect.

Most children in the UK attend day schools and therefore have lots of opportunities to pursue their own faiths at home and at the weekends.

W Smith's picture
Sat, 23/04/2011 - 14:53

That sounds good Ben - To take your argument one step further - then all schools could be C of E schools and there would be no need for an admissions policy as they would be "the state education system." All children could go to their local school and all could be shared equally. Hallelujah to that!! League tables may look very different then, but surely that is not the priority of any voluntary aided religious primary school.

Ben Taylor's picture
Sat, 23/04/2011 - 19:05

The point is what kind of school the parents and children want to go to. It needs to be respected.

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 24/04/2011 - 07:26

Ben - you ask "what provision for the selective value systems of the children and parents exist in the comprehensive sector?" Comprehensive means just that - inclusive. Here is a typical statement of aims from a comprehensive school (name deleted).

"Students learn best in an environment where there are high expectations made of them. We prepare youngsters for the highly competitive world of the new millennium where they will (name removed) traditional values are presented in a modern setting.Students learn best in an environment where there are high expectations made of them."

The statement makes it clear that the education on offer is suitable for all students, whatever their "subjective value systems". It is, of course, nonsense to suggest that such an inclusive system throws values into a dustbin. Indeed, in such a system children are more likely to meet a range of systems rather than be presented with one viewpoint based on subjectivity.

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 24/04/2011 - 09:10

A “wave of anger” has built up after the Bishop’s comments. The Mail reported how the bishop and “stirred anger” among faith groups who “pledged to ‘robustly fight’ their right to admit members of their own faith.” (This is not a misquote – I don’t think the journalist realised she was actually saying that faith groups were going to oppose their right to admit faith members). The report listed quotations in “the war of words” which included describing a vicar as being “incandescent.” According to the Mail, the “move is likely to spark outrage among middle class parents who fight to get their children into a top faith school.”

I thought Christianity was supposed to be a religion of peace opposed to people using muscle to promote their own interests.

The Mail editorial accepts that parents who undergo the Year 6 epiphany are hypocrites, but waters this down by saying “But at least their children are being brought up in a faith that has defined this country for almost 500 years.”

This shows a woeful ignorance of Christianity. Jesus had this warning to hypocrites:

“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.” (Matthew 23:23 King James’ Version)

Throughout his ministry his actions promoted inclusivity (condemned by the Mail as being responsible for a possible lowering of academic standards). He included the poor and the outcasts. The Bishop is putting these words into action. What a pity he’s being condemned.

Tokyo Nambu's picture
Wed, 27/04/2011 - 07:49

"There’s an excellent Comment piece by Polly Toynbee in The Guardian today which addresses the issue of social mobility and faith schools."

That's the Polly Toynbee that educated her own children privately, I take it? It's amazing how many people who send their children to private schools later decide that in fact the state system, which wasn't good enough for their own children, is right for the proles. Dianne Abbott is over on CiF at the moment extolling the virtues of state schools: presumably, her house doesn't contain any mirrors.

Andrew Edmondson's picture
Wed, 28/09/2011 - 14:22

Schools should be run on secular lines. Anything else contravenes the rights of the child.

No religion or belief should be allowed to discriminate against others or have privileges over others.

Inclusive community schools are good for children from religious and non-religious backgrounds. They learn to live with one another. Just look at the divisions in Northern Ireland that are perpetuated by religious segregation.

Religious schools promote a particular religion. After the enlightenment, the C of E realised that secular values may be taught, undermining their authority. So they expanded their schools. And they are going from strength to strength, despite the annual decline in church attendance and religiosity.

School should be the one place where children learn that they can live good lives without religion. Not to do so is indoctrination by omission (according the Religion and Education Council of England and Wales).

What dangerous games governments play.

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