Keeping the faith schools?

Sunday 19 October, 14.00 until 15.30, Frobisher Auditorium 2, Barbican School Fights

Many critics charge state faith schools with allowing social segregation through the back door. They argue it is wrong for a secular state to finance parents’ religious beliefs, as they believe it entrenches social segregation. For some, Ofsted’s current investigation into an alleged Islamic plot to take over a number of Birmingham schools and teach Islamic beliefs reveals the dangers of segregation and indeed of questionable values being taught in faith schools. For the British Humanist Association, a child’s schooling should not be influenced by the religious background and beliefs of their parents. Some, such as Richard Dawkins, even claim religious teachings are a form of ‘emotional abuse’.

And yet, faith schools often do far better than non-denominational comprehensive schools and enable children from all backgrounds to succeed. Such institutions have formed the bedrock of schooling in the UK and their long experience and results suggests they are skilled educationalists. For this reason, despite the backlash against faith schools, such institutions are over-subscribed, with ambitious parents desperate to secure a place for their son or daughter. No amount of bad press seems to the dampen middle class belief that they are the right kind of school to provide a first class education.

For critics, however, this is part of the problem. The Fair Admissions Campaign criticises high-performing faith schools for their ‘middle class bias’ regarding school selection based on religious faith as a way of handpicking pupils from privileged and educationally supportive homes. But are such campaigns motivated only by a desire for social inclusion and diversity within schools? Or are they uncomfortable with the particular values religious communities want to pass onto their children? Should a secular society provide resources for faith-based teaching on the grounds of parental choice or even better educational outcomes? Or should religious beliefs be kept entirely out of state-run schools in the name of equality and social solidarity?

Watch the debate:

Dr Jonathan Romain
rabbi; chair, Accord Coalition for Inclusive Education

Kevin Rooney
politics teacher and head of social science, Queen's School, Bushey; co-author, Who's Afraid Of The Easter Rising?

Michelle Tepper
associate, Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics

Richy Thompson
campaigns officer (Faith Schools and Education), British Humanist Association

Neil Davenport
sociology and politics teacher; writer on culture; former music journalist

Produced by
Neil Davenport sociology and politics teacher; writer on culture; former music journalist

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