Government blocks secular school that would teach all world views

Anushka Asthana reports in the Observer that senior government officials have blocked attempts to create the first school without an act of collective worship branding it a ‘political impossibility’.

Dr Paul Kelly“Dr Paul Kelley, head of Monkseaton High School in Tyneside – the first to join the government’s flagship ‘trust school‘ scheme – wanted to challenge the legal requirement in all state schools for pupils to take part in a daily act of worship of a broadly Christian nature. There are only a handful of exceptions at faith schools where the daily worship can be based on a different religion.

He also wanted to change the way that religious education was taught, introducing tuition about a number of world views, some that involved faith and some that did not. He intended to follow a ‘third way’ that neither banished religion from the classroom completely nor had children attending daily worship.

According to the Observer “One senior figure at the then Department for Education and Skills, told Kelley that bishops in the House of Lords and ministers would block the plans.”

Although many schools are not classified as being of religious character, if they do not carry out the daily act of worship they lose points during inspections by Ofsted.  Kelley is now hoping that other schools might join his campaign.

The third way

The concept of a third way is potentially a helpful one that could aleviate some fears that secularists want to remove all mention of religion in schools. Instead it is important that such mentions are as honest as possible (showing ther good and the bad) and as unbiased as possible. As hard as it is to be completely unbiased either personally or institutionally, some approaches can ensure balance easier than others.

Of course although they might not say it so blatantly, many people are quite determined for the bias to remain on the grounds of ‘majority rules’ or historical continuity. As the Observer reports, the Church of England’s take on Kelly’s efforts was that “either overtly or by default, this country is still a Christian one.”

Multifaith schools

Interestingly the other approach (the fourth way?)  sometimes suggested as a way to resolve fears about single faith schools adding to segregation has emerged recently in Coventry.

The Rev Jim Canning, of St Paul’s Church, Foleshill, has called for a multifaith school to be set up to promote integration in the community. “But rather than running schools separately why not give us the opportunity to run one together? It’s possible for Sikhs, Hindus, Muslims and Christians to live together in extraordinary friendship as we have proved in Foleshill.”

A Foleshill school’s catchment area will be larger than Foleshill but is it worth pointing out that living in Foleshil in 2001 were:

  • St Paul's Church, Foleshill5,886 Christians
  • 4,768 Muslims
  • 2,111 Sikhs
  • 1,779 people of no religion
  • 1,336 Hindus
  • 63 people from other religions
  • 32 Buddhists
  • 3 Jews
  • 1,990 people who did not give their religion

So where would a Sikh/ Hindu/ Muslim/ Christian school leave the 21% of residents that are not of these faiths? Is their exclusion an acceptable price to pay for the cohesion of the four main faiths in the area? I assume that pupils in this hypothetical school would only take part in the collective worship of their own faith and that their lessons would not teach that all four faiths are all equally true so what do they see as the advantage over a neutral school that included 100% beliefs? Is it just that children would learn that at least one religion is true? Any one? 

One response to “Government blocks secular school that would teach all world views

  1. Established 1981
    London School of Islamics
    An Educational Trust
    63 Margery Park Road Forest Gate London E7 9LD
    Tel/Fax: 0208 555 2733 / 07817 112 667
    Polish Children Vs Muslim Children

    John Reid, the ex-Home Secretary has predicted that more Catholic schools are needed due to influx of East European migrants. An estimated 20,000 Polish children need schools for their faith. He highlighted the growing pressure on faith school places because of the growing number of Polish Catholic children in the United Kingdom. There is a demand for Catholic school places because 95% of Polish are Catholics. Polish ambassador to the United Kingdom said that there are now so many Polish children in British schools that they should be taught Polish language, history and culture, so that they do not find themselves cut off from their cultural roots and enjoy the beauty of their literature and poetry. Many schools are recruiting Polish teachers as role models. Churches have started Sermons in Polish language so that the Polish people can feel at home.

    Muslim communities have started to arrive during the 50s, mainly from the sub-continent. They brought their cultures, languages and faith. They contributed for the British economy by paying all sorts of taxes. They built Masajid for offering prayers and community centers for the education of their young generations. Not a single politician ever thought and campaigned for state funded Muslim schools with bilingual Muslim teachers as role models. Instead, Muslim children are being discouraged to learn and speak their mother tongues even at home by the politicians. Even Imams are being forbidden to use Urdu in their sermons, inspite of the fact that majority of British Muslims are from Pakistan. Bilingualism should be encouraged because it is enormously beneficial to children development. It should be introduced as early as nursery level. I believe the result would be amazing. It is absurd to send bilingual children to schools with monolingual teachers.

    Muslim schools in Britain emerged as an answer to a major challenge that Muslim communities faced in the West on how to educate their children and inculcate Islamic values and morals among them. Muslim children have been suffering academically, linguistically, socially, emotionally and spiritually for the last 50 years. They have been in a wrong place at a wrong time. The state schools have become exam factories. They have no time and energy to educate children. Institutional racism, incivility, drug, crime, binge drinking, anti-social behaviour, high rate of abortion and an increase in teenage pregnancies are common part of life in state schools. Muslim parents do not want their children to be integrated into such barbarity. Muslim children need to learn to be proud of their Islamic, cultural and linguistic Identities without fear of discrimination and bullying. There are over 500,000 school age Muslim children and only 4% of them attend Muslim schools. There is a need for more Muslim schools but they are being asked by the politicians to open their doors for the children of other faiths or no faiths. The demand for Muslim schools is immense and every school has a lengthy waiting lists. Muslim communities do not have enough resources to set up schools for each and every Muslim child. There are hundreds of state schools where Muslim children are in majority, in my opinion all such schools may be designated as Muslim community schools.
    Iftikhar Ahmad

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