More thought needed on religion and schools

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Ekklesia has welcomed debate on how publicly funded schools should be open to pupils of all faiths and none, but has questioned the National Union of Teachers (NUT) annual report's idea of requiring all schools to provide religious instruction for those from particular faith communities.

The Union's proposal is that this would be a quid quo pro for moving away from single-faith schools that discriminate in admission and employment. Ekklesia has agreed that faith schools should not favour their own or impose beliefs on others.

Simon Barrow, co-director of the think tank, said: "The role of a school should be to teach people about religion, not to bring them up within a faith, which is the job of religious communities. Confusing these two roles is unhelpful."

He went on: "In today’s plural society, pupils certainly need to be given the opportunity to learn about the different world religions and also about non-religious beliefs and life stances. We are harmed by ignorance of the various convictions that continue to shape (and sometimes misshape) our world. But this is about critical learning, not propaganda. As for worship, that is the business of faith communities, not public institutions like schools. Assemblies should be civic and inclusive in character."

"As part of the recognition of the place of schools in their local and global communities, it is also right that provision should be made for believers to have space for voluntary devotions and for after-school activities related to their beliefs - in exactly the same way as other clubs, social and non-religious cultural activities are recognised. This is something that both believers and non-believers should be able to support.

"What the NUT seems to be proposing, on the other hand, goes in a very different direction - towards making “confessional” (conviction based) religious teaching a core school activity. That confuses the role of the school with that of the church, mosque, temple, gurdwara or synagogue. Moreover, as currently conceived, a ‘multi-faith agenda’ will not make proper provision, as it should, for the needs of the growing number of non-religious pupils."

See: http://ourkingdom.opendemocracy.net/2008/03/27/nut-proposals-would-make-...