'Time to open up or call time on church schools?' asks Anglican newspaper

By staff writers
September 4, 2008

In a surprise move, a major Anglican newspaper has joined a growing number within the Church of England, who are asking whether it is time to open up, or even 'call time' on church schools.

In an editorial, responding to the launch of Accord, a broad coalition including the thinktank Ekklesia, which is calling for an end to discriminatory admissions and employment policies in church schools, the newspaper said that 'Church of England schools have little or no positive Christian influence on their pupils.'

The Church of England Newspaper (CEN), which is evangelical in orientation, also said that faith schools can 'put pressure on minority lay people to toe a clerical hard line version of their inherited tradition'.

A number of studies have found that parents are prepared to lie about their faith, and attend churches, in order to get their children into some oversubscribed church schools.

The editorial, entitled: 'Religious schools: open up or call time?' (CEN, 4 September 2008) points to research that suggests Anglican Schools may have a negative influence on their pupils. It also questions the segregation along religious lines that occurs in faith based schools, pointing to the situation in Oldham, Bradford and Burnley 'a kind of apartheid' has existed, with religious schools 'a big part' of that.

The editorial can be viewed here: http://www.churchnewspaper.com/Editorial.aspx and is reproduced below in full:

Religious schools: open up or call time?

Butler’s 1944 Education Act managed to basically acquire control of most Church of England schools and fund them. This left Roman Catholic schools with control and the need to find a small percentage of costs. Anglican schools are popular, but have little or no positive Christian influence on their pupils, perhaps even a negative influence according to research by Leslie Francis some time ago.

Roman Catholic schools are for Roman Catholic children and do have some positive effect in instilling Roman Catholic practice, at taxpayers’ expense. But the arrival of other religions in large numbers with a high birth rate has patched in a factor undreamt of by Butler, and the demand for Islamic schools has been fierce and readily given by this government. Politicians take it for granted that all religions are basically the same and that there is no need to investigate religions to see if their values cohere with western liberal views.

The Cantle Report, commissioned by the Home Office in 2001 after the riots in Oldham, Bradford and Burnley painted a picture of communities living parallel lives and with mutual suspicion building up. A kind of apartheid existed and religious schools were a big part of this, Muslim children never meeting the indigenous population. Cantle said that this polarization would continue to cement unless action was taken, including ensuring that at least 25 per cent of places in single-faith schools, be they state or private, should be given to children of alternative backgrounds.

This has not happened, rather the reverse. This week a very large Hindu state school has been opened that will absorb the Indian population’s children in Edgware, and the Hindus had till now been the Asian population best known for valuing integration and mixing with others. This will deprive other local schools of their presence. Segregation continues to deepen, children just will not meet from day to day as they used to do.

The Cantle proposal for opening up by religious schools of a percentage of places for those of other or no faith was fiercely opposed last year by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Birmingham, who threatened to tell his flock to vote against the government if the reform went ahead: the government caved in. The start of September saw the Accord coalition of secularists and religious leaders pleading for an opening up of religious schools along Cantle lines in the interests of ‘community cohesion’. Ekklesia, the Christian think tank, argued with cogency that the present situation is a rapid slide into tribalism which the nation cannot afford if it values any sort of common life and unity.

Rabbi Romain upheld faith schools but also backed Accord’s ideas. The time has surely come for Butler’s settlement to be fundamentally questioned: he operated at a time of one nation with basically Christian outlook, not a tribalised society fragmented in outlook. Faith schools moreover put pressure on minority lay people to toe a clerical hard line version of their inherited tradition.

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.