Monday, September 10, 2007

Faith school backing challenged

reposted from BBC

Faith school backing challenged
Secondary school
The government is launching a joint statement with faith groups
The government is lining up with religious groups to assert that faith schools make a positive contribution to community cohesion in England.

In a joint statement, called Faith in the System, they will say religious schools are "valuable, engaged partners" in education and beyond.

The faith groups and government will say they want to dispel misunderstandings about faith schools.

But a teachers' union has voiced doubt about the government's stance.

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers questioned whether faith schools do provide for "interaction between different faiths and communities"

The joint statement is being launched at an event on Monday in London, being addressed by the schools secretary, Ed Balls.

'Noble tradition'

Representatives will be there from the five faiths in the state sector - Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh and Hindu, along with children from five of their schools.

They will hear that faith organisations have "a long and noble tradition" in education - pre-dating state schools - from medieval times, through the Reformation, to the present day.

These days about a third of all maintained schools in England are faith schools - about 6,850 out of some 21,000.

Of the 47 new academies that have opened so far, 16 have a faith designation.

The government and faith school providers say they believe all schools - whether religious or not - play a key role in providing a safe environment for interaction between different faiths and communities.

In this way they foster understanding, integration and cohesion, the joint vision statement argues.

But the Association of Teachers and Lecturers general secretary Mary Bousted said:

"We question whether faith schools, particularly those where staff and children are chosen on a faith basis, provide an environment for 'interaction between different faiths and communities'.

"And we question why schools, in which the majority of funding comes from the state, should, as the government proposes, nurture young people in a particular faith."

Admissions policies

The job of schools was to nurture young people as individuals and as responsible and compassionate global citizens, rather than promoting a particular religious viewpoint,
says the union leader.

She added:

"Our members believe that we need schools which embrace the diversity within our community, not a diversity of schools dividing pupils and staff on religious grounds."

The union also criticised the "restrictive admissions, employment and curriculum practices operated in many of this country's faith schools".

These were possible "due to preferential legislation which does little to promote equality of provision across the school sector".

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