Thursday, September 04, 2008

When is a faith school not a faith school?

Missed this earlier in the week, but Thinking Anglicans has a good collection of links about the new proposals for reform of faith schools launched on Monday by the Accord coalition. Their main goal seems to be to remove the religious element from admissions, recruitment, syllabus and assemblies in all state funded schools. There is a new collection of links today, including a Church of England newspaper editorial, which supports the reforms. Good critique article from the IoS here.

Accord claim they're not looking for the abolition of faith schools, merely their reform. However I struggle to see how a school reformed along the lines they suggest can remain a faith school, as there will be nothing to distinguish it from community schools. Yes sectarianism is a problem, but the fact that there are bad or questionable faith schools doesn't mean that we scrap the entire system. Our local CofE primary benefits from being a 'faith school' in the gentle way that many Church of England schools are. There must be ways to avoid tribalism which don't involve making every school a secular clone.

Update (Sat): article in the Church Times, with some fairly stinging comments about Accord and their reasoning. More links in the Church Times blog, and a new set this morning at Thinking Anglicans. On the official C of E website, their FAQ's about church schools address some of the Accord concerns, but there doesn't seem to be any official Anglican response yet. There is a related post on Cranmer from earlier this week.

1 comment:

  1. This debate does seem to be a bit of a rehash of the same old faith schools debate that has been going on for years. This boils down to a simple question of whether faith schools are there for people within a particular faith, or are there as a form of outreach.

    For example around here we have two Church of England secondary schools. One has an admissions policy that is currently based on church membership as defined by the amount of time the parents of the child have been on the Church electoral roll across the catchment area of this and the neighbouring deanery - children are bussed to this particular school from all corners of both deanery to attend, and it is no secret that people are joining the local churches purely to get their children into the school. The other has an open admission policy and draws a broad range of children from primarily their local area. Probably not as overtly Christian in what it does, but operating on a Christian ethos.

    It seems to me that Accord are pushing for Church schools to be like the second school, run by the Church for the whole community, as against the first school which is regarded as taking public money in order to promote their own faith.

    It's a big discussion, and to be honest one where I'm not sure which side I come down on - in principle I would be against a discriminatory admissions policy, but then as a potential Christian parent I can also see the advantages of a strong Christian element in the education of a child.