Faith Schools Should Not be State-Funded – Liberal Article
State-funded faith schools have no place in this country. Education is arguably one of the most important tools for a child in carving out a place in this world. But an education with religious motivations is counter-productive and counterintuitive to what’s best for any child.
First, some definitions may help. Faith Schools can only admit 50% of those of the said faith and MUST teach the national curriculum. However, Free Schools (or Faith Academies) can choose their entry requirements based on anything (except ability) and are NOT obliged to teach the national curriculum. Meaning they can negate all teaching of other religions, sex education and dictate every aspect of a child’s education in accordance with their values. These schools are on the rise.
Faith schools and academies are a de facto form of social and economic selection. For example, faith schools admit fewer students requiring free school meals and those who have ‘special education requirements’. Obviously, there are outliers to this, but the statistics speak for themselves. This social selection leads to social segregation, where fear, misinformation, and stereotyping can manifest between groups, leading to some of the hate we see today. Many religious figures agree, including Rabbi Johnathan Romain who mirrors this sentiment: “schools should be about education, not indoctrination” and it’s an “educational apartheid”.
Also, only 10.7% of adults attend church on a weekly basis, yet Christian schools make up a third of all state-funded schools – begging the question of who is lobbying for these schools? They certainly are not representing the needs of the population.
Segregation on religious lines does not take place in any other institute in this country – so why is it allowed in our schools? Surely, in today’s multicultural society we should be fostering tolerance, acceptance, and kindness – rather than harbouring the notion of ‘us’ and ‘them’.
Now, I am not stating that faith schools or religious academies actively preach hate or cannot instil moral values. Just that it can be contradictory having institutions that accept or reject based on your religious observations. Of the many people I spoke to who enjoyed their faith-based education, many told me about the morals and academic curiosity their schools instilled in them. But this is not a unique experience to those that went to religious schools and there isn’t a reason why this can’t happen in a comprehensive school.
As a religious person myself, conserving one’s culture and being an active member of the religious community is dear to me. However, I don’t believe state education should be tinged with a religious agenda. If parents and the wider community wish to instil their religious values in their children this can happen outside of the school environment. This could revitalise youth group communities that now have less influence due to the increase of faith schools. Not to mention how enriching learning about others’ faiths can be from their own peers!
I have to give a caveat to those that wish to observe religious holidays or practices that lie in conjunction with the British working week, like Shabbat during winter or Eid al-Fitr. I can only hope that in the wake of coronavirus, where we are experiencing a new, far more flexible curriculum, education will be able to make allowances for the different calendars of each religion.
Faith schools and academies are a bizarre segregationist overhang that has managed to slip through into the 21st century. Faith academies, in particular, are deeply concerning and they are on the rise. The lack of boundaries and protection for students, staff and, communities inadvertently perpetuate divisions among us and hold no place being state-funded.
Written by Guest Liberal Writer, Lucy Severn
Point of Information
Faith schools are a right – A Conservative Response
Lucy highlights a range of issues surrounding the faith school system that, quite frankly, I had never considered. I myself attended a Jewish faith school for around ten years of my primary and secondary education. Factoring my own experience into Lucy’s exploration of the topic, I have come to the conclusion that this discussion is just not so black and white.
The first issue that I would like to address is what Lucy quotes as an “educational apartheid”. Contrary to what you might expect, I actually really agree with Lucy here. The UK is an extremely multicultural place and faith schools do not reflect that. I believe that in isolating young people from other cultures we are only perpetuating further discrimination towards religious minorities.
This is not to say that I think we should just abolish faith schools entirely. To many, they are absolutely essential. Ultimately, people should have the choice in how they want to implement faith into their life. If attending a faith school matches up with those beliefs, people should not be stripped of that right.
There are many needs that faith schools can cater to that comprehensive schools simply cannot. An example being Kosher or Halal kitchens. Focusing on the Jewish faith school specifically, for many Jewish people it is crucial that the kitchens at school reach a certain level of Kashrut. This has to be checked by the London Beth Din on a regular basis. Unfortunately, multicultural schools do not have the means to supply that.
Whilst we are certainly progressing in terms of flexibility in education due to the pandemic, I cannot confidently say that we have progressed very much in religious discrimination. Christianity is the norm in the U.K. and our public holiday system reflects that. I worry that minority groups in schools would be on the receiving end of bullying if they were to go off to pray or take time off for religious holidays. There is definitely a paradox here though, as the more unfamiliar students are with other cultures, the more hate is perpetuated.
Overall, families should have the right to practice religion to the degree that they wish, and generally, faith schools can be a fantastic solution. There are, however, a host of issues that come from growing up in one cultural environment that does not reflect the country that we live in. I do not think that faith schools should be abolished. However, there should be more diversity schemes across these institutions to promote multicultural interaction and friendships from a young age. My primary school did an excellent job of this. This would certainly be a starting point.
Written by Junior Conservative Writer, Rebecca Selt
Education around integration is more important – A Labour Response
Faith schools invite a very contentious debate and have done for years. Here, Lucy deftly approaches the topic and I have to say that I largely agree with her arguments.
As a child, you are rather unlikely to support a faith of your own accord. It is normally your parents’ influence that decides this. While there is nothing inherently wrong with this, it should remain an influence and not be forced upon the child. So sending your child to a faith school, particularly at primary school age, does nothing but express the parents’ faith. The child has little to no say in it and likely doesn’t understand the concept.
In my view, this is essentially forcing the religion upon the child and invites future social segregation, as Lucy says. As individuals, I strongly believe we should exercise our own decisions – without blindly adhering to our parents’ beliefs. This applies to any area, not just religion.
However, the teaching of religion remains salient. Education will help develop an individual’s faith and an understanding of others’ faith. It puts a focus on integration which is extremely crucial to avoid any contention between faiths further down the line. Strict focus on a curriculum centring around one religion does not provide this opportunity and can have vast consequences.
While I have many arguments against faith schools, I am not naïve enough to suggest that all other secondary schools are sufficiently inclusive. At this moment, they will not provide for every faith.
Mass changes are needed to ensure respect and representation for everyone. From the curriculum, the educational calendar, and even the song choices in assemblies. As an atheist, I certainly didn’t enjoy singing ‘Kumbaya’ and ‘He’s got the whole world in his hands’ at primary school. Without speaking for them, I can assume that students of other faiths did not either.
I also believe education around religion should continue beyond schools. Even as an atheist, I am continuously learning that understanding religion is the only way to move away from contention.
The government’s stricter lockdown regulations, ignoring the effect on religious holidays, prove there is a lot to learn about integration. I was appalled by the hypocrisy of the restrictions and then the lack of such for the Christian Christmas holiday.
Ultimately, respect and understanding of other faiths comes from education. This should begin in schools through respect and integration. But it should certainly not be the overwhelming factor of a child’s education.
Written by Chief Labour Writer, Abi Clargo