The government has announced that the Church of England will be encouraged to take over state non faith schools, and non faith schools will be able to join the academy system the church runs.
There is mention that the selection process, charter of the school and existing teacher recruitment criteria of these newly attained schools is meant to be honoured. The devil will be in the detail.
The Education Secretary Michael Gove said the church should be thinking “These are amazing opportunities here to extend and to build on our original mission to provide a high quality education to more children and to play a more energetic role.’ [Source]
The Archbishop Welby has a vision beyond education:
“The Church of England was at the beginning of national education of this country and continues to be crucial to its flourishing. Today, bishops and Diocesan Board of Education chairs have worked together to develop a vision for the future of church schools which will continue our mission of transforming every part of our society.
“It is obviously true that good schools help produce an educated workforce. But the Christian vision is a far greater one. It is about setting a framework for children as they learn, which enables them to be confident when faced with the vast challenges that our rapidly changing culture brings to us.” [Source]
The teaching of children to see the world as a Christian, a framework to transform society with the Christian vision. To remind you that vision is not just love your neighbour as yourself. It is to believe in the resurrection of Jesus as the Son of God, to embrace him as your saviour in a brief existence as a mortal before ascending into heaven in the everlasting next world. Eternal slumber if you do not.
In the education system teaching ethics and civic responsibility is very important. Human history, culture and literature makes more sense with a knowledge of comparative religion. It can be done without advocating in particular Christianity, and it is more respectful to explore in a neutral setting for those that do not subscribe to the Christian faith.
Religious schools may be seen as having an ethical ethos by quite literally the virtue of being religious. It has a claim that a non religious school does not at first glance have. Also the reputation of a religious school may well be better than the non faith school. The issue there would be how the admissions criteria may impact on the issues schools face.
Perhaps with less than 10% of adults attending regular church service, maybe some parents see this as subcontracting Christian learning by sending their children to a religious school. The point here is financing such religious instruction is not the responsibility of the state. There is no issue with parents bringing up their children in their faith, taking them to church and Sunday school. That is up to the parent to do and their religious community. Just not at the taxpayers expense.
Research would suggest that such factors as proportion of children receiving free school meals and the socio economic background of children matter far more than the religious ethos of a school in the grade attainment of children.
The well traveled person has a greater wealth of experiences to draw on in their life. In an inclusive education system within a school environment such a wealth of experiences comes into the daily experience of a child. It is the opportunity to mix with the opposite sex, different faith and those without, different cultures and ethnicity. To learn together and play together.
Granted that catchment areas and demographics limit that. To further limit by selection admissions and recruitment by faith reduces an open and inclusive policy that would enrich the social experience. Let alone social cohesion.
When Secularists attack
On twitter it was mentioned that parents should have a choice of sending their child to a faith school as I was accused of enforcing my secularist belief on her. Pointing out I would not send my children to an atheist charter school seemed to end the discussion. This is not about making children religious or non religious. It is about giving them the widest experience of life, and the tools to make sense of the world for themselves without a religious vision foisted on them as the Archbishop clearly wants.
The church suggests in it’s own The Church School of the Future Review it is being attacked:
2.33 Church schools continue to be popular with parents and to have good reputations and high standards. Nevertheless, there continues to be a concerted attack on the core elements of the Church school identity. Most of the challenges and claims made are without foundation or are matters of principle on which disagreement is always possible.
2.34 Centrally, and locally, a spirited defence of the Church school system is made, but lack of dedicated communications capacity and of detailed data about the schools within the system are handicaps. Specific research into the circumstances and performance of Church schools has been possible to commission (e.g. Strong schools for strong communities1), but until recently no regular engagement with the data profile of Church schools have been available.This issue is now being addressed through a data dashboard, which will enable regular processing of information about Church schools. Creation of a focused expert communications arm, however, would require additional resources at the centre.
Saying children can be discriminated on the basis of faith to receive a state funded education is a principled thing to object to. State funding means available to all children regardless of the faith of a parent. That should not be a factor in school admissions
As the British Humanist Association point out on faith:
Parents have an explicit right in the European Convention of Human Rights to bring up their children in the religion or belief of their choice without interference from the state. However, they do not have a right to state funding for confessional religious teaching or ‘faith’ schools. [BHA]
Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog