Tristram Hunt, the shadow Education Secretary, has been accused of making derogatory remarks about nuns and faith, when remarking about the education of another panelist on BBC Question Time.
If you watch the video, you can see that Tristram Hunt was making the point that qualified teachers in the state system were preferable to non qualified teachers. He however agrees that nuns, and faith schools, may have an ethos that can coexist with state system. His suggestion, “they were nuns”, is suggesting being a nun they were better than most unqualified teachers.
This however has become for some a discussion about Labour being anti-faith rather than promoting qualified people who know how to teach children in the state classroom. Context is everything – Labour have recently announced making LGBT inclusive in sex education for state schools. Also, Tristram Hunt has said Ofsted should be able to scrutinise and review faith schools just as they do in the state system. For religious school supporters, fearful of what the aftermath to the Trojan horse affair may mean when British values go against religious claims, the axe was already sharpened to swing at a whiff of provocation.
Tristram has a belief in faith schools. It is shocking that nuns are automatically assumed to be better than most non qualified teachers. Any more than Mother Teresa being held up as a model of palliative “spiritual suffering” care over medicine and health care. This due reverence for clerics I was shocked out of at an early age. Reading Hitchens meticulously researched book should break the spell for others.
I have mentioned before about nuns providing respite for my disabled brother when we were kids. To give some details of their care, his fingertips were bloodied when cutting his finger nails. He was allowed to get into a scalding hot bath that terrified him for about ten years getting into another. He was chastised when displaying his mannerisms of uncontrollable movement.
As the only respite centre in the vicinity, there was no where else for my sleep deprived mother to use.
The change in my brother when social services kicked the Sisters out and placed professional carers in was immense. Not having untrained inexperienced amateurs, always out of their depth with the most challenging of children, made a difference.
Watch the video again. Tristram, like myself, is stressing the point that trained qualified staff are key for children – I would go further and say nuns need it too. Perhaps a supposed sneering manner detracts from what should be a universal point. I only wish a party would stand on a platform of secular education for all children. That will be a generational change. It is not for a close run election this year. Another reason for hyping this story.
My anecdote is not an end of the discussion anymore than someone having a great education at a faith school. (Read here for essay on secular versus faith schooling).
The people looking after your children and educating them should be trained, professional, and know what they are doing. It is no use just relying on a wing and a prayer. A child’s education takes precedence over religious instruction. The difference in grades are more to do with socio economic backgrounds, which faith schools can select for.
Whether teachers should be supplemented by experts, or educational motivators (imagine Stephen Fry talking about Shakespeare for a class) in their field who lack teacher training is a different point. For that, head teachers should be able to make a call based on what improves the educational experience of their students.
Here is a snap shot of how Tristram’s remarks have played out on twitter.
For once I am sparing you the tweet puns – breaking the habit of a lifetime.
However, this outspoken secular blogger suggests Tristram was not attacking religious faith schools. Labour policy may be reducing the exemptions religious schools have enjoyed. That is enough to blow this all out of proportion.
Ninety days to polling day. For God’s sake publish your manifestos quickly so we can talk about something substantive.
Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog