Search results for 'Faith schools'

Education’s Conundrum: How does the ethos of faith schools and academies square with British values?

20 Apr

In England, we have a conundrum at education’s heart in England, according to Clare Foges, former speech writer of David Cameron.   Prime Minister Theresa May wants children to be taught British values while at the same time encourages segregation, by allowing the proliferation of faith schools.

I        Background to the creation of faith schools/academies

A considerable number of the 24,000 state schools and academies in the country already belong to one faith or another.    State-funded faith schools were established by Rab Butler, the Conservative Secretary for Education, in 1944.  At that time, the Church of England educated 20% of children and Roman Catholic Diocese 8% funding the education through fees and/or religious subsidies.    Several faith schools were in a state of disrepair.  Following difficult negotiations during the Second World War, they became state funded but the religious bodies continued to control their admission arrangements.  The plans to convert them into state schools gestated for nearly four years, in the run-up to the Education Act 1944.

The freedom given to the Catholics, Anglicans and Protestants to semi-control their own schools was later extended to the Jewish community and, following the influx of East African (South-East) Asians (who had dual citizenship) into the country in late 1960s and early 1970s, Muslim, Hindus and Sikh schools began to mushroom.

The two main providers of faith schools today are the Church of England and the Catholic Education Service.   There are various state-funded institutions, including voluntary aided, voluntary controlled and faith academies.  In 2014, roughly 22% of state schools/academies in the country were faith institutions – about 6,210 altogether. Broken down by religion, their numbers in 2014 were as follows.

  • 4,395 Church of England
  • 1,661 Roman Catholic
  • 36 Jewish
  • 9 Muslim
  • 5 Sikh

These numbers mask additional ones established under the Free Schools scheme.  They opened over the last few years and are permitted to take up to 50% of pupils belonging to the faiths that the founders espouse.

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Faith in Faith Schools Takes a Knock

25 Aug

The promotion of faiths in our schools has come in for scrutiny, not just on these shores but also in other countries.  England and Wales, uniquely, are the only countries in the western world that require schools to teach religious education.   The objective is to learn about faiths rather than convince pupils that any one faith will provide them with salvation.   In faith schools, however, religions are taken much more seriously.  Every faith school focuses on its chosen faith with a view to making its pupils committed to it.

However, in recent times, faith schools have come under the microscope, especially after the Birmingham ‘Trojan Horse’ saga where the governors at a number of faith and non-faith schools and academies have been allegedly promoting a dogmatic Islamic ethos.  Continue reading

Damian Hinds’s possible educational agenda for English schools

20 Apr

Damian Hinds was appointed Education Secretary on 7 January 2018, when Theresa May reshuffled her Cabinet.  He replaced Justine Greening, who turned down May’s offer to become the Secretary for Works and Pensions. Hinds rose from being a Whip to Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury then on to the Department for Works and Pensions as Employment Minister before taking on his current job.

Educated at the voluntary aided Roman Catholic Grammar School, St Ambrose College in Altrincham, Cheshire, he went on to read Philosophy, Politics and Economics in Oxford, securing a first-class degree. During his stay, he was elected President of the Oxford Union Society.

He was elected to Parliament in 2010 from East Hampshire, re-elected in 2015 and then in 2016 – increasing his majority from 56.8%, to 60.7% to 63.6% of the votes cast.

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Green Paper: Schools that work for everyone

1 Jan

I        Preamble

On 12 September, the Government published the Green Paper, Schools that work for everyone, which the Department for Education (DfE) has taken off the websiteThe deadline for responses was 12 December 2016.   We now have to wait on the Secretary of State, Justine Greening, to give the nation a steer on where she wishes to go from here.

The Green Paper proposed a number of recommendations which, if implemented, will affect four discrete institutions:

  • Independent Schools
  • Universities
  • Selective Schools
  • Free Schools which are faith orientated

The proposals were issued against the background of increasing pressure on school places – especially good ones.  Primary numbers grew by 11% between 2010 and 2016. This will feed into the secondary sector for the rest of the life of this Parliament.   The most recent projections are that the primary school population is estimated to increase by a further 174,000 (3.9%) from the current year to 2020.  The secondary school population will rise by 284,000 (10.3%) over the same period.

While the Green Paper made it abundantly clear that the government would continue to support schools with the Pupil Premium Grant to promote the education of the most socially deprived children in our system – i.e. those entitled to free school meals (FSM) and in care – it expressed government concerns that those children whose families just fail to qualify – i.e. the just about managing (JAM) – were being short-changed.

Children entitled to FSM come from families in one of these classifications. Those in receipt of

  • Income Support
  • Income-Based Jobseekers Allowance
  • Income-Based Employment and Support Allowance
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Working Tax Credit
  • Universal Credit

This effectively means that if either parent/carer is earning more than £16,190 annually, the child does not qualify for FSM.  In January 2016, the national average for those entitled to FSM was 14.3%. The government is, however, worried about children in families on modest incomes who do not qualify for such benefits but are, nevertheless struggling financially.

Information on the educational achievements of such children is opaque as it melds with data on those who come from well-heeled backgrounds.  Accordingly, the first two questions that the Green Paper posed for us were as follows.

  • How can we identify such children?
  • How can we better understand the impact of policy on a wider cohort of pupils whose life chances are profoundly affected by school but who may not qualify or apply for free school meals?

So what plans does the government has for the four groups set out above?

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Can and should schools scale back the radicalisation of youth?

13 Apr

It appears that the Prevent Strategy of the government is failing to halt a minority of young people of Muslim persuasion from joining the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).  In 2014, The Sunday Times received an anonymous complaint that 16 schools and academies in Birmingham – two that were faith and 14 which were secular institutions – were being taken over by Islamic radicals. This came to be known as the Trojan Horse affair.

Many, including the Muslim Council, denounced the letter as a fake.  Birmingham City Council, in the name of community cohesion, did little to nothing despite having hundreds of warnings, engaging in a culture of denial and appeasement.

Michael Gove, the then Secretary of State for Education, commissioned an investigation by Peter Clarke, the former Anti-Terrorist Chief. Clarke found the allegations had substance and legs.  There was evidence that Islamist extremists – some who were governors of the schools and academies – had infiltrated a number of Birmingham schools. The governors had appointed “sympathetic” headteachers, senior staff members and “like-minded” people to key positions, removing headteachers who were not “compliant” with their particular agenda.

Almost at the same time, Birmingham City Council also commissioned Ian Kershaw, a former headteacher, to investigate and write a report on the subject.

The reports of both, Clarke and Kershaw, were explosive. While neither found evidence of “direct radicalisation” both described bullying and intimidation, nepotism, bans on music, sex and citizenship education, extremist speakers given platforms at the institutions and the segregation of girls and boys.  These schools and academies had adopted the views held by Islamic terrorists of the persuasion of Jihadi John, i.e. Mohammed Emwazi, a British citizen, who beheaded a number of captives in the Islamic State – displaying videos of his acts of horror on the internet.  This is extremely worrying because the messages injected into pupils and students are seductive and flying in the face of the government’s Prevent Strategy.   Continue reading

Religious schools criticised for ignoring disadvantaged children

2 Jan

In early December 2013, the Fair Admissions Campaign published research into how religious selection criteria in faith schools unfairly discriminates against the most vulnerable pupils we educate, especially those entitled to free schools meals and others who have a mother tongue other than English, militating against social and ethnic inclusiveness. The research synthesised data from five main sources and hundreds of admissions directories.  Researchers then mapped out the hierarchy of areas (see here) where the discrimination exists.  Continue reading

What weighting should we give ‘Truth’?

31 Dec

Educational law requires that every school/academy promotes the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of all pupils.  In the spiritual component, faith schools and academies will ensure that the children learn about their distinctive religions.  Non-denominational schools/academies will, teach the pupils about faiths generally and encourage tolerance of all religions and none.   Good institutions, through the cross-curriculum strategy, ensure that children have access to social and cultural development as they do with moral education.

However, there is one aspect of the moral strand that vexes many. That is about telling the truth.  From an early age, responsible parents and institutions encourage children to speak the truth, even if that means getting themselves into trouble.  That is as it should be, especially in an age when we have a surfeit of fake news spouted on the internet by social media and leaders of some countries.

At election time, as we have seen recently, politicians seeking people’s votes blast out whatever it takes to get them first past the post and into parliament.  At their best, they are economical with the truth – withholding information that could be unpalatable to the electorate.

In good schools/academies, teachers warn pupils about not believing all they read and everything they are told, to be wary of people who are attractive, articulate and offering them gifts, in short, to be critical of what they see and hear.   In 2018, the Commission on Fake News and the Teaching of Critical Literacy Skills run by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Literacy and the National Literacy Trust, reported that only 2% of children and young people could judge correctly whether a news story was real or fake.  Over 50% of teachers did not feel that the national curriculum was developing the literacy skills of pupils critical enough to judge whether something was true or false.

According to Ann Mroz, Editor of The Times Educational Supplement, there is “lots of examination of prepositions but less of propositions; plenty of nouns but sadly not enough nous”.

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The in-tray of the Secretary of State for Education

31 Dec

The new government that we have in the UK is likely to be the one we will have for the next five years.  It will be a time of significant change as we exit the European Union (EU).  The education team of Ministers, however, which could be reshuffled in February 2020 is comprised of the following members.

  • Mr Gavin Williamson – Secretary of State for Education
  • Mr Nick Gibb – Minister of State for School Standards
  • Mr Chris Skidmore – Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation
  • Ms Kemi Badenoch – Minister of State for Children and Families (currently on maternity leave)
  • Ms Michelle Donelan – Minister for Children and Families (providing maternity cover for Ms Badenoch)
  • Lord Agnew – Minister for the School System

Our politicians and civil servants will be so busy recreating the machinery to propel us into a go-it-alone future, that many fear other services, with the National Health Services being an exception, could be forgotten.   It is apposite, consequently, to remind ourselves of the educational promises of the prime minister, following his Boris bounce on 12 December 2019.

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Quality of Education in England – a Curate’s Egg: Good in Parts

4 Jan

Chief Inspector’s Annual Report 2017-18

On 4 December 2018, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector (HMCI) of Schools, Amanda Spielman, issued her second annual report to Parliament, in accord with section 121 of the Education and Inspection Act 2006.  You may have missed it because of the Brexit kerfuffle.

As always, there was good news and bad news for the nation’s schools, academies, Further Education (FE) Colleges and local authorities (LAs).

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The Education Reform Act (ERA) 1988 celebrates 30th birthday

17 Aug

I        What precisely is ERA?

The Education Reform Act 1988 (ERA) is regarded by many as the most important piece of legislation since the Education Act 1994. The ERA – known as the Butler Act – celebrated 30 years of being on the statute books in July 2018.   It firmly placed education in the marketplace, a process that began in the early 1980s under Mrs Margaret Thatcher’s government. Her Education Secretary at that time was Kenneth (now Lord) Baker.   The Act transferred most powers and responsibilities from local educational authorities (LEAs) to school governing boards at one end of the educational spectrum and to the Secretary of State at the other end.

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