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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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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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Ofsted Annual Report 2015/16

1 Jan


Sir Michael Wilshaw, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Schools (HMCI), published his fifth and final Ofsted annual report on the education system in England on Thursday, 1 December 2016.  He retired 30 days later.  In presenting the report, Sir Michael said “a world class education system is within our grasp – but only if serious capacity challenges are urgently addressed”.

Sir Michael stressed that a north/south ‘geographical divide’ meant the ablest pupils in the North and Midlands were less likely to reach A/A* at GCSE. He said: “Standards can only truly be considered high if they are high in every part of the country and for all pupils regardless of background or ability.”

However, his report is, in the main, positive.    The country’s schools/academies, he avers, had made progress over the last five years. Educators could be justly proud.  “Young people are getting a better deal than ever before,” he said.  School/academy leaders responded well to the changes in the system.  The decision to replace the “satisfactory” judgement with “requires improvement” led to schools/academies upping their game, making a greater effort ensuring that pupils are offered the very best possible education.     Of the former 4,800 satisfactory primary schools/academies, 79% were now good or outstanding and, of the previous satisfactory secondary ones, 56% were good or better.

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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

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