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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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Choosing a school from a lay perspective

3 Jan

I           A Parental Dilemma

In autumn 2013, an employee at my newsagent, who is of Sri Lankan origin, was fretting about the choice of primary school for his child who was three-years old.   He had gathered that Ofsted had judged his neighbourhood state (community) school as “requiring improvement”.  Unsurprisingly, he was keen to find another further afield, but every one of them appeared to be over-subscribed.  It was unlikely that the local authority would offer his son a place at a school other than the one which he did not want.  He asked my opinion.

I happened to know the school rather well as I worked with the governors.  However, I advised him to go with his wife and visit the school to see what it was offering the children.  As he was shy, retiring and from another country with an educational system a world away from ours, he felt lost.  He did visit but placed much more weight on what I said.

Not wanting to mince my words, I said that how good a school is will be unique to every child.  What may be good for one child may not suit another.  Further, a pupil may have a fantastic experience and progress leaps and bounds one year with a class teacher and do diabolically the next, because of the unfortunate quality of learning he experiences at the hands of the next class teacher.   The leadership does its best to promote high standards of education across the school but occasionally, it’s a game of roulette.

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