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LATEST NEWS

 

Government policy
 

The Green Paper - February 2001

Quotes from Estelle Morris, David Blunkett

The White Paper - September 2001

Education Bill Standing Committee - January 2002

Education Bill Report Stage - February 2002

Second Reading in House of Lords - March 2002

Filling Empty Places in Anglican Schools - April 2002

Filling Empty Places in Catholic Schools - Lords Committee Stage - May 2002

 

The Green Paper - February 2001

In his Green Paper Schools - building on success David Blunkett, then the Secretary of State for Education and Employment, was very favourable towards the idea of expanding the number of faith-based schools:

4.10. Schools are now responsible for their own performance, for the conduct of the school and its discipline, for the control of school premises, the repair and maintenance of buildings and, in the case of foundation and voluntary aided schools, for admissions. We have also helped to ensure that governors, heads and teachers have the right support, from reformed Education Authorities and from elsewhere, to do their jobs as effectively as they can. All schools now enjoy many of the freedoms that were formerly only available to the grant-maintained sector. The 1998 legislation gives schools greater choice about their category, and permits any community school that wishes, with local agreement, to propose transfer from community to foundation status. . .

4.18. We have increased the number and variety of schools within the state system supported by the churches and other major faith groups. Some 560 secondary schools are now provided by the Church of England or the Catholic Church. For the first time, Muslim, Sikh and Greek Orthodox schools have been brought inside the state system, and are being funded on the same basis as, for example, Church of England and Catholic schools have been for some time. We have also increased the number of Jewish schools. And we have indicated that we are ready to discuss with other community or privately-run schools the conditions on which they might enter the publicly-provided sector.

4.19. Schools supported by the churches and other major faith groups are, of course, valued by members of those groups. They also have a good record of delivering a high-quality of education to their pupils and many parents welcome the clear ethos of these schools. We therefore wish to welcome more schools provided by the churches and other major faith groups and by other voluntary and community groups, where there is clear local demand from parents and the community. We are pleased, for example, to see that Lord Dearing's report to the Archbishops' Council recommends that the Church of England increase the number of secondary schools that it supports, particularly in areas where there are few or no Anglican schools. We know other faith communities are also interested in extending their contribution to education. We intend to change the capital funding arrangements to make them more favourable to enable this to occur (see Chapter 6). The new school sponsorship proposals set out in paragraph 4.23 will also be of interest to faith groups and schools seeking to acquire faith sponsors.

[Emphasis added]

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Estelle Morris, the new Secretary of State for Education, was asked about faith schools on Breakfast with Frost, on 15 July 2001

DAVID FROST: Lots of people like in Bradford, people of Bradford, and so on, say, the last thing we want is one faith schools, we want more integration and not more faith schools.

ESTELLE MORRIS: I've thought a lot about that over the last week since what we heard about Bradford. And I think there's a number of things, we wouldn't open faith schools unless that's what parents want. It's a response to what parents want for their children. But I think the way Bradford's been described, we need to do some serious thinking…

In September, David Blunkett, the previous Secretary of State and now Home Secretary, said on Channel 4 TV:

"Should we have ethnically divided schools? Should we have faith schools for the Islam and Sikh community and Hindus when we have them for the Jewish and for the various Christian denominations, or would that create a divide? Faced with that contradiction I modestly agreed to some schools from faiths coming into the state and being public, but by doing so risked actually continuing to reinforce that divide. So I plead guilty to the contradictions and to the schizophrenia that we're all faced with."

[I'm not racist but…, C4, 22/9/01]

 

The White Paper - September 2001

However, by September the enthusiasm had become very muted. The riots in northern towns, defined to some extent by colour and religion, and the events of September 11 had turned not only the public but many in Parliament and the Government against the idea of expanding faith-school provision. Estelle Morris, the new Secretary of State for Education and Skills, said in her White Paper Schools - achieving success:

We will support inclusive faith schools

5.30 Faith schools have a significant history as part of the state education system, and play an important role in its diversity. Over the last four years, we have increased the range of faith schools in the maintained sector, including the first Muslim, Sikh and Greek Orthodox schools. There are also many independent faith schools and we know that some faith groups are interested in extending their contribution to state education. We wish to welcome faith schools, with their distinctive ethos and character, into the maintained sector where there is clear local agreement. Guidance to School Organisation Committees will require them to give proposals from faith groups to establish schools the same consideration as those from others, including LEAs. Decisions to establish faith schools should take account of the interests of all sections of the community.

5.31 We note that Lord Dearing’s report to the Archbishops’ Council recommends that the Church of England increase significantly the number of secondary school places it supports. Where there is local support, we will welcome that. We want these schools to be inclusive, and welcome the recommendation that Church of England schools should serve the whole community, not confining admission to Anglicans. We want faith schools that come into the maintained sector to add to the inclusiveness and diversity of the school system and to be ready to work with non-denominational schools and those of other faiths.

[Emphasis added]

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Education Bill Standing Committee - January 2002

Although the Education Bill touches only marginally on the question of faith schools, MPs took the opportunity to voice strong objections to expanding the faith-school sector in the standing committee debate on January 10.   Ivan Lewis MP, a Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Department for Education and Skills, replied, stating the Government's policy:

. . . We would all accept that the behaviour and actions of people in Northern Ireland in recent weeks is intolerable and heinous. The problems of Northern Ireland are much more complex and cannot be related merely to faith-based education.

That was my point in relation to Bradford, Burnley and Oldham. There are deep-rooted difficulties in some of our towns, and we have a responsibility to address them. I do not part company from those who have identified faith schools as an issue in the debate about why those disturbances occurred and how we bring together people from different religions, cultures and backgrounds. However, some people have claimed that faith-based education is the primary cause of such difficulties in communities and society. I do not accept that premise.

I remind the Committee of the basis on which a new school must apply if it wishes to establish itself in the maintained sector. It would have to apply to a local school organisation committee, which would then decide whether the creation of the new school was in the interests of, broadly, the local community and, narrowly, the family of schools. The hon. Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough [Phil Willis MP, Liberal Democrat spokesperson on education] knows that the Secretary of State has given some initial suggestions on the guidance that will be available to those committees, although more detail will follow.

That guidance will make it clear that a new faith-based school must demonstrate either a partially inclusive admissions policy or, if it does not feel that that is appropriate, a commitment to and strategy for working with other schools in the area of another faith or no faith. A new school must be approved by the school organisation committee, which would make a statement about whether establishment of the school would be in the best interests of the local community. The decision would be made according to guidance from the Secretary of State, and would address the issues of collaboration and partnership and the need to bring young people of different religious and cultural backgrounds together.

The introduction in September of citizenship education as a statutory part of the national curriculum will be an important step forward in encouraging young people to think about and discuss mutual respect and tolerance of people from different religious and cultural backgrounds.

Read the full debate on the Parliament website (see column 336 for start)
Read the extracts about faith schools in pdf format

The fig-leaf nature of the "commitment to and strategy for working with other schools in the area of another faith or no faith" is shown by the plans for 20 pairs of mainly white or Asian schools in Bradford to work together - for six lessons a year!   Barbara Ford, head teacher at St Anthony's Catholic Primary, which is linking up for these brief lessons with the mostly Muslim Farnham Primary, said: "The children think it's absolutely wonderful."   [National Secular Society Newsline 20/10/02]

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Education Bill Report Stage - February 2002

When the Bill returned to the floor of the House, there was a full debate on two similar amendments designed to ensure that faith schools reserved a minority of their places for children who were not of the relevant faith. The amendments were rejected but with a substantial rebellion by Government backbenchers: there were 45 Labour backbench "rebels". For the text of the debate, click here.

 

Education Bill: Second Reading in House of Lords

No new statement of Government policy was forthcoming when the Bill was introduced in the House of Lords, but considerable doubts about the wisdom of encouraging faith schools were expressed in measured tones by many speakers and more outspokenly by Lord (Roy) Hattersley. Read the relevant extracts in pdf format.

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Filling Empty Places in Anglican Schools - Lords Committee Stage

The Government is attempting to defuse the row over faith-based education by changing the law over admissions to Church of England schools. It has drafted an amendment to the education Bill . . . forcing Anglican schools to consult diocesan boards of education every year over their admissions policies.

The amendment, which was suggested by the Church of England, stops short of forcing its schools to admit pupils of other faiths or none. But the church hierarchy, which says most of its schools have inclusive admissions policies, believes it will be a powerful lever. . .

The Rev David Jennings, rector of Burbage, Leicestershire, who opposes church schools, said: "This is the Government, possibly with the support of he CofE board of education, struggling to present a facade of inclusivity."

Times Education Supplement, 3/4/02

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Filling Empty Places in Catholic Schools - Lords Committee Stage

The Government plan to amend the Education Bill to prevent religious schools (the known examples are Roman Catholic schools) refusing to fill spare places with pupils who are not of the relevant faith. Baroness Ashton of Upholland, the junior education minister, said:

"We believe that allowing schools to keep places empty when there is demand for them is at odds with our aim. We do not believe that it is an efficient use of resources for places to remain empty in some schools if overall demand for places in a local education authority's area can be met only by the authority having to meet the cost of providing additional school places elsewhere. Empty places mean less funding for the schools themselves and fewer resources available for children in those schools.

"In practice, there are very few Section 91 arrangements in place. Many Catholic schools and their dioceses already take the view that it is better to fill all their places by admitting children of other faiths or denominations or of no faith than to keep places empty. As the noble Lord, Lord Alton, said, about 14 per cent of children in Roman Catholic primary schools and more than 20 per cent of children in Roman Catholic secondary schools are not Catholic. I am able to announce today that we shall be bringing forward an amendment at Report stage to repeal Section 91 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998. That will end the possibility of faith schools under-subscribed by faith adherents agreeing arrangements with their local education authority to keep places empty."

House of Lords Hansard, 14 May 2002 : Columns 179-180

To read all references to faith schools in the House of Lords Committee Stage, click here for pdf document - NB: about 50 pages.

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