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SELECTIVE INDEX
UN Convention on Rights of the Child
Human Rights Act
Amnesty
Amartya Sen
Indoctrination: Ibrahim Lawson
Professors Richard Pring, Stephen Gorard and James Tooley
NAS/UWT
NUT
Secondary Heads Association
Humanist Philosophers' Group
CASE
Richard Dawkins
Bill Morris, TGWU
Roy Hattersley
 

Quotations on educational
and human rights aspects of faith schools

 

UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

THE CHILD shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds… [Article 13. Adopted by the United Nations, 1989]

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Human Rights Act 1998

NO PERSON shall be denied the right to education. In the exercise of any functions which it assumes in relation to education and teaching, the state shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions. [Part 2, First Protocol, Article 2]

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Amnesty International UK interpretation:

This article guarantees people the right of access to existing educational institutions; it does not require the government to establish or fund a particular type of education. The requirement to respect parents' convictions is intended to prevent indoctrination by the state. However, schools can teach about religion and philosophy if they do so in an objective, critical, and pluralistic manner. [Amnesty, September - October 2000]

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Professor Amartya Sen

[Under] the public policy of placing children in faith-based schools, . . . the knowledge of "one's own culture" may sometimes come with a severe reduction of educational opportunities that could help informed choice on how to live. The purpose of education is not only to inform a child about different cultures in the world (including the one to which his or her family may, in one way or another, belong), but also to help the cultivation of reasoning and the exercise of freedom in later life. Something very important is lost if the doors of choice are firmly shut on the face of young children, on the misguided belief that tradition makes choice unnecessary . . .

You may think I am talking about Madrassas in Pakistan, or religious schools here [in Delhi], but I am actually talking about also Britain. Such has been the state of confusion about identities, and the force of the implicit belief that a person has no choice over priorities regarding her identity, that nothing particularly wrong is seen in the lack of choice for children in the new dispensation regarding 'faith-based schools' (Muslim or Hindu or Christian) in the new multi-ethnic Britain. The human right that is lost in this is, of course, the children's right to a broad education that prepares them to choose, rather than just to follow.

[Keynote address at conference on Including the Excluded organised by South Asians for Human Rights, Delhi, 12 November 2001]

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Acknowledged Indoctrination in Muslim School

Ibrahim Lawson, headteacher of Nottingham Islamia School: The essential purpose of the Islamia school as with all Islamic schools is to inculcate profound religious belief in the children.

Ernie Rea: You use the word "inculcate": dies that mean you are in the business of indoctrination?

IL: I would say so, yes; I mean we are quite unashamed about that really. The reason that parents send their children to our school is that they want them to grow up to be very good Muslims.

ER: Does that mean that Islam is a given and is never challenged?

IL: That's right. . . .

Kate Hellman, course manager at Lambeth FE College who specialises in adults with learning difficulties: My beliefs aren't secular, my beliefs are open-minded. My beliefs -

IL: Well, that's precisely what Muslims aren't, you see, we aren't open-minded, you don't have a choice, you are either a Muslim or you are not, and it's a very serious decision to take.

["Beyond Belief" on faith schools - 10 March 2003 - BBC Radio 4]

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Professors Richard Pring, Stephen Gorard and James Tooley

Government plans for more specialist and faith schools will disadvantage poorer students because middle class parents will push them aside in the scramble for places, an all-party committee of MPs was told yesterday. They also heard there was no evidence that these schools achieved better results than comprehensives, once the pupils' social backgrounds were considered.

Richard Pring, professor of educational studies at Oxford University, talked about a ‘bewildering array' of types of secondary school, including specialist, faith, bacon and training schools, city academies and city technology colleges. He said, ‘The diversity is creating a hierarchy of schools, colleges and academies, with different funding bases, thereby creating increasing disadvantages for those already disadvantaged'.

Professor Stephen Gorard, from Cardiff University, said the Government's support for specialist schools was based on flawed research that failed to take into account the social background of pupils. ‘In areas where there are many specialist schools, there is more social segmentation,' he said.

Professor James Tooley of Newcastle University said he had not doubt that specialist schools were using ‘surreptitious selection' to improve their intake.

[The Independent, 21/11/02, TES 22/11/02]

National Association of Schoolmasters / Union of Women Teachers

THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF SCHOOLMASTERS / UNION OF WOMEN TEACHERS said that it was concerned about any large-scale expansion of religious schools at a time when society was increasingly secular. [Daily Telegraph, 15/6/01]

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You will see a lot more controversies when you are sending out the begging bowl and inviting the private sector in to spend money on schools, and at the same time having a particular emphasis on faith schools. It opens up a risk that along with the genuine philanthropists just wanting to help people out, you can also get people with ulterior motives. People are realising they have a way of making a mark.

A lot of these religions are pretty controversial and some have a lot of money to spare. Unless the lid is put back the problem could well increase over the years. . . The only justification Blair gave when challenged was that they got good academic results - but what's the point of having better educated bigots?

[Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary, quoted in The Guardian, 19/3/02]

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You have got people putting millions into schools. These people have strong views and want them to be propagated. Once you accept this infusion of private capital into schools this sort of thing is bound to happen.

The Moonies have millions. They could start a school with marvellous facilities and begin to develop the sort of thinking most people would find completely objectionable.

[Eamonn O'Kane, general secretary designate of NAS/UWT, quoted in The Independent, 19/2/02]

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National Union of Teachers

In its response to Lord Dearing's report, the NUT rejected the recommendation that it was necessary for every community to have at least one voluntary-aided school. It emphasised that no research evidence existed which suggested that there was such a demand amongst parents.

The effects of an expansion of voluntary-aided schools, combined with the effects of other Government initiatives, should not be under-estimated. One example illustrates the point. One city, in the North West, has:

1 Catholic secondary school;

2 Church of England secondary schools;

1 City Technology College; and

1 Community School.

The two Church of England schools are already specialist schools, focusing, in turn, on modern foreign languages and sport. The Community Secondary School itself has just applied to become a specialist school in arts.

In all secondary schools in that town, there could be in one form or another, selection by aptitude or faith in varying degrees. In addition, the Community School, which has recently come out of special measures, has difficulty in attracting staff. That difficulty is compounded by a forecast deficit of over £300,000 in this financial year. Falling rolls are exacerbated by the influence on admissions of the denominational and CTC schools. In addition, staff within those schools feel that their promotion prospects are being affected by the denominational arrangements of the majority of schools, thus placing pressure on those staff to seek promotion elsewhere.

No school has an intrinsic advantage arising from whether or not it is denominational, as implied by the Prime Minister. Success in all schools depends on the quality of teaching and the support teachers receive…

The NUT believes that there are complex issues surrounding the question of faith-based schools. The following points should, therefore, be taken into account where consideration is given to the establishment of such schools:

§ the principle of equity and consistency should be maintained in the application of criteria for the establishment of faith-based schools;

§ concerns expressed by some that faith-based schools may divide faith communities, or isolate them from the wider community, should be taken into account;

§ the argument that faith-based schools should promote children's identity and meet their cultural needs should also be taken into account; and § pupils and their parents should retain a right to quality education within non-faith based schools.

[Response to the Government's green paper Schools: Building on Success, June 2001]

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Secondary Heads Association

In promoting greater diversity between schools, the government is risking the creation of a hierarchy of schools in every town, with one school that has to deal with all the really difficult problems… Increasing the number of faith schools will cause considerable dissent among secondary school leaders in some areas. Some of our members lead faith schools; others are philosophically opposed to the principle of faith schools within a comprehensive system. If the government or a local authority decides to create a faith school, careful consideration should be given to the effect on other schools in the area and a process of thorough consultation should be carried out before a final decision is made. The difficulty of appointing headteachers of faith schools, which normally attract only a small number of applicants for headships, should be taken into consideration. [Response to the Government's green paper Schools: Building on Success, May 2001]

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Humanist Philosophers' Group

[Another] argument . . . focuses on children's autonomy, or rather their lack of it. The fundamental premise of the argument is that, given the importance of fundamental religious and value commitments to a person's life, such commitments should be entered into only subject to all the normal requirements for valid consent: in particular, competence, full information, and voluntariness. Religious schools, however, are likely to violate these requirements - partly because of (younger) children's lack of autonomy and partly because of the nature of such schools' missions…

[I]t is one thing for parents in private to bring up their children to believe what they, the parents, think true and important. It is quite another for parents to expect that the state should undertake the role of transmitting such a belief. The state has its own interest in ensuring that children grow up to be responsible and capable citizens. It must design a system of education that serves that end, as well as promoting the interests of children…

It is to be doubted whether separate schools for every religious persuasion are really the best way of promoting pluralism and tolerance in a multi-cultural society. Providing a full range of sectarian schools in every district would in any case be impracticable, except perhaps in the very largest cities…

More importantly, if children grow up within a circumscribed culture, if their friends and peers are mostly from the same religion and hence also, very likely, the same ethnic group, and if they rarely meet or learn to live with others from different backgrounds, this is hardly calculated to promote the acceptance and recognition of diversity. We have clear evidence to the contrary from Northern Ireland, where the separation of Catholic schools and Protestant schools has played a significant part in perpetuating the sectarian divide…

Our arguments support three key principles which we believe must guide policy-making with regards to religious schools:

1. In a free and open society, beliefs about fundamental religious and value commitments should be adopted autonomously and voluntarily...

2. Neither parents nor faith communities have a right to call upon the state to help them inculcate their particular religious beliefs in their children, nor further their own projects, customs or values through their children…

3. In a pluralist, multi-cultural society, the state must promote the tolerance and recognition of different values, religious beliefs and non-religious beliefs…

If we were designing the education system from scratch, the logical consequence of these principles would be that there would be no religious schools at all…

[A]lthough abolition of, or withdrawal of funding for, religious schools is a course of action we advocate, we do not expect to see such a radical reform implemented. Instead, we would make three practical recommendations that would help close the gap between our three principles and the status quo.

1. The state should not support the further expansion of religious schools…

2. The application of government guidelines requiring 'multi-faith' religious education should be extended to cover religious schools...

3. The legal requirements for and guidelines on 'multi-faith' religious education should be modified to include the compulsory teaching of non-religious views, such as atheism and Humanism…

[Religious schools: the case against (BHA, 2001)]

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Dr Peter Vardy, religious philosopher, vice-principal of Heythrop College, London

Dr Peter Vardy. . . said that state funding for faith schools which teach creationism should not be available unless they are prepared to encourage pupils to question what they are taught. "I'm more worried about some of the schools such as the ones run by Muslims and Orthodox Jews where the idea of an open-minded search for the truth isn't tolerated," said Dr Vardy. "A condition of state funding should be an opened-minded education which involves taking GCSEs and A-levels."

[The Independent on Sunday, 17/3/02]

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CASE (Campaign for Advancement of State Education)

The Campaign for State Education said that schools funded by general taxation should be open to all children. [Daily Telegraph, 15/6/01]

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Correspondent in The Guardian

How nice it would be if my faith school was like those described in last week's letters. I attend a CofE state secondary. Most of our assemblies are led by either the school chaplain or a visiting vicar, and a recent series has been on "the benefits of being a Christian". You could say my religion is that of not having one, but this belief was dismissed by speakers, and generalisations like "most atheists get depressed and commit suicide" were made. Not very tolerant of my faith, is it? I had assumed that the purpose of RE was to learn about religions. But in this faith school, if we tackle an issue such as "can war be justified?", the Christian viewpoint will be discussed but not the Buddhist or Hindu or Islamic views. I'm in year 10 at one of the three faith schools chosen to act as a model for the government's 100 or so new ones. This worries me, because although the teaching quality is very good, we have never recognised Ramadan, Diwali or any non-Christian festival. If I have a human right to practise my own religion, it certainly doesn't feel that way.

Name and address supplied [Guardian DATE?????]

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Jonathan Newman, American academic resident in England

"My six-year-old son goes to a Church school because it's the only choice where we live. In fact, we only discovered it was a Church school as we were registering him - as Americans we had never come across state-funded religious schools. I still find it surprising that taxpayers' money can be spent on supporting such schools, especially when there is no obvious or convenient alternative, as in our case.

"My son's school is actually very good, and sensitive to the range of ethnic backgrounds of its pupils, but if it became more Christian, I would almost certainly take him out of it, even if it meant paying to go private (which as a taxpayer I resent).

My wife and I are both atheists and I feel that it is our business to talk about beliefs with him, and the school's to present him with a range of beliefs in a non-judgmental way, which is what they do at present.

"I don't want my son to be taught that beliefs I do not share are true. But I haven't been troubled by any conflict between our beliefs and what happens at my son's school so far, apart from school assemblies, especially the ones at Christmas, which are very Christian. We were stunned to find such things in a state school. I'd rather he didn't go to a Church secondary school."   [Interview carried out by BHA , 2001]

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Richard Dawkins FRS, Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science, Oxford University

To slap a label on a child at birth - to announce, in advance, as a matter of hereditary presumption if not determinate certainty, an infant's opinions on the cosmos and creation, on life and afterlives, on sexual ethics, abortion and euthanasia - is a form of mental child abuse… [H]ereditary peers, though undemocratic and often mildly eccentric, are not dangerous. Faith schools almost certainly are. There remains the pragmatic argument that, notwithstanding the knockdown objection to the principle of faith schools, they get good exam results. Well, maybe. If it is true, by all means let's try to bottle the secret and share it around. But bottled or not, careful analysis fails to uncover any real link with faith…The way to be fair to hitherto unsupported denominations is not to give them their own sectarian schools, but to remove the faith status of the existing schools… [Observer, 30/12/01]

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Bill Morris, leader of the TGWU

That Cabinet Office report found that an "education system that encourages competition and separation" ensures that Bangladeshi, black and Pakistani pupils fare less well than other pupils…So why is the Government persisting with its proposals to introduce more faith schools? Allowing even more schools to select on the basis of religion will entrench the "parallel lives" that our communities are leading. Established faith schools may be here to stay but, in the name of good race relations, let's not create any more of these nurseries for segregation. [The Independent, 12/12/01]

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Lord (Roy) Hattersley

The new faith schools will provide another little range of mountains for articulate, self-confident parents to climb. In the future, as in the past, their head teachers - allowed by David Blunkett to select by interview - will ask questions about more than religious commitment…Someone must have told the secretary for state that every form of selection has a social as well as an educational element. Yet selection is being covertly extended… [Guardian, 10/12/01]

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Updated 23 May 2003