We're concerned about the involvement of evangelical religious organisations in publicly funded schools, including through the provision of religious education, school worship and pastoral work.
External groups can make a valuable educational contribution to schools. With the right boundaries in place, staff and parents can be assured of no inappropriate proselytization.
What’s the problem?
Our state schools are being targeted and exploited by evangelical groups as part of their missionary work. Schools are often acting with good intentions, but are too often naive and un-prepared to set appropriate boundaries. Meanwhile, parents are too often not informed of the visits of backgrounds of groups.
The legal obligation on all schools to provide a daily act of worship provides a foot in the door to organisations with evangelistic intentions. The ambiguity about the specific aims and purpose of religious education, and its low status in schools, provides an ideal environment for evangelical groups to exploit.
In autumn 2016 we asked a random selection of 150 non-faith and 150 faith schools about their external visitor policies as part of our research into evangelism in schools. Only 35% of schools had a policy or policies which covered the participation, invitation or behaviour of external groups/visitors/speakers. Only 16% of schools had a policy or policies concerning the partisan promotion of religious or political beliefs by external groups/visitors/speakers.
None of the policies examined explicitly requires parents to be informed of visitors in advance. Although some schools told us this was normal practice.
66% of policies examined did recommend thorough research of the visitor in advance, rising to 79% among community schools (most other variations between faith and non-faith schools were low). None of the policies clearly prohibited religious proselytization, nor required a teacher/staff member to introduce an external visitor and make clear that they are representing their religious views. Again some schools did say this was their practice. 57% of policies examined stipulated that a teacher or teaching assistant should always be present.
What are we doing?
- Helping parents challenge inappropriate evangelism in schools is a major part of our casework. If you are experiencing these issues and would like advice, please get in touch.
- In 2013 we published a major report to highlight the problem of schools are being targeted and exploited by evangelical groups as part of their missionary work. We are working with schools to develop best practice for working with external visitors, and particularly religion and belief groups.
What you can do:
Write to your MP
Ask your MP to support a code of practice so external groups can contribution to schools without evangelism or proselytization.
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