No more faith schools

No more faith schools

Page 8 of 285: We need inclusive schools free from religious discrimination, privilege or control.

Faith schools undermine equality, choice and social cohesion.

Let's build an inclusive education system today, to ensure an inclusive society tomorrow.

CAMPAIGN ALERT: Tell Labour to think again on faith schools

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer recently stated he "wouldn't tinker" with how faith schools are run, and that Labour would be "even more supportive of faith schools" than the current government.

Join us in calling on Labour to think again on faith schools. Write to your Labour MP or representative today.

Our education system should be open and welcoming to all. That's why we want publicly funded faith schools phased out and an end to religiously selective school admissions.

Around a third of publicly funded schools in England and Wales are faith schools – schools with a religious character. Scottish and Northern Irish schools are still divided along sectarian lines.

Separating children according to religion is divisive and leads to religious, ethnic and socio-economic segregation.

To make matters worse, many faith schools can discriminate against pupils and teachers who do not share the religion of the school.

  • 58% of Brits oppose faith schools and only 30% say they have "no objection" to faith schools being funded by the state.

  • 72% of voters, including 68% of Christians, oppose state funded schools being allowed to discriminate against prospective pupils on religious grounds in their admissions policy.

Parents are entitled to raise their children within a faith tradition, but they are not entitled to enlist the help of the state to do so. The state should not allow the schools it funds to inculcate children into a particular religion.

Faith schools seriously limit choice for parents who do not want a religious education for their children, or do not share the faith of the local school. Our research has found that 18,000 families were assigned faith schools against their wishes in England in 2017 alone.

Despite a consistent and dramatic decline in church attendance, and a growing majority of non-religious citizens, successive governments have paved the way for ever greater religious involvement in education, often to the detriment of inclusive community schools.

A secular approach to education would ensure publicly funded schools are equally welcoming to all children, regardless of their backgrounds.

Take action!

CAMPAIGN ALERT: Tell Labour to think again on faith schools

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer recently stated he "wouldn't tinker" with how faith schools are run, and that Labour would be "even more supportive of faith schools" than the current government.

Join us in calling on Labour to think again on faith schools. Write to your Labour MP or representative today.

1. Write to your MP

Please call on your MP to support a secular, inclusive education system for all.

2. Share your story

Tell us why you support this campaign, and how you are personally affected by the issue. You can also let us know if you would like assistance with a particular issue.

3. Join us

Become a member of the National Secular Society today! Together, we can separate religion and state for greater freedom and fairness.

Latest updates

NSS: Don’t let Welsh independent schools put faith before education

NSS: Don’t let Welsh independent schools put faith before education

Posted: Wed, 12 Jul 2023 14:24

The National Secular Society has told the Welsh Government independent schools should not omit education which conflicts with religious teachings.

Responding to a consultation on proposed changes to standards for independent schools in Wales, the NSS warned that allowing the teaching of personal, social, health and economic education (PSHE) in a manner that reflects a "school's aims and ethos" could lead to faith schools not teaching about protected characteristics set out in the Equality Act 2010.

The NSS welcomed provisions in the proposed changes which would require a curriculum which "encourages respect for other people", with particular regard for the protected characteristics set out in the act. These include religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation.

But they also highlighted that independent faith schools in England frequently fail to teach about same-sex relationships or people of different religions and beliefs, or teach discriminatory ideas about them.

As recent figures from England's Department for Education revealed, independent schools with a faith ethos are four times more likely to be issued warning notices than their non-religiously affiliated counterparts, with many judged to be of an unacceptable standard because they fail to teach aspects of PSHE which are perceived to contradict the school's faith ethos.

Examples from 2023 alone include:

  • Ateres Girls High School, which fails to teach about "sexual orientation, different types of stable relationships and vocabulary such as consent and the implications of this word".
  • Bnois Jerusalem Girls School, where the school's proprietors forbid "any coverage of different religions, faiths and beliefs" and where respect for others, including those with protected characteristics in the Equality Act 2010, is not encouraged.
  • Bournemouth Christian School, which presents a Christian perspective as "more important than scientific fact" and fails to provide appropriate relationships and sex education (RSE).

The NSS also drew attention to its own Unsafe Sex Education report from 2018, which uncovered RSE policies from state-funded faith schools in England that explicitly denigrated same-sex relationships.

The NSS said that the Welsh Government's proposed curriculum changes allowing PSHE which "reflects the school's aims and ethos" could create a similar situation in Wales.

The NSS also raised concerns that, under the proposed changes, 'partisan political views' could be given a free pass when they have a religious basis. The proposals would preclude the promotion of such views in teaching or require that when political views are discussed, a balanced view is presented.

In its Unsafe Sex Education report, the NSS found many faith schools delegitimised same-sex marriages by describing marriage solely in terms of being 'between man and woman', with one stipulating that "treating alternative relationships as equivalent to marriage" was "contrary to the school's ethos".

Other faith schools were found to explicitly teach that contraception and abortion are morally wrong.

The NSS argued that these perspectives are fundamentally political and, as such, should not be excluded from the restrictions simply due to their faith-based character.

NSS: 'Faith ethos is no excuse for avoiding educational obligations'

Jack Rivington, campaigns officer at the NSS, said: "We welcome the proposed changes to the regulations for independent schools in Wales, which will bring requirements largely in line with England and help to promote respect for the protected characteristics set out in the Equality Act.

"However, the Welsh Government must ensure that the regulations do not contain loopholes which can be exploited by faith institutions to avoid teaching full and impartial RSE and PSHE curriculums, or to present biased political perspectives without context.

"All children are entitled to high-quality, age-appropriate RSE, whatever kind of school they attend. It is vital that the wording of these proposed changes guarantees that provision and protects against religious attempts to circumvent it."

Image: xtock, Shutterstock

Church plans to use schools to drive conversion of children

Church plans to use schools to drive conversion of children

Posted: Tue, 4 Jul 2023 12:04

The Church of England has unveiled plans to use schools to drive recruitment of children and young people to Christianity.

In a document published on Friday, the Church said "courageous structural shifts in thinking and practice in education" will "contribute to the Church's vision to double the number of children and young people who are active Christian disciples by 2030".

The Church, which is embroiled in safeguarding scandals, has seen a dramatic decrease in membership, particularly among young people. The 2019 British Social Attitudes survey found just one per cent of 18-24 year olds in Britain belong to the CofE. Overall, less than 1% of adults in England regularly attend CofE services.

Education "central to the mission of the wider diocese"

The document recommends government leaders "further deepen the mutual partnership between church and state, at national, regional and local level, to enable the ongoing flourishing of church schools for coming generations".

It calls for dioceses to "provide an ambitious and expansive vision" for the role of the Church in education. This includes "the creation of new models of church in schools, which provide opportunities for children and adults to develop their journey of faith, through well planned pathways to discipleship".

"By creating and embedding strategic partnerships between churches and schools across the diocese, children, young people and their families can have the opportunity to grow in faith," it says.

It says diocesan leaders should ensure education is "central to the mission of the wider diocese", and should pay particular regard to religious education and collective worship.

The document says the Church's vision for education is "not just for Church schools" and that the Church will "continue to embrace vibrant partnerships with all major education institutions".

It adds that the Church "has a particular responsibility" to "safeguard the distinctive vision of its schools".

It also says school trust leaders should "celebrate equity, diversity, belonging, inclusion and justice". But many Church of England schools' admissions policies discriminate against children whose families do not belong to the Church. Research in 217 found one in four dioceses advise their schools to reserve some places on faith grounds. In 2013, the Fair Admissions Campaign found Church of England comprehensives whose admissions criteria allow full selection of faith admit 35% fewer children eligible for free school meals.

The Church has also been criticised recently for its homophobic and sexist policies.

Last month the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) urged the UK to repeal compulsory collective worship laws and end the religious selection practised in faith schools.

NSS: 'Church regards our schools as mission fields'

National Secular Society head of campaigns Megan Manson said: "The Church has made it clear that it regards our education system as a mission field. Its latest plans reveal it wants to cynically use the state education system, which citizens of all faiths and beliefs pay for, to boost its plunging membership figures.

"Its desire to form even deeper links to the state can only further undermine secular democracy.

"These plans are highly inappropriate in such a diverse society, where Christians are now a minority.

"The government should stop giving the Church a free hand to pursue its own self-serving agenda in publicly funded schools. The purpose of such schools should be to educate, rather than inculcate pupils into a particular faith.

"And it should work separate Church and state rather than further entrench these ties."

More information

Research and reports