No more faith schools

No more faith schools

Page 9 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

Faith school found teaching Bible as fact in history and science

Faith school found teaching Bible as fact in history and science

Posted: Thu, 29 Jun 2023 09:33

An independent school has failed an inspection after it was found teaching the Bible "as fact" in subjects including science and history.

Bournemouth Christian School was judged "inadequate" by Ofsted after inspectors found multiple failings at the school during an inspection in April.

In a report published this month, Ofsted said the school's leaders have established a curriculum that presents "flawed and inaccurate information in all subjects", with pupils learning through an "unmoderated Christian worldview".

This includes presenting a Christian perspective as "more important than scientific fact", and failing to provide a "balanced, factually accurate curriculum". Ofsted said that this impedes pupils' understanding, and that they consequently do not gain the knowledge necessary for their futures.

Pupils "do not learn much about the world around them", including "citizenship in modern Britain", Ofsted said. It added that the curriculum's "focus on America" does not help pupils "prepare for life in modern Britain" or beyond school. This includes a focus on "the American literary tradition", which means pupils "do not learn about the literary traditions that have shaped the United Kingdom".

The school also fails to provide an effective personal, social and health education programme for students, including appropriate relationships and sex education.

The school, which teaches pupils between ages 3 and 18, uses the online curriculum of SwitchedOn Education. SwitchedOn Education describes itself as providing a "Christian digital education curriculum" for both "schools and home schools" in the UK and internationally.

Ofsted found teachers "do not have the subject knowledge to support pupils effectively" and are unaware of what pupils do or do not know, with pupils interacting "mainly with computers".

Ofsted said the school has also failed to "create an effective culture of safeguarding", with pupils at a "serious risk of harm". Leaders do not address concerns about pupils or ensure that pupils were safe in school. The school site was found to be insecure, with pupils easily able to leave.

NSS: School "more interested in indoctrinating its pupils than educating them"

National Secular Society campaigns officer Jack Rivington said: "This damning report from Ofsted reveals an organisation more interested in indoctrinating its pupils than educating them.

"The presentation of religious dogma as more valid and more important than scientific fact is unacceptable, and deprives children of their full right to an education.

"The appalling quality of Bournemouth Christian School's curriculum, teaching methods, and safeguarding processes revealed in this report is highly concerning. This school should now receive further scrutiny to ensure children and young people's rights are protected."

Fife Council ends voting powers for religious appointees

Fife Council ends voting powers for religious appointees

Posted: Thu, 22 Jun 2023 12:51

Fife Council has become the third Scottish council this year to end voting privileges for unelected religious appointees.

The National Secular Society welcomed Fife Council's decision to end voting concessions for the religious representatives sitting on the cabinet and education committees.

Councillors voted 36 to 32 in favour of removing their voting privileges in a full council meeting today.

The NSS and local humanists briefed councillors ahead of the meeting, urging them to strip religious representatives of voting privileges. The NSS said no one should be granted "a privileged place in local democracy just because of their religion".

The Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973 obliges local authorities in Scotland to appoint three religious representatives to their education committees, at least one of whom must be appointed by the Roman Catholic Church and one by the Protestant Church of Scotland.

Such representatives have voting privileges in most councils, enabling them to influence local education policies affecting both faith and non-faith schools. At Fife Council, they are the only unelected members granted such concessions.

A motion was originally brought forward by Liberal Democrat councillors in 2022 aiming to consider a fair and democratic solution to managing religious representatives. Labour proposed a vote to maintain their voting powers and review again in 2027. The motion was amended by the Scottish National Party Cllr David Barratt to remove their votes entirely.

Following the vote, Lib Dem councillor Al Clark said: "Whilst we respect that religious reps can have an opinion, it is undemocratic for them to express a vote that could have an impact on the education of our children.

"They are not accountable, unlike elected members who are voted to represent our communities".

The Church of Scotland's own former representative in Fife, Brian Blanchflower, also supported the motion, saying voting is for democratically elected members.

Fife is particularly nonreligious. In the 2011 census, those with no religion were the largest religion or belief group, at over 46% (the Scottish average was nearly 37%). Approximately 31% of people in Fife were Church of Scotland and 9% were Roman Catholic.

The most recently available Scottish Social Attitudes Survey data shows 58% of Scots (including 74% of 18–34s) have no religion.

The legal requirement for Scottish councils to appoint religious representatives is being increasingly challenged by local authorities. In 2019 Perth and Kinross Council became the first to strip them of voting privileges. Following campaigning from the NSS and others, Moray Council and Scottish Borders Council followed suit. In May, Orkney Council and Highland Council voted to remove voting privileges for religious reps.

Scotland's former Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville MSP has told the NSS there are "no plans" to end places for religious appointees on education committees.

NSS: 'We hope other councils follow suit'

Head of campaigns Megan Manson said: "It's fantastic that Fife has become the latest council to end the unfair voting privileges granted to religious representatives.

"They are now the third Scottish council within the past two months to make this move. Momentum is clearly gathering across Scotland as more councillors realise that giving unelected religious appointees a vote is undemocratic and unequal.

"The Scottish government should take notice of the growing unpopularity of religious reps and work to revoke the law that requires them on councils in the first place."

More information

Research and reports