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National Secular Society

February 2019 update

  

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It's been a busy start to the year at the No More Faith Schools campaign, and we have a busy few months ahead. The first round of applications for funding for new VA faith schools have been submitted. These schools (which the government's own assessment shows will increase discrimination) can potentially select all of their teachers and pupils on religious grounds and teach denominational RE.

We're working to ensure all of these proposals face robust local challenges and have reported on the first proposals to be published in Cambridgeshire. Going through the proposals will be a significant piece of work and challenges will need local support to be successful. So if you have a proposed new faith school in your area, please get in touch.

The campaign isn't just about challenging faith schools, but about a positive vision of what an education system free from religious control would look like. My main opinion piece this month makes the case that an end to faith schools would not impose conformity or be without compromise, as our system of community schools shows.

A SECULAR EDUCATION SYSTEM WOULD MEAN COMMUNITY SCHOOLS FOR ALL

In other news this month, we've reported on a study showing how league tables overestimate faith schools' performance and on Northern Ireland, where the hideously inefficient segregated school system is exacerbating the effect of cuts.

On Wednesday 20th of March I will be visiting Belfast to learn more about the challenges facing their sectarian school system and efforts to integrate it. I'm hoping to arrange some sort of social or meetup with supporters while I'm over. If you're interested, please let me know.

Also in March on Wednesday the 6th, I'll be giving a talk about secular education and #NoMoreFaithSchools at Brighton Humanists. If you're in the area, please come and say hello.

If you'd like a speaker or resources for a #NoMoreFaithSchools meeting of your own, please get in touch.

In the last update I mentioned the new report from the National Secular Society (The choice delusion: how faith schools restrict primary school choice in England). If you want to check that out there's a link to share the report with MPs and help challenge this common defence of faith schools.

Finally, I have a bit of NSS news separate from the No More Faith Schools campaign. In the run up to our major conference in May (Secularism 2019: Reclaiming Religious Freedom) we've launched a new podcast. The first two episodes are available now, and the series will feature me talking to a variety of experts and activists about freedom of and from religion. Please tune in.

The coming months will be very important for the No More Faith School campaign. We are grateful for everyone who's written to their MP, signed the petition and shared their story. If everyone reading this can take just one of two more actions for the campaign, we can really increase our impact. It's not enough to be right, only activism can create change.

  

Latest updates

 

A secular education system would mean community schools for all

An end to faith schools would not impose conformity or be without compromise, as our system of community schools shows, argues Alastair Lichten.

 

League tables overestimate faith school performance, says study

A measure of school progress unfairly benefits faith schools by not taking into account pupils' backgrounds, academics have said.

 

Fully discriminatory Catholic schools proposed in Cambridgeshire

Three new Catholic schools are among the first to be proposed amid a new round of government funding for voluntary aided faith schools in England.

 

Northern Ireland's children and families are paying the price of faith schools’ failure

The inefficiency of NI's sectarian school system means cuts bite harder. Efforts to educate children together must be accelerated, argues Alastair Lichten.

  

What you can do to get involved:

  

1. Follow us on social media. Please take a few moments to follow the campaign on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. If you can share a message of support using the hashtag #NoMoreFaithSchools it helps us get the message out and helps others find the campaign. Please use #NoMoreFaithSchools whenever sharing on of our stories, a link to the petition or our main video.

2. Keep us informed. It's always helpful to know how the issues were working on affect real families. We follow new faith school proposals and developments extremely closely, but we can't catch everything. If you can report a new faith school proposal as early as possible, we can do more to help.

3. Share your story. Statistics and theoretical arguments may win some people over, but sharing stories help many more empathise with those affected by faith schools and perhaps rethink their support.

4. Get creative. Please send us a video or photo of you supporting the campaign and let us know why you're saying: "No More Faith Schools!"

5. Get talking. Why not have a chat your friends and family, do they support secular inclusive schools, and they absorb some of the pro faith school myths? Sometimes having a genuine friendly conversation can have a big impact.

6. Get writing. If you haven't already please write to your MP, and if you have please consider a follow-up letter. It's worth writing to your MP even if you live in a UK nation where education is devolved. MPs take up casework and policy issues which go beyond their Westminster role. You can also write to your local representatives asking what they're doing support inclusive education, and while you've got your metaphorical pen out why not send a letter to your local newspaper?

7. Get together. If you're a member of a club or society, why not hold an event discussing faith schools and the need for secular inclusive education system? We can provide advice and resources, and potentially a speaker.

8. Support us financially. NMFS is coordinated by the National Secular Society, which works for the separation of religion and state and equal respect for everyone's human rights. Running a leading campaign of this scale takes resources and there's still so much more we can do. If you're able to, please consider supporting the NSS from just £1 a month, or joining from £2 a month. One off donations are also gratefully received.

  
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