The Public Don't Want More Faith Schools, And They Will Be Divisive

The Government’s proposal to open even more ‘faith schools’ was described today as “a self-inflicted disaster for both education and cohesion” by the National Secular Society.

The NSS’s Executive Director, Keith Porteous Wood, said: “The Government is arguing against all the evidence. Schools based on religion are divisive, they create injustice in their admissions procedures and they cause parents to lie and cheat to get places in publicly funded schools. The academic success of church schools has been shown repeatedly to be because of their ability to select – which they do in many instances quite ruthlessly, and this is why they are popular with some parents. A poll in the latest edition of Readers’ Digest shows that the majority of parents do no agree with the existence of faith schools and yet the Government - known for its high proportion of believers - is about to create more. Parents want good schools, not religious schools.

“The churches are arguing for faith schools as the only way to ensure their own survival – as congregations diminish to vanishing point. It should not the Government’s job to prop the churches up, especially using taxpayers’ money to do it.”

Keith Porteous Wood added that “the Government, in encouraging the creation of more sectarian schools - especially mono-ethnic ones - was storing up a social disaster for generations to come. Recent research has shown that the best time for children to make cross-cultural friendships is in primary school. Separating children on religious (and, therefore, often racial) grounds at this stage in their lives is asking for more separation, more suspicion, more divisiveness”.

Mr Porteous Wood added: “Whatever Ed Balls says, the objective evidence points to religious schools as a focal point of division, not of unity. And common sense tells us that you cannot possibly bring people together by emphasising what separates them – and that is precisely what religious schools do. A huge number of people in this country resent their taxes being used to fund a policy that is so glaringly counterproductive to all our futures.”

10 September, 2007