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Can we stop pretending faith schools are the problem?

9 June 2014

5:23 PM

9 June 2014

5:23 PM

Liberal secularists don’t like faith schools. Obviously. When confronted with stories of Islamists overtaking state schools in Birmingham, they have no difficulty diagnosing the problem. It’s not an Islam issue, or an extremism issue — it’s faith schools. Faith schooling is where the rot starts, even if these Islamified academies are not actually faith schools. We should therefore oppose all state funding for faith-based education. Catherine Bennett said as much in the Guardian, and lots of social media types seem to agree.

Dan Hodges of the Telegraph this morning tweeted: ‘All faith schools are Trojan horses. We need faith based education like we need a hole in the head.’ It might be silly to judge what people say on Twitter, but let’s consider that thought for a moment. What Dan, a clever journalist, is saying is that every single religious school is pretending to be something it is not in order to impose its agenda on nice liberal Britain when nice liberal Britain isn’t looking. This is just not true. Most faith schools in this country are about as menacing to British values as a basket of geraniums.


What really irks the godless intelligentsia about faith schools is that they are good. Church of England and Catholic schools consistently outperform their secular equivalents; in many urban parts of Britain, parents who can’t afford private education and are not religious (or willing to fake being religious) struggle to find good schools. This tends to infuriate metropolitan journalists — often privately educated themselves and viciously guilty because they can’t afford to pass that privilege on to their mewling sprogs.

I don’t want to pick on Hodges — there are hundreds of thousands of people attacking religious education all over the web — but it was telling that when another Telegraph journalist, Tim Stanley, pointed out to him that 25 per cent of all primary and middle schools are Church of England and that 81 per cent of those are rated as ‘good/outstanding’ by Ofsted, Hodges reply was ‘And what if I’m not CoE. Why should my child be denied a good education?’ As if the whole point of Christian schooling was to deny Dan Hodges’s children a decent chance in life. That’s pretty unprogressive, especially from a self-proclaimed Blairite: his question really should be why voluntary aided Church schools often do so well — clue: it’s to do with the ethos – and what can the government learn from them to make secular state schools better?

The Birmingham Islamic schools scandal is a troubling one; in fact, it might be so troubling that we would rather not think about it too hard. It’s much easier to talk about how all religion is nasty and fanatical and how we’d much rather not have to spend taxpayer money imposing God on our young. At least then you can’t be called an Islamophobe.

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Show comments
  • John Chu

    I went to a religious school and most pupils were not religious (but were baptised as proof) and had weekly mass only as part of the “ethos” and had nothing to with the fact that it is near the city and faith schools do get the nice ability of picking teachers. It was a top performing school and I was largely admitted because of my Academic ability like the rest.

    That’s the point, research has already gone into the admission cycle and achieving students (and it also helps to have a mum and dad who can demonstrate they will be pushy) get picked more then “ethos” so yeah go figure when a school can cherry pick and will probably get better results.

  • Peter Hinch

    Everyone should read this- one way the C/E sees its role in providing the state education of children. Is this Education? I believe not- I believe education is teaching about faith and non faith in an unbiased informative manner, teaching critical thinking, reason, ethics- all these things are undermined when the school places itself as the conduit between the child and one faith alone.
    Read this- from the horses mouth, paid for from all our taxes and often avoided only at the cost of segregating your child from its peers.

    • Peter Hinch

      quote……..”• almost all are directly funded from the school’s own budget, although some hold joint

      school and parochial roles, or are funded from other church sources

      • most are paid on the Support Staff scale: if teachers they are usually paid on the

      appropriate point of the teachers salary scale.”……

      Thats nice, who needs more teachers when you can pay for a vicar to be n your school. No harm there then!

      Quote………”The very presence of the chaplain in the school reminds members of the school community

      that it is a Christian environment, animated by the Holy Spirit and guided by certain values.

      The chaplain is envisaged as a living exemplar of the exercising of Christian faith in everyday

      life. His or her presence speaks to the school of the centrality of prayer and of pausing to

      reflect; of the ultimate value of each member of the community as a child of God; of the

      mission of the school to serve its community. Many chaplains and schools spoke of the

      importance of the ministry of presence and they speak of ‘holy loitering or ‘hanging around’

      as being important features of the chaplain’s role.

      The Christian ethos of the school means placing all its activity into a spiritual context. This

      includes pastoral care, counselling and mentoring; learning and assessment and so on”………

      Sounds like a comfortable environment for local children from different faith backgrounds or none- Sure lets stop pretending faith schools are a problem!