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BHA: Odone report totally wrong on faith schools

The British Humanist Association (BHA) has condemned as misguided a report published today by the Centre for Policy Studies, written by Christina Odone, which seeks to portray the UK's state-funded faith schools as inclusive and under attack from hostile secularists.

Pointing to the recent expansion of state-funded faith schools and academies by the government, and to the reality of the powers to discriminate which state-funded faith schools continue to have and which have increased in recent years, the BHA has claimed that today's report is driven by ideology alone, and reflects a lack of concern for a future of inclusive education in this country.

The BHA points out that the state funded faith schools which the report seeks to promote differ from state funded community schools in that, for example:

They are allowed by law to discriminate in their admissions policies;

They are allowed by law to discriminate in their employment policies;

They teach their own syllabus of Religious Education without the regulated syllabuses that apply to community schools.

Andrew Copson, Director of Education at the BHA, rejected the implication that such schools can ever be the way forward for the education system of a diverse society like modern Britain: 'Our aim should be for all state funded schools to admit and include children regardless of their religious or non-religious backgrounds, so that they can learn from and with each other in a mixed environment.'

Today's report reiterates arguments in favour of state-funded faith schools that have been extensively refuted in the past, such as the claim that faith schools are more academically successful than community schools because of their religious character. In fact, this claim is totally un-evidenced, and ignores the fact that faith schools fail and close in adverse local circumstances just as community schools do. It also ignores repeated academic studies that have indicated that state funded faith schools benefit academically from their power to select pupils.

Today's report also seeks to paint a picture of a Government which is persecuting faith schools in the face of public support for them. Mr Copson rejected this impression: 'In fact, the British public is overwhelmingly opposed to an expansion of state-funded faith schools: a fact demonstrated by repeated opinion polls on the subject over the last six years. Anyone who cares about a more fair and equitable education system, far from attacking the Government for seeking to prevent admissions abuses, should be welcoming any moves to clamp down on the abuses that exist.'

For further comment, contact Andrew Copson on 07855 380 633


Past briefings on faith schools, refuting the arguments made for them can be viewed at http://tinyurl.com/dkp23 and http://tinyurl.com/ak8g9

In 2001 80% of respondents to a MORI poll believed all schools should be open to those of any religion or belief. In 2005 64% of respondents to an ICM poll opposed government funding for faith schools. In the same year a study by the Islamic Human Rights Commission found that only 49.7% of Muslim men and 42.9% of Muslim women had a preference for Muslim schools for their children.

The British Humanist Association (BHA) represents and supports the non-religious and campaigns for an end to religious privilege and to discrimination based on religion or belief and is the largest organisation in the UK working for a secular society. In education, this means an end to the expansion of faith schools and for the assimilation of those that currently exist into a system of inclusive and accommodating community schools. See www.humanism.org.uk

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