Stephen Beer, Blog, Stephen Beer

Stephen Beer (www.stephenbeer.com)

Friday, March 09, 2007

Faith schools - a good thing?

The CSM email hustings produced four questions. CSM has posted up on our website the responses from those candidates for Chair who responded.

The second question in the CSM hustings asked:

Do you believe that one solution to our perceived problem in education is an extension of the faith school sector and should these schools be funded from the public purse?

I replied:


There is no doubt that most existing faith schools do an excellent job. I know from personal experience, having been a governor of a Church of England school. As a Christian, it was encouraging to see children taught in an environment that respects our faith and sets high educational standards. That school was not a stereotypical faith school – it was rooted in the inner city.

I do however have some doubts about the extension of faith schools. This is because I believe policy should focus on uniting communities in our country, not dividing them. While I can see that existing faith schools arose out of various educational settlements in the past, I do think that their ethos reflects this ‘British compromise’. I am not always convinced new schools will do so.

I have explored this issue within a paper about to be published by Renewal, a Labour journal. You can read an earlier draft at http://docs.google.com/Doc?id=dc9bg35v_3d3h7wd .

Essentially I believe that liberal democratic values, including freedom of choice, should be taught and upheld by schools. That includes freedom to change religion and equality between men and women. If schools can ensure these values are upheld they should be supported. The problem I have is whether all faith schools can do so.

In addition, as someone who attended a ‘bog standard comprehensive’ (and enjoyed it!), I am keen that faith schools are genuinely inclusive and not the preserve of one class.

Those are my opinions. The role of Chair is to ensure that everyone’s voice in CSM is heard as we develop policy positions. Faith schools have been discussed as part of our policy review – do visit the CSM website and email your views.

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