In the news this week, the Fair Admissions Campaign has announced that they want a ban on state schools in England and Wales from selecting pupils on grounds of their faith or religion. So today I want to talk about Faith schools and school selection.
Before I started training as a teacher, I assumed, probably like most people at a young age, that to go to a C of E or RC school, you had to be religious. Being secular, I have to say I was quite ignorant about what they really were. I’ve now worked in both a C of E and a RC school, and had quite a shock. I was teaching an RE lesson in the RC school, and a girl put her hand up and asked, ‘Mr Melaney, why do I have to learn this when I don’t even believe in God?’ This made me realise that not every child who attends a faith school is actually a member of that faith. This is also true of teachers as well.
This shows some evidence of schools being open to all children, however in both the schools I’ve taught in, there is a clear majority of the children who actually belonged to that particular faith, which does seem to imply a faith-based selection policy.
I have to say I’m with the Fair Admissions Campaign here. They believe that state schools should be open to everyone regardless of faith. I think it’s very easy to segregate children because of their faith otherwise, which means that children grow up with a lack of understanding of other faiths around them, which can lead to conflicts in later life. It is all very well a teacher talking about different faiths in the classroom, but there is no replacement for actually having someone belonging to that faith around you, giving you a real context.
There is of course the fact that state schools are often oversubscribed because these schools provide free education to contend with, so they will have to have some sort of selection policy in place in order to thin down the numbers.
What do you think? Should schools be allowed to select children on Faith grounds, or should there be an alternative selection policy? Is banning faith-based school selection the answer?