Faith schools on the rise again

From Monday, faith schools in England will be able to adopt religious belief as a criterion for appointing teachers. The move crystallises exactly two urgent and increasingly controversial debates in England. One, is multiculturalism or integration the goal for society? Two, will a new range of Blairite “specialist” schools including faith schools produce selection by the back door, or will they genuinely improve standards and widen choice? New freedoms for specialist schools reverses a trend set by Brown who had eased back on Blair’s rush towards a mixed economy for schools. Only recently, Schools Secretary Ed Balls named and shamed faith schools for practicing undercover selection by pressurising parent applicants to make donations – a charge they denied, by the way. Now, as the government thrashes around for popular policies, it’s all smiles for faith schools and a return to the Blairite approach.Also on Monday, a new pro-secular coalition called Accord comprising humanists, academics but also some Christians, will launch a campaign against faith schools on the grounds that they widen class and economic division. Interestingly, a Christian think tank Ekklesia is on the secular side on this, stating that faith schools are 90% or even 100% funded by the tax payer and yet they only cater for or prioritise 5% of the population. Faith groups hotly deny that their schools increase divisions of course. Accord is backed by the great secularist celebs, like AC Grayling and Philip Pullman and for the archpriest himself there are no doubts.

It’s easy to make this an abstract issue of principle but it’s more complicated on the ground. In Ealing where I live, a very mixed ethnic and social area of west London, the Christian schools are very popular and have an ethnically mixed intake. Southall which is part of Ealing borough is overwhelmingly Asian and the number of faith schools there is increasing in response to widespread consultation and local polling. A new Sikh school there will reserve 20% of places for non-Sikhs, with priority given to looked after children, i.e. it’s really for the convenience of Sikh nannies. In January 2004 there were almost 7000 state-maintained faith schools in England, making up 36 per cent of primary and 17 per cent of secondary schools. The numbers are growing. While religion has political resonances absent in England, the English trend can only hold back the cause of education together in Northern Ireland.

  • Greagoir O’ Frainclin

    Oh dear!

  • It was one of the first symptons of the type of politician(person) Blair was in the way for his own political gain he backed every shade of faith school that he could exploit.How anybody that had the example of NI to draw on could be in favour of segregated education is beyond me.When these schools are established it is very difficult to backtrack even if it is obvious to anyone with half a brain that at the very least different cultures should be exposed to one another at school age.Unfortunately many people were taken in by the false messiah that they built Tony Blair into.I enjoy all types of culture but any place that wants to call itself a country should have all its children educated together without special faith schools

  • TAFKABO

    Let’s make a deal with believers.

    You keep prayer out of schools, and we’ll keep thought out of church.

  • Essentialist

    Any chance of calling a spade here. The Catholic church and their trustees are the problem. They are the segregationists, inventing a “catholic ethos” to justify their abhorence of the British state or voluntary schools. That unionists have been reluctant or, dare I say, afraid to confront this discrimination is telling.

    TAFKABO hits the nail. Brady’s bunch will resist crying persecution. Withdrawal of funding will quickly sort out the true believers.

  • The Raven

    I’m not usually keen to get into this sort of topic, but I have to agree – to a degree – with Essentialist.

    I used to go with a Catholic School teacher. She always found it incredible that Catholic schools “got away with their recuitment practices”.

    Is there any chance a Catholic School might hire a Protestant teacher, I would ask. “None” she replied, citing the “Catholic ethos” as the reason why. Now this was in Derry. I’m not saying it’s true everywhere. I’m not even saying it was true for all of Derry, and can only go on the anecdotal. Let me make that point clear.

    I’m not very well versed in this sort of thing, but I cannot understand why an excellent teacher wouldn’t get hired simply because of their religion.

    It all seems to different from my own schooling. I went to a grammar school. I know there were a decent proportion of Catholic lads at it. I also know there were Catholic teachers there. So why is the converse so much “less true”.

    My partner went to a Catholic school in North Belfast, and tells me how “we had to start each lesson with a Hail Mary”. In my own school, I remember one A-level teacher who had a very hefty syllabus to get through, berating us for taking too long to get to class. Three minutes per lesson was lost; that was 18 minutes per week; and three hours teaching time per term lost.

    I make the comparison as comment only. I am a firm believer in choice for parents, and that government – and as such, “we the people” – should be paying for it. I just think maybe HOW we manage those choices, and the examples they set, could be just a little better.

  • feismother

    I’m a governor of a Catholic secondary school in Derry and I have appointed non-Catholics to the teaching staff and Catholic children, whether they’ve attended a maintained primary school or not, have no more right to a place in the school than anybody else.

    There is at least one non-Catholic principal of a Catholic grammar school in Northern Ireland.

  • ggn

    If you chose to attend a Catholic school then really you cant complain about prayers being said throughout the day.

    That said in some ways many people would feel that it is either the Catholic system or the state system, where Irish culture is effectively banned, thus making it unsuitable.

    Perhaps the future might bring about greater flexibility, but I doubt it.

  • dodrade

    I hate the use of the term faith schools, let’s call them what they are, sectarian schools.

  • The Raven

    Feismother, you will note that I used the word “anecdotal” in my post. Fair play to you, if this is the case. Would you say, though, that it is the norm? Would you say that here at least, Protestant teachers would see ads for places in Catholic schools, and would think twice before applying?

    By the by there were at least 40 out of 140 lads in my years who were Catholic. Would the same occur in the converse scenario? Has the pressure to attract pupils in the face of a changing demographics meant that this has changed in the 16 years since I was at school?

    I reiterate my first post – I write this as comment only.

  • feismother

    No, we don’t get the level of applications from teacher we could from non-Catholics. That may be because they go elsewhere, or are put off applying or whatever. I’ll give you another anecdote. We had a teaching job going this year and I happened to know that a non-Catholic neighbour was doing a PGCE in that very subject. Of course I couldn’t approach her and say “please apply”. She didn’t. Afterwards I met and asked her why she didn’t. “Oh, we were told (at the English institution where she was studying) not to apply for jobs in Catholic schools here because we’d need Irish and a Catholic teaching certificate”. Indeed I think it’s possible we gave that job to a non-Catholic but since we don’t ask for religion on the application form I can’t be sure. If you were to ask me how many non-Catholics were on our staff I couldn’t be sure because the subject doesn’t normally arise.

    And no, we don’t have many non-Catholic applications to attend the school but then there are no shortage of “good schools” of all types in this area.

  • Tazia Doll

    “and Catholic children, whether they’ve attended a maintained primary school or not, have no more right to a place in the school than anybody else.”

    Just when I was resting my po-Vatican credentials.

    In which case we don’t need the schools do we? It stands to reason, if there is no need for Catholic kids, there is no need for Catholic schools.

    So top marks there.

    Tazia

  • Tazia Doll

    “A new Sikh school there will reserve 20% of places for non-Sikhs, with priority given to looked after children, i.e. it’s really for the convenience of Sikh nannies.”

    Britain is a deeply racist society, Sikh schools are needed for Sikhs. Poles may also find that they need to take the same route.

    There are many schools in England and Wales which wouldn’t tolerate a Pole or Sikh on the premises.

    NI is a bit more liberal than the crowd across the water. However, if our schools did start persecuting Poles or Sikhs, DENI wouldn’t do anything about it.

    DENI didn’t even bother to consult the CCMS about their crucifix plans. We needed a Sikh girl in Wales to save us from that blairism.

    Who for her sins was portrayed as a ‘tub of lard’ on the TES, and ‘tubby’ in popular media.

    Tazia

  • Tazia Doll

    “She always found it incredible that Catholic schools “got away with their recuitment practices”. ”

    I gather Kincora, and Barnardos had probs as well, and that very little has changed.

    Brit teachers are unemployable in my professional opinion. I blanket vet all of them if I’m asked to review applicants to Summer Camps etc.

    I admit that.

    Tazia

  • Tazia Doll

    “TAFKABO hits the nail. Brady’s bunch will resist crying persecution. Withdrawal of funding will quickly sort out the true believers. ”

    I tend to think pay for it yourself, is OK, but there has to be a tax break.

    People shouldn’t have to pay for a state system they’re not using.

    With immigration, schools do all sorts of stuff to bump the influx into somewhere else, I get dozens of complaints each month.

    I am a convinced anglophile, it is just where I am at, as a cultural thing, and I have to concede to being deeply shocked at the racism from one end of the country to the other.

    Catholics have to look after each other. If we don’t protect the tribe we are going to be in big trouble.

    I think there are millions of people, who are upset, at the way Britain is, so, we are back in the 1950s in some respects,

    The Poles certainly need the Catholic schools in Britain. It just gives them a leg-up.

    There is so much unpleasantness and racism in Britin at the moment.

    It is a fairly ‘iffy’ teaching establishment it has to be said, it’s blame free, bad teachers, they don’t get sacked.

    Blame free society.

    Tazia

  • Essentialist

    “There is at least one non-Catholic principal of a Catholic grammar school in Northern Ireland.”

    Posted by feismother on Aug 31, 2008 @ 01:23 PM

    fontsmoother obviously knows that the principal of Dominican College in Portstewart is a Prod, the definition of a token-Prod. He was appointed by the Catholic trustees as a disguise given that the Catholic school would have had to close because of a decline in Catholic pupils attending the grammar school. Non-Catholic pupils make up the numbers attending the grammar to keep it open however there has been no extension of the principle of sharing church owned schools (making them organically integrated). If it works in Portstewart why not elsewhere?
    With the Bishops’ rejection of academic selection the exclusive qualification needed to gain entrance to a Catholic school will be membership of the faith.
    How convenient- a faith based method to avoid rationalisation.
    Trotting out Dominican College as an example of employing non-Catholics exemplifies the extent of deception Catholic school trustees will go to to disguise their sectarianism.

  • The Raven

    Greg, please don’t subvert the topic any more than others have tried to.

    But, on one of your points, “if we don’t protect the tribe we are going to be in big trouble”, I would if you would elaborate?

  • Suilven

    Ah yes, feismother, it’s so easy for non-Catholics to gain promotion in Catholic schools. Let’s have a look at some nice little vignettes from Scotland:

    “A PROTESTANT teacher has been appointed to lead a Scottish Roman Catholic school for the first time.”
    Only for a year, mind, and forced to call herself a “manager of learning” rather than a headteacher by the lovely clerics of the Catholic Church.

    http://news.scotsman.com/latestnews/Protestant-to-take-charge-of.4229207.jp

    “A teacher who is an atheist has won an employment tribunal case in which he claimed he was prevented from applying for promotion at a Catholic school.”

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/4787496.stm

  • Essentialist

    Teachers in Northern Ireland are exempt from fair employment laws.
    http://www.equalityni.org/archive/pdf/TeacherExceptionReportDec04.pdf
    Approximately 85% of teachers in the Controlled schools were from the Protestant community, 5% were from the Roman Catholic community and 10% were from neither community. A similar pattern
    was found in the one Non-Catholic Voluntary School.
    An opposite pattern was found in the Roman Catholic Maintained schools were 98% of teachers were from the Roman Catholic community, less than 1% were from the Protestant community and less than 1% were from neither the Protestant nor the Roman Catholic community.

  • Tazia Doll

    I was called in to talk to the UUP about Catholic recruitment, I just told the what our gig was and that was fine, there was a position.

    I presume the UUP went with the flow, it was a dinner thing, come to think of it. They asked me when I was having dinner.

    Tazia

  • Tazia Doll

    “if we don’t protect the tribe we are going to be in big trouble”, I would if you would elaborate? ”

    I do Catholic stuff, gays, Polish issues, crucifix bans, I work all over the farm,

    Tazia

    Fermanagh Herald

    School badge guidelines on the way

    Tue, May 13, 2008

    “Education Minister, Catriona Ruane has said she hopes to issue guidance to schools before the end of the school year in relation to school uniform policies.

    In reply to a submission from pro-faith campaigner, Gregory Carlin regarding the wearing of religious badges at St. Eugene’s College in Roslea, the Minister said she was working on similar guidelines to those currently issued to English schools.

    Mr Carlin has previously fought for the religious rights of students in England to wear crucifixes and religious symbols of other faiths, and he wrote to the Minister in a bid to secure a freedom of religion for students here. “