Faith schools should be phased out

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faith schoolsLeaders of the National Union of Teachers are expected to demand that the country's 7,000 state-funded faith schools be phased out because education is becoming segregated.

The union is also expected to push for daily Christian assemblies to be scrapped to allow schools to reflect all faiths or offer no worship at all.

It forms part of the NUT's support for the creation of a wholly secular school system when they convene for their annual Easter conference in Cardiff.

They will say that existing faith schools should first be stripped of their right to select pupils based on their religious adherence.

Delegates will also debate a call for active campaigning against all proposals for new faith schools.

The drive to remove faith schools would put the union at odds with ministers, who have encouraged an expansion of faith schools in line with parental demand and solicited sponsorship of flagship new academies by religious organisations.

Faith schools are also supported by many parents, while the churches reject accusations their schools are divisive

Currently there are 7,000 faith primaries and secondaries, most of them Christian, either Church of England, Roman Catholic or Methodist.

The rest consist of 36 Jewish schools, six Muslim, two Sikh and one Hindu, Greek Orthodox and Seventh Day Adventist

NUT members will debate a motion tabled by Brent-based delegate, Hank Roberts, stating that religious groups, of whatever faith, should have no place in the control and management of schools.

It goes on to claim that: "access to education segregated on the basis of faith, ethnicity or social class undermines community cohesion".

The union's leadership is prepared to back the long-term call for a single community system that covers all schools.

However it would prefer to put the emphasis of campaigning on trying to prevent faith schools using admissions policies that give priority to members of the faith.

Christine Blower, NUT general secretary, said: "Faith schools can't be fully promoting social and community cohesion if their prime responsibility is only to select pupils of a particular faith.

"Our preference would be that their admissions arrangements are on the basis of proximity to the school, rather than faith."

Members of a second classroom union, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, meeting this week in Liverpool, will debate calls for the compulsory daily act of Christian worship to be scrapped.

Schools should be able to celebrate Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu and Sikh religious festivals when they like rather than holding a daily assembly with hymns and prayers, delegates will be told.

Under current laws, all secular state schools are supposed to offer a daily act of worship of a 'broadly Christian' nature.
Parents can withdraw their children and schools can also apply to local boards to drop the 'Christian' element.

Gareth Lewis, a member of ATL's ruling executive in Wales, will propose a motion calling for the law to be dropped because compulsory worship in schools is an 'antiquated' idea.

"I'm not against worship in schools. Assemblies are valuable for schools to set standards and create ethos,' he said.
'But forcing children to take part in a religious assembly every day just devalues the whole concept."

He said worship had become a tick box exercise aimed at impressing school inspectors, and had led to farcical scenes involving children being urged to "pray louder" when inspection teams were visiting.


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