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An answer from above?

feature | Published in TES magazine on 23 December, 2011 | By: David Marley

How the Church of England could become the driving force in state education

With local authorities’ power over schools dwindling in the wake of the academies programme, the Church of England is poised to step into the breach. But is this community spirit in action or a religious land-grab? David Marley reports

Walking into the foyer of Chelsea Academy, a secondary in south-west London, visitors are greeted by the kind of bright colour scheme and open- plan interior that would not be out of place at a branch of Ikea. What is striking, however, aside from the lime-green sofas, is the arresting school motto: “Anchored in Christ”.

The academy, which is co-sponsored by the London diocese of the Church of England and the local authority, has high numbers of pupils from different faiths and none. Only a quarter of students are from committed Christian families, but the school is openly dedicated - in a way that would horrify secularists - to spreading gospel teaching and encouraging pupils to continue worshipping long after they have finished their studies.

The head, Andy Yarrow, is well aware that he needs to tread carefully. On the one hand, the local authority has “bought half the places” for local residents, whatever their beliefs. On the other, the school has a religious mission and it would be “tragic” if pupils left having been turned off from Christianity.

“Forced religion is counterproductive,” says Mr Yarrow, himself a practising Christian. “But when children leave Chelsea Academy, I want them to have had an entirely positive and attractive experience of Christianity, so they say, ‘I like that. I want more of that.’

“The great commission that has been given to the Church is to spread the good news of Christ. Church of England schools are about sharing what Christianity means, communicating the gospel message, but they are also about unconditionally loving and serving the world.”

The honest way in which Mr Yarrow describes the dual role of the academy as both community school and unashamed promoter of the faith is the kind of thing that has some critics spitting about state-sponsored proselytism. But the school is a fine example of how the Church has grasped the opportunity to extend its reach by opening dozens of academies.

Now, as the educational landscape undergoes a seismic shift designed to sideline local authorities for good, the CofE is again poised to take advantage. And if its plans play out, it will gain vast new influence over not only its own schools, but also over a host of non-faith community schools. In many areas, it looks increasingly likely to fill the vacuum left as the formerly powerful local authorities wither away, and it is even paving the way for more schools to convert to full CofE status.

In the words of the Archbishop of Canterbury this autumn, the Church is faced with the “breathtaking” prospect of becoming the dominant force in state education.

This possibility will prove highly contentious, not only with established secular campaign groups but also with those parents who want an education for their children free of religious influence. Fears will be raised that the Church is attempting to colonise state education to evangelise and create new followers.

It is not as if the Church is without form in wanting to extend its reach in education. According to the Bishop of Oxford, the Right Reverend John Pritchard, who chairs the CofE national board of education, the past decade has already seen “the most significant expansion of places” in the past 200 years, with the creation of more than 100 new schools.

It is fitting that the Church’s plans for its next big step in education should begin to emerge as it celebrates the 200th anniversary of its National Society - the country’s first national network of schools. Within 40 years of it being established, and still long before the state took any responsibility for education, the Church had opened 12,000 schools.

The overall number it runs today is smaller, but its stake in primary education is still highly significant: with around 4,600 schools, one in four of all primaries is CofE. Its role in 11-18 education is less substantial, with its 240-odd schools accounting for only 6 per cent of secondaries.

Considering the enduring popularity of Church schools with a large number of parents - which often has little to do with religious conviction - there is room for the CofE to do more, especially with older pupils. It is suffering from falling attendance in church on Sundays, but it has a brand recognition in education that all levels of the clergy know is ripe for the picking.

Bishop Pritchard has already spoken of the chance for non-church schools to affiliate with their local diocese as academy status becomes the norm and local authorities are left to “wither on the vine”. A major review of how the CofE should capitalise on this is now under way.

The Church School of the Future, due to report next March, is examining the whole territory of school reform. It will look at what dioceses should do to cope with their schools becoming academies and with the school improvement issues that have been the traditional preserve of local authorities.

But it will also examine how dioceses can affiliate with non-CofE schools, filling the void when schools are looking for support. This is likely to take a number of forms, including community schools converting to full CofE status, increased academy sponsorship and looser partnerships that will allow the Church to work with unprecedented numbers of schools not currently linked to the religion.

In a speech in September, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, said there was interest from “many, many” community schools in working more closely with the Church.

Discussions are also in progress with the Department for Education about how the process for community schools wishing to become CofE faith academies can be made quicker and easier. At present, there have to be separate consultations dealing with academy and faith proposals, but plans are being devised that would allow them to be combined.

Part of the family

According to Rob Gwynne, the CofE’s head of school strategy, this is to make the process easier for parents to understand. But the suggestion that the faith status of a school should be wrapped up in academy conversion - which already has clear political backing from Whitehall - and need not be separately debated will raise obvious concerns with those opposed to the Church expanding its influence.

“The steps we are taking (with the review) will ensure that the family of church schools will continue to exist and retain their distinctiveness,” says Dr Gwynne. “The other part of it is that there is an evident interest from non-church schools in becoming part of the church school family.

“What we do see year on year is a number of community schools that want to take on Church designation. It’s of their own volition, not because of marketing or pushing on our part. In the new equation, a lot of schools are looking for a safe haven and the diocese is often seen as that.”

It is expected that the new extended family of schools linked to their dioceses will include significant numbers of primary schools, which may struggle to generate the economies of scale to operate on their own.

“The authority has been the umbilical cord that has supported them and enabled them to get on with their work,” says Dr Gwynne. “If local authorities continue to decline in influence and capacity, then you are suddenly left wondering, ‘Who am I going to turn to?’

“If there is - as is the case with our diocesan boards of education - a significant infrastructure that you might have something in common with, then it’s an obvious place to go looking.”

The review - which is being carried out by Dr Priscilla Chadwick, who was the first female chairman of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference group of major independent schools - will also look at how the Church can extend its involvement in free schools and even vocationally focused university technical colleges.

While it is not a business, the CofE knows the importance of market share in education, especially when its influence in other areas of public life is at risk.

Recent history suggests that it would be a mistake to consider Dr Chadwick’s review as merely paying lip service to the reshaping of the school system. The Church knows the changes are too significant to ignore - a point made clear by the dropping of its opposition to outstanding schools being allowed to become academies when that became the politically prudent course of action.

The CofE had supported the original academies policy, aimed at improving educational chances of pupils in the most disadvantaged parts of the country, and is currently sponsoring 45 of the schools. But when the Coalition wanted high-performing schools to join the programme, the CofE - along with the Catholic Church - objected.

This was partly to do with moral concerns about a policy they feared could entrench disadvantage in certain areas, but it was also because of the risks to diocesan influence over schools given new independence. As soon as a deal was done that guaranteed existing diocesan power - and when faced with the sheer number of schools taking up the Government offer to convert - the Church opposition was abandoned.

As one senior cleric admits, it was an example of political pragmatism trumping genuine fears about the potential impact of the Government’s programme. Already, around 100 high-performing CofE schools have switched to academy status, and the Church is now focusing its battles with the Government on other areas, such as the exclusion of RE from the controversial English Baccalaureate.

The academy programme has been a major success for the Church in growing its educational mission, but it was already in an expansionist mood when the policy came along. In 2001, the Dearing report, commissioned by the Church, examined how its schools should be developed in the new millennium. It fully acknowledged that education was of “central importance” to the mission of the Church and even its long-term future.

Significantly, Lord Dearing called for the creation of secondary school places equivalent to 100 new schools.

More than 70 new schools were created before the academy programme launched, meaning that the overall number of new schools now totals more than 100 in just 10 years. When the Church sets its mind on expanding its reach in education, its ability to deliver should not be in doubt.

The fallout from the Occupy London protest at St Paul’s Cathedral gave the Church some of its worst headlines in years, painting a picture of an organisation that is out of touch and indecisive. But the Dearing report and the rapid response to the academy revolution show how far that is from the case with education.

According to Dr Gwynne, the dioceses are already working to build capacity so they are able to meet the new challenges. And while staff at the CofE headquarters in Church House, a stone’s throw from Westminster Abbey, will draw up what the broad response to Government education policy should be, it will be down to the 43 local dioceses to decide how to enact it.

In Kent, the Canterbury diocese has been working on establishing formal collaborative relationships between different types of schools - faith and secular - since the summer. In part this will be pooling buying power to get cheaper deals, but it will also involve sharing good teaching practice and continuing professional development training. Reverend Nigel Genders, the director of education, insists that it will be down to the schools involved whether they want to involve the Church, but that it would be natural for the diocese to want a “seat at the table”.

The diocese has already held a series of meetings to discuss the idea further, involving heads and governors from faith and non-faith schools. It is keen to emphasise that this should not be read as the Church trying to “colonise” other schools. But regardless of the reassurances that it is not interested in a land-grab, the diocese is keen to expand its reach and does not see why it should lose out to the competition from other chain sponsors to run academies.

The diocese is currently working on a groundbreaking set of plans that would allow it to sponsor community schools that are becoming academies without them becoming designated faith schools - a model that does not presently exist.

“We would see that part of our future is being able to offer that kind of provision and support to community schools if they desire it, particularly where the Department for Education is forcing the academy model on schools,” says Reverend Genders. “We could be a sponsor just as (the) Harris (Federation) or others might be able to.

“We are already hearing from schools who are interested and who think we would be a good and useful partner. Schools locally are saying we see what you are doing and we are very keen to be part of that.”

In York, the diocese has launched a pilot scheme that has already led to two non-church schools entering into a formal affiliation. Canon Dr Ann Lees, director of education, says these were schools that did not want to become faith schools, but wanted access to greater support.

Similar to Canterbury, the diocese is looking to expand its affiliation scheme, especially as more schools work in clusters. “It is something we are actively looking to develop as we feel there will be a need for it,” says Dr Lees. “As we look at how the education world is changing, we need to be ready to respond, be more flexible and expand provision where it is needed.”

The diocese is also looking at how it can sponsor more academies, especially community schools that might want to become faith schools. Like Reverend Genders, Dr Lees is aware that this could look like “empire building” - she insists it is not. “It is an opportunity for the Church to adapt to new challenges and focus on serving the needs of young people,” she says. “We are in a period of substantial change and need to look at how our mission plays out in new circumstances.”

Aiming high

Undoubtedly, some dioceses will be more entrepreneurial in their approach to the changes in education than others, and will be more proactive in trying to expand their work.

The Government wants a more diverse range of providers to run schools and, following in Labour’s footsteps, has supported the expansion of faith- based education. It lifted a ban on Christian charity United Learning Trust running more academies; has overseen the growth of Oasis Academies, led by Baptist minister Steve Chalke; and approved the opening of 11 free schools with a religious or spiritual ethos in September.

Before these changes were brought in, the CofE, along with the Catholic Church, was squarely in the position of being the only game in town when it came to alternative providers. Now they know there is competition and that they will have to fight their corner.

At the moment, the Catholic Church does not have plans to evolve in the same way as the CofE. Maeve McCormack, policy and briefing manager at the Catholic Education Service, says that it may happen in the future, but not yet. “We would not rule it out, but we will wait and see what happens with the Church of England and take it from there,” she says.

The education secretary is looking for hard-edged accountability from whoever is running schools. If the CofE is to exploit its position and grow its influence, it will need to prove it can deliver. The history of Church provision - and the fact that it already educates around one million children - will carry it some considerable distance.

That said, the role of dioceses has previously been more to do with overseeing ethos and mission than standards. “If that isn’t going to be the case going forward, the Government needs to be convinced that the Church can do the job,” says Dr Gwynne. “We are working out how to go with that grain of Government policy, but also assert what is ours. There is a great deal of detailed work going on. There is a big game in play.”

The CofE’s critics attack it on two fronts: the fact that it is given such a prominent role in education in an increasingly secular country, and how much the success of its schools is down to an admissions policy skewed towards awarding places to middle-class pupils.

Terry Sanderson, director of the National Secular Society, says that while the Church may talk of wanting to improve schools, there is a clear ulterior motive.

“The Church is ambitious to influence the whole education system,” he says. “Education has become the raison d’etre for the Church of England as fewer and fewer people are bothered about their primary purpose any more. There is no doubt that there is evangelising in schools in an attempt to create new Christians.”

Jonathan Bartley, co-director of think-tank Ekklesia, which examines the role of religion in public life, says the Church is unwilling to face up to problems regarding school admissions.

“Schools are claiming to be inclusive, but are taking way below the national average when it comes to children who are vulnerable, have special educational needs and are from deprived backgrounds,” he says. “The Church already runs a significant number of schools and is clearly failing in some respects. It might want to move into other areas, but I don’t know if it has the track record to show it will be a success. Its results are down to a form of selection.”

Regardless of these concerns, the Church is set for an ever more powerful role in state education, an idea that has already won support from Michael Gove. “I don’t think we should interpret what’s happening as some kind of clerical takeover,” Mr Gove told TES. “It’s not like the dissolution of the monasteries being reversed with our children’s education being placed in the hands of monks and abbots. The truth is that CofE schools are generally popular and the direction of travel we want to go is to give more responsibility to schools that have proven successful.”

So, the ball is in the CofE’s court. According to Mr Yarrow at Chelsea Academy, the Church must be wary of affiliating with all-comers. There is a brand to protect that is in danger of being watered down should the tenets of the faith be replaced with a more general focus on community, charity and volunteering. “CofE schools don’t have the monopoly on those,” says Mr Yarrow. But the Church must still grasp the opportunity to promote the faith through education and expand its influence where it can.

“The Church has to relate to contemporary society,” he says. “It might be presenting some very traditional and timeless beliefs and values, but if it doesn’t meet people where they are at, it is unlikely to be highly effective.

“The secular and humanist argument against us will fall on deaf ears because the market says, ‘We want more Church schools’.”

UNDER THE INFLUENCE

1m - Children attending CofE schools

15m - People alive today who attended a CofE school

25% of all primary and middle schools are CofE

6% of all secondary schools are CofE

22% of all independent schools declare themselves to be CofE

Source: Church of England

OPEN AND SHUT

Faith schools have long been accused of enjoying exam success and good reputations because of skewed admissions that favour middle-class parents.

At the moment only around half the CofE’s schools control their own admissions, with the other half bound by their local council’s admissions rules.

The Bishop of Oxford, John Pritchard, chair of the Church’s national board of education, has predicted that 70 per cent of CofE schools will become academies in the next five years, giving schools more power over who they admit.

But Bishop Pritchard has called on schools to cut the number of places they reserve for followers of the faith, suggesting a cap of 10 per cent.


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Comment (23)

  • shame shame shame upon Gove and Cameron for actively enabling the churches to increase their stranglehold on our education system, in the face of an exponential decrease in religion in this country.
    BSA Survey reveals:
    No religion 51%. Christian 43% (CofE 20% RC 8+% Remainder 14+%), leaving 6% of other faiths or declined to reply.
    Shame, too, though to a lesser extent, upon our teachers and their unions for not fighting harder to resist this major step backwards into a medieval mind-set.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    11:57
    23 December, 2011

    jamesjones950

  • Well done Clegg, enabling the' Tory Party at Prayer' to infest us all once again.

    Nice Xmas present, Gove, Cameron - an increasingly fragmented education system based on those oh so wonderful Victorian Values. Soon all our schools will look like your own private prep schools. How sweet, and how good for us plebs, too.

    Why, I feel a doffing of me 'at coming on, Sirs. A merry Christmas, Sirs. And to attack Local Authority democracy as well? Why Sirs, that's just an added bonus!

    You shouldn't have.

    No, really. You SHOULDN'T have.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    12:33
    23 December, 2011

    SonofAlex

  • History shows that all organised religions FEAR education.

    Once again the pathetic excuse for an 'explanation' of life, the universe & everything tries to take charge of education.

    Reloigion is about ideology, it is about blind acceptance of faith & belief and has nothing to do with education.

    Religion closes minds while education opens minds up.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    11:32
    29 December, 2011

    Brooke Bond

  • The education system in our country is a product of the church. It's good news that the church can wipeout those secular opinions that crush the truth.
    There is enough terror and hopelessness in out society, let us all allow our young pupils to open their hearts to Christ and experience His hope, peace, joy and love. I think pope Benedict perhaps said it best: the job of a teacher is to educate the child as a whole; in addition to this, the blessed responsibility of a Christian teacher is to allow a child to become a saint - something we are all capable of. It's about time we fill this country with love. Merry CHRISTmas one and all!

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    0:45
    31 December, 2011

    08007844

  • Do we owe the church a debt for setting up schools? Is the education in this country really a PRODUCT of christianity?

    No and no.

    Evidence shows that many church schools in the past (pre-1944) excluded non-conformists, non-christians, women & the poor. Without the 1944 education act we'd still be experiencing this kind of christian education. Evidence shows that the church in this country ran an exclusion system until secular authorities changed that.

    Quote: 'There is enough terror and hopelessness in out society, let us all allow our young pupils to open their hearts to Christ and experience His hope, peace, joy and love.'

    Evidence clearly shows that the 'terror' in this society is a product of faith & belief. Science shows us hope while christianity tells us to accept our fate; how is that for hopelessness? The message of christ is at best mixed. How do you talk of 'peace' when jesus is quoted as saying: "I did not come to bring peace, but a sword"?

    Evidence shows that Pope Benedict was a member of the Nazi Party during WW2; I really don't care to listen to what ex-Nazi's say about teachers.

    You have fallen into a trap of thinking that the celebrations around 25th Dec are a celebration of your made-up christ. The current celebrations are a mixture of pagan festivals and worship of sun-gods like Horus upon which your jesus fella was modelled.

    Happy stolen-pagan-event!

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    11:04
    31 December, 2011

    Brooke Bond

  • Hi, Brooke Bond.
    From your style of writing you appear to be very angry and annoyed. I've been there, receive Jesus into your life, as little as 10 mins a day and your life will be transformed. Take care and be at peace, bud.

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    11:01
    1 January, 2012

    08007844

  • Hi sun-shine,

    My 'style of writing' reflects nothing of the sort. I am perplexed that the CofE is attempting to extend it's influence over vulnerable young minds and I, along with many others, will do everything in our powers to stop this extension or irrational and deluded thinking.

    Quote: 'I've been there, receive Jesus into your life.....'

    Speaking of delusions; if you find muttering to yourself and praying to imaginary dead-friends useful for dealing with the complex issues of life, the universe & everything, then go ahead and do it. Please don't ask others to join in your personal journey into madness; 10 minutes a day is an awful lot of time to waste talking to yourself. If you had friends you could try talking to them about it.

    Have fun.

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    19:16
    2 January, 2012

    Brooke Bond

  • If I have to be in an academy, I'd rather be sponsored by an organisation promoting values rather than looking to make a fast buck.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    9:21
    3 January, 2012

    Z17

  • The statement 'promoting values' is rather too open ended and covers a number of ideas both good & bad. If you think that 'promoting values' covers religious organisations then think again.

    The jewish community force genital mutilation onto all baby boys born into the community. The removal of bits of a young boys penis cannot be considered in any way as 'promoting values'. I could say the same thing about female genital mutilation & Islam but some will point out that not all Islam requires FGM. Either way promoting an acceptance of any form of genital mutilation for any non-medical reason cannot be considered in any way as 'promoting values' that I or any decent thinking human could agree with.

    The Catholic church and its record on NOT cooperating with local police authorities on the subject of pedophile priests cannot be considered in any way as 'promoting values' that I or any decent thinking human could agree with.

    The promotion of creationism in evangelical schools, catholic schools & Islamic schools ahead of genuine peer reviewed science cannot be considered in any way as 'promoting values'. In fact the promotion of LAZY WAYS OF THINKING (eg god-did-it) is in itself a denial of the fundamental basis of what education 'is'.

    I could go on, but what is the point? Religion is a daft idea whatever the particular god from zeus to jesus; in fact all religious people are atheists as far as 99.9999% of all gods are concerned.

    There is no evidence that you need a belief in god, the tooth fairy or santa claus to run an ''organisation promoting values rather than looking to make a fast buck''. In fact I'd say that the CofE has one eye set on promoting itself in education as a means to the 'fast buck'.

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    12:20
    3 January, 2012

    Brooke Bond

  • David Marley wrote the article above; I do think it comes across as broadly supporting the CofE without any critical analysis of what THAT entails.

    Tauheedul Islam Girls High School use one of Davids articles for publicity: http://www.tauheedul.com/newsarticle/926 In this sense he is caught actively promoting religion.

    At least in http://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=6082592 David did appear to be against creationism.

    I do think the article needed a critical eye running over it asking why 70 per cent of CofE schools will become academies in the next five years, and what giving THESE schools more power over who they admit will do to the social justice agenda of this country.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    12:32
    3 January, 2012

    Brooke Bond

  • http://chelsea-academy.org/

    Quote from the web-site: 'Chelsea Academy is sponsored by the London Diocesan Board for Schools and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. The Sponsors' vision is for a school that serves its local community and has a distinctive Christian ethos.'

    If you follow links to the school 'ethos' you'll find stuff about 'guided by Christian values.....' and '......achieve within the context of a Christian community'. Not much 'spreading gospel teaching and encouraging pupils to continue worshipping long after they have finished their studies' as David Morely states in his article. If the school are openly recruiting for their brand of delusional muck spreading, they are hiding it well off their web-site. Are they ashamed? Or is David doing the old stretching-the-truth journalism bit?

    The worst excess of faith/belief I found was on http://chelsea-academy.org/about_us/faqs/christian_ethos.html

    Quote: 'The daily life of the Academy presents opportunities for students to learn about Christian beliefs and engage in acts of worship, under the leadership of senior staff.'

    Hardly rampant!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    20:31
    3 January, 2012

    Brooke Bond

  • Brooke Bond, no one is out to hoodwink anyone or to delude anyone, if you send your child to a C of E school then you are making a choice, a choice for your child to be taught in an environment which will encourage them to feel cherished, significant and responsible for their impact on the world. This would be in stark contrast to the ideology of pleasure-seeking, intellect is best, look out for yourself and never care about anyone else attitude which is nurtured in many schools across the country at present.
    Secondly, I think you misunderstand, C of E wants to evangelise so that people can have their lives improved not led into despair. Hope, as another commentator has mentioned, is in short supply in post-modern Britain why are you so determined to prevent people from making their own decisions about this.
    The most important point here is that what the C of E is trying to do is SUPPORT schools who are being made into academies because of financial pressures on government. These pressures have been caused because of a lack of moral financial regulation allowing ordinary people to pick up the burden of banks over lending in ways that have led to financial ruin for vast numbers. Support which has been stripped away from teachers and students because of money being removed from LAs.
    Brooke, send your children to secular schools but allow other parents to have choice. Give people the freedom to make their own minds up without trying to strip liberty away from those who seek a fair, egalitarian society rather than a money focused, self-interested society which talks about community but has no interest in it.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    16:29
    4 January, 2012

    Jolly_penguin

  • I am an atheist teacher of Religious Education, and I find it a shame to read comments stating that "organised religion has always been opposed to education", such comments certainly show a lack of education on behalf of those writing such things!
    Many academies have been funded by religious organisations, but many that I am aware of actually refuse to proselytize within the lessons of the schools, especially Religious Education.
    I find it a shame that there is a lack of interest from Humanist organisations or charities, if they are concerned about the growth of faith schools then they need to put their money into educational investment.
    Finally, a large number of CofE school simply teach a "Christian ethos" they are not aiming to make students believe in Creationism. I support the decision of Churches to be involved in education, as long as other religions and non-faith communities do so also, and that education is approached in an open-minded and balanced manner.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    17:01
    4 January, 2012

    IanSmith1979

  • Jolly P,
    If nobody is being deluded then feel free to offer the evidence needed to indicate that 'god' isn't a delusion. BTW, the opposite of believing in nonsense isn't armageddon; ethically it is more easy to defend. What EXACTLY is a post modern Britain? I bet you can't answer that without an ideological rant. The CofE is power grabbing and merely supporting it's own lonely existence.

    Faith schools are not a choice for pupils, only a choice for their parents. Don't try selling this as anything else but indoctrination, it isn't.

    Quote: ' I support the decision of Churches to be involved in education, as long as other religions and non-faith communities do so also, and that education is approached in an open-minded and balanced manner.'

    Open-minded? How on earth can a belief be described as open-minded? For genuine open-minded education you need evidence not faith.

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    22:56
    4 January, 2012

    Brooke Bond

  • Ian Smith,
    I simply don't believe you are an atheist. An agnostic maybe, but not a fully functioning rational human otherwise why would you teach RE? I can evidence the opposition of all major religions to education, that is why I made the remark.

    Quote: 'I find it a shame that there is a lack of interest from Humanist organisations or charities, if they are concerned about the growth of faith schools then they need to put their money into educational investment.'

    Why would Humanist organisations or charities want to interfere in education? Schools should be organised by a secular state, not a bunch of free-loading religious losers. Religious institutions see 'education' purely in terms of indoctrination; that is why they are exploiting the current Tory agenda.

    Quote: 'Finally, a large number of CofE school simply teach a "Christian ethos" they are not aiming to make students believe in Creationism.'

    Show me one catholic or muslim school NOT teaching creationism. Not all CofE schools do it but I know of a few. If only one school teaches creationism in the name of 'faith'; that is all the evidence I need to say faith schools are nonsense.

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    23:07
    4 January, 2012

    Brooke Bond

  • Jolly P,

    Sorry I got my quotes mixed up.

    Quote: 'Give people the freedom to make their own minds up without trying to strip liberty away from those who seek a fair, egalitarian society rather than a money focused, self-interested society which talks about community but has no interest in it.'

    Freedom? Indoctrinating young impressionable minds into total gibberish about made up fairies and elves isn't 'freedom'. Educate people in a secular way and let them make their minds up at aged 18; that is freedom! The money crazed society we live in is built on the support of your Christian Tory Party.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    23:12
    4 January, 2012

    Brooke Bond

  • Brooke, clearly you have no concept of what actually happens in an RE classroom these days. So you can't accept that an atheist could teach RE? Strange, it sounds like you are holding on to your belief system about the subject instead of accepting the empirical evidence in front of you that I am an atheist and that I am an RE teacher.
    Maybe you should visit an actual classroom once in a while and witness some modern RE teaching, you may be surpised to see how open minded we can be.

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    13:39
    5 January, 2012

    IanSmith1979

  • @08007844 and @BrookeBond. The spread of a little love and respect would be a good thing, in education as anywhere else, but neither Christianity nor faith-based religion in general has any credentials that can lay claim to the golden rule.

    I'm frankly embarrassed at the quality of arguments from atheist / BHA / New-Humanist supporters (I'm a fully paid-up BHA member myself). Theist / Faith-based-religion is dangerous old superstition that needs to be educated out of society, not replaced with a baying mob with anti-theist rhetoric.

    (ps RE and faith-based-religion are two entirely different things)

    As to the original story - I certainly hope the government produces a sensible response to any campaign by churches to take over secular institutions opportunistically, caused by the original mistake of making opt-outs too easy. They must be the exception. In a democracy the state has a natural monopoly on education, which should not be left to markets.

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    15:05
    5 January, 2012

    psybertron

  • Ian,

    Quote: 'Brooke, clearly you have no concept of what actually happens in an RE classroom these days. So you can't accept that an atheist could teach RE?'

    Do Chemistry teachers teach Alchemy in science lessons? Do Geography teachers teach flat-earth ideas in Geography? Then why would an atheist teach anything about god? Why? As a classroom teacher of over 25 years standing I've never understood why RE is taught in schools when Alchemy isn't and tooth fairy fables aren't and Santa Claus studies isn't etc

    Quote: 'Strange, it sounds like you are holding on to your belief system about the subject instead of accepting the empirical evidence in front of you that I am an atheist and that I am an RE teacher.'

    I said I didn't believe you were an atheist as I hadn't seen any empirical evidence and I still haven't. The word of someone who teaches RE isn't 'empirical evidence' in my book.

    Quote: 'Maybe you should visit an actual classroom once in a while and witness some modern RE teaching, you may be surpised to see how open minded we can be.'

    Modern RE teaching? The only 'modern' thing that needs to be taught in RE is that long ago in the bronze age many people made up myths & legends to ward off fears of the unknown; today we can laugh at these myths & legends while gradually seeking out evidence based, peer reviewed up-to-date 'knowledge'. In order for RE to be considered 'open-minded' one must first subject it to an evidence test, that done we can remove it from the curriculumn and get on teaching evidence based, peer reviewed up-to-date 'knowledge'.

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    15:43
    5 January, 2012

    Brooke Bond

  • psybertron ,

    Quote: 'The spread of a little love and respect would be a good thing, in education as anywhere else, but neither Christianity nor faith-based religion in general has any credentials that can lay claim to the golden rule.'

    I'm not against a little (or a lot) of love; but evidence reveals that nobody will find THAT in the christian bible. As for 'respect'; one cannot respect made up myths & legends designed to frighten vulnerable young people and offer them ideas which aren't true. Would we respect people who genuinely believed in fairies, witches or spider-man? Then why should we respect religious belief? Or believers in religious belief?

    Quote: 'I'm frankly embarrassed at the quality of arguments from atheist / BHA / New-Humanist supporters (I'm a fully paid-up BHA member myself). Theist / Faith-based-religion is dangerous old superstition that needs to be educated out of society, not replaced with a baying mob with anti-theist rhetoric.'

    I also am a fully paid-up BHA member, and I feel that the QUALITY of argument concerning Theist / Faith-based-religion and other dangerous old superstitions, that need to be educated out of society, is frankly excellent. It basically consists of ''show me the evidence for that statement''; I have yet to see anyone on the side of Theist / Faith-based-religion and other dangerous old superstitions give a credible answer. While they can't offer credible answers their argument is lost; how is that poor quality?

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    15:54
    5 January, 2012

    Brooke Bond

  • Wow! I've spent longer reading this than intended! I am a teacher and I am a mother of a 12 year old who started Secondary school in August. His experience of secondary school has been very positive so far. However I'm continually frustrated by the RME homework that comes home. It's pointless, it's in no way helping to shape my son, it is not open minded and it is delivered by a young teacher who has no passion for her subject and gains no respect from her pupils due to her very poor classroom methods. I cannot even say that it provides experience of study skills that he may find useful in future. I have complained and it's amazing how the ranks close when a parent mentions the possibility of alternative arrangements instead of taking part in the class, which is a right. I know my son is well rounded with good morals and has enough of an understanding of world faiths and cultures from primary school and our travels and discussions at home. Give him another period of PE I say!

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    17:42
    5 January, 2012

    crlln_lttl

  • crlln_lttl

    My kids are in their mid-20's now and both consider their RE lessons as a complete waste of time. One is as atheist as her dad the other found god but the rest of us still didn't see him hiding!

    I have never found a theist or an atheist who had a positive experience of RE who wasn't actually teaching it. My own experience of RE in the 1970's was drawing maps of obscure regions of the middle east, completing word searches & filling in the missing gaps on worksheets; from covering lessons and talking to today's pupils RE hasn't changed much.

    You say: 'my son is well rounded with good morals and has enough of an understanding of world faiths'. 99% of the population manage to reach that state despite the subject of RE and in direct contradiction to the teachings of most theists! I also say: Give the kids more PE!

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    13:16
    6 January, 2012

    Brooke Bond

  • The sight of the established church, not content with implementing through its school admission policies the most vigorous campaign for the promotion of mass hypocrisy this side of North Korea, slavering over the dismembered remains of democratically elected local government like a pack of pious hyenas is stomach-churning.
    Fortunately there is ample evidence that the promotion of religion in schools has negligible, or even negative, effects on their alumni. But the exemptions from normal recruitment constraints generously bestowed on religious organisations by a succession of forelock-tugging governments mean that the career prospects of teachers who openly declare their atheist or secularist credentials will become severely limited. One or two aspects of The American Way are admirable - but this is not one of them.

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    19:53
    6 January, 2012

    cbaily

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