According to Oona Stannard, the director of the Catholic Education Service (CES), it is "spurious to suggest that to take away a religious community's right to firstly educate its own children and to instead give preference to others, for example, by introducing a 30% non-faith quota for Church schools, would aid social cohesion."
Really? As someone whose teaching career has been solely in the VA RC sector, I would argue that it is neither spurious nor contrary to the mission of the Church. Indeed, I would go further and challenge the CES to publish a complete list of Catholic schools - particularly secondaries - where it is already customary that between 20-30% of the intake is from other faith (or non-faith) backgrounds.I personally welcomed the Lord's amendment to the Education and Inspection Bill on admissions to schools with a religious character, along with other possible changes to the government's code on admissions. At the time I argued that such a proposal would signal a positive move towards greater social and educational inclusion. A truly "Christian school" would be one that seeks to be open to all - and which pays particular attention to the needs of marginalised and poorer communities.
What is needed is a mature, open and honest debate about the type of educational system various faith groups would be happy to support and indeed help shape in the twenty-first century. Should it be an inclusive, comprehensive system that intrinsically values and caters for all pupils regardless of their spiritual, economic or social capital? Or should it be a two tier, elitist system that perpetuates privilege, does not help promote the common good and is contrary to the message of the gospel?
If you are interested in this topic then why not attend Comprehensive Future's parliamentary seminar (Faith schools - selection by the back door?) on Tuesday May 22nd (5.30pm in Portcullis House).
The event will be chaired by David Chaytor MP and the speakers are Sarah Tough, author of the recent IPPR report on school admissions, Rev Jan Ainsworth Church of England Chief Education Officer and Professor Anne West who will talk about her latest research.
If you are interested in attending email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org