Friday, May 18, 2007

Faith schools - back door selection?

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:


Leila said...

I see no reason for the CESEW to respond to your 'challenge'; they've never heard of you.
Your argument, if it can be called that, is an eccentric, not to say, intellectually incoherent one.
Not only is it not unreasonable for oversubscribed Catholic schools to prioritise Catholic applicants; it most certainly would be contrary to the Church's mission and utterly irrational to turn Catholic pupils away from Catholic schools which is what would have happened had the Lord's amendment been passed.
Expressing a desire for a 'mature, open and honest debate' about faith schools is not achieved by flinging those adjectives around.
Come to think of it, its not furthered by giving credence to the specious arguments of those who oppose the existence of faith schools altogether.
If you are as interested - as you claim you are - in Catholic schools being more 'inclusive' (whatever that means) you should logically call for a radical expansion of Catholic schools.

Mike Ion said...

'I see no reason for the CESEW to respond to your 'challenge'; they've never heard of you.' I am suggesting that the CES comes out and debates the issue more openly - not that it responds to me.

I am sorry that you believe my argument to eccentric and incoherent - I am simply putting the case that all faith schools should be willing to set aside a % of places for pupils of other faiths or none. I fail to see the incoherence or indeed the eccentricity of this position.

Rather than take such an aggressive and defensive stance it would be better (surely) if you and others could take a more fair-minded approach to the issue and desist from comments attacking the poster/commentator.