Leicester Secular Society


Educational Issues

Collected here are some news items and opinions posted on the LSS Yahoo group and elsewhere, mainly from Allan Hayes, our educational expert. They are given in reverse date order: most recent at top. There are some further miscellaneous links at the end. See also other pages in this education section covering history of education, catholic schools, academies etc.

15 Nov 06: Petition agaiinst faith schools: Petition PM.

Petition against 'sect' schools: Petition Online.

11 Aug 06: MPs say RE should be optional over 15. This follows similar recommendation with regard to collective worship. My own view is that this will provoke a radical rethink of what RE is about. TES

22 July 06: School worship rule to be relaxed: BBC News article Pupils 16 and over will be able to decide for themselves whether or not to attend the collective act of worship.

Free transport to faith schools axed (in Hertfordshire): Hertford news.

Allan wrote: I add another account of the collective worship changes showing the important role played by the NSS.


The Government has accepted that it is almost certainly a breach of human rights to force pupils of 16 and over to attend collective worship in schools if it is against their conscience. It now intends to amend the law accordingly. At present, collective worship is mandatory in all schools, religious and otherwise, right up through sixth form colleges, unless parents specifically request their children to be excluded.

In the House of Lords on Tuesday, Lord Adonis Government spokesman for Education in the Lords accepted the principle of allowing sixteen year olds and over to exempt themselves from worship in schools.

The amendment to the Education and Inspections Bill was proposed by Lib Dem peer Baroness Walmsley, who argued that "there is no justification for forcing young people to take part in a religious service with which they do not agree. Freedom of worship, or non-worship in this case, is a basic part of our rights as citizens of a free country. It is totally contradictory to say we think young people are old enough at 16 to work and pay taxes, get married and even fight for their country but then not give them the right to choose whether they participate in worship. Forcing young people to attend religious services is self-defeating. If we want young people to behave more maturely, we have to give them responsibility for their own decisions over such personal issues as religion."

The amendment was suggested by the National Secular Society, which had recently written to the Education Secretary Alan Johnson, and to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights about the issue. Mr Johnson said he saw no reason then to change the rules on collective worship, but since then, the JCHR had concluded that the NSS argument had merit. Now Lord Adonis has promised that he will introduce an amendment to the Education Bill at the next stage of its passage through Parliament.

Keith Porteous Wood, Executive Director of the National Secular Society which has been campaigning against Collective Worship for over 40 years said: "This is very good news indeed. It has seemed intolerable to us that young people are being forced to worship at school, sometimes against their will. It is self-evidently a breach of their human rights. Indeed, it can be argued from a human rights perspective that the age limit for self-exemption should be lower. The church is quite happy to allow fourteen year olds to confirm their commitment to Christianity, yet it will not accept that other children of that age can feel equally certain that they donít believe."

Mr Wood pointed to the front page report in last weekís Times Educational Supplement (TES) also referred to in the debate, which showed that some young people are prepared to take the matter into their own hands when religious enthusiasts use school as a place of indoctrination rather than of education.

Canon John Hall, chief education officer for the Church of England, tried to put a brave face on it, telling the BBC: "Students have always been able to withdraw from these sessions with parental consent and we understand that in practice a more flexible approach for those in sixth-form may be appropriate. This may be of little relevance in practice, we are aware of very few cases of withdrawal from collective worship." But it is clear that the CofE along with its self-styled "partners" in government will be loath to make any further concession. Canon Hall claimed that collective worship was an "integral" part of the education system and held "great educational value" for young people at all stages of their school career. "The act of daily worship allows students an opportunity to encounter God and equips them with the tools of reflection and silence we all need to help cope with life-changing moments," he said. "These sessions also help promote tolerance and understanding and can foster strong links between school and community."

Terry Sanderson, vice president of the National Secular Society, said: "Can anyone make sense of John Hallís silly claims? How is forcing people to worship against their will of 'great educational value'? What does it teach them that Christians use coercion to inflict their ideas on unwilling converts?" Meanwhile peers, including NSS honorary associate Baroness Massey, proposed an amendment to the Bill calling for a "bar on the establishment of new schools of a religious character." But Lord Adonis resisted this, basing his rebuttal on Human Rights: "It would be unacceptable to infringe the rights of parents in local communities to have a ban on the establishment of new faith schools. Article 2 of Protocol 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights provides for the right for parents to have their children educated in accordance with their religion and other views," he said. However, the NSS maintains that Lord Adonisís claims are factually inaccurate: the Article prohibits the State from banning such schools, but does not require the State to provide them. Our contention is supported by the Joint Human Rights Select Committee JHRSC.

The remainder of the debate provided a rare opportunity to put the case against "faith schools" and there were some magnificent contributions from Honorary Associates, especially Lady Massey, Lady Turner and Lord Taverne. The former Tory education Secretary Lord (Kenneth) Baker described the decision to introduce minority faith schools as "a grievous and huge mistake, and successive generations in our country will suffer from it." The NSS also briefed peers on some especially deleterious amendments tabled by the bishops.

Read the full debate here: Hansard Cols 1126-1141, 1156-1210, 1226 1245 (emergency business interrupted the debate).

5 July 06: Peers attack faith schools BHA article.

2 July 06: The following from Andrew Copson, Education Officer, British Humanist Association.

The BHA has drafted amendments which are going to be tabled by various humanist peers to the Education and Inspections Bill to: Make the establishment of new state-funded religious school illegal. Abolish the requirement for all state-funded schools to hold daily worship. Oblige religious schools to follow the same RE syllabus as non-religious schools. The first of these amendments will almost certainly be debated on Wednesday and the remaining days of debate for the Lords committee stage of the Bill will be 12th, 18th and 20th July.

10 June 06: A couple of recent articles on Ekklesia, the (progressive) religious think-tank.

Fight against faith schools is broad based: Ekklesia on schools See other links at the bottom of the above.

Catholic primacy still asserted Ekklesia on the pope "I guess that we could leave them to fight it out if it were not such a bad example of behaviour for an open society, and related to political claims to decide for others." Allan Hayes

date missing Some general points, from a letter to MPs.

Academic studies have demonstrated again and again that there is little to no 'added value' provided by church schools. Those church schools that achieve high grades in examinations are frequently shown to have a more privileged intake from the very beginning. In this year's league tables, the proportion of faith schools in the top 20 of schools was in any case no greater than the proportion of faith schools in the state sector as a whole. Furthermore, faith schools fail and close just as often as community schools when their intakes are from deprived areas, and good leadership and ethos in community schools produces the same good results as good leadership and ethos in religious schools - faith is not the magic ingredient!

In defense of religious schools it is sometimes claimed that they must follow the National Curriculum, but this is far from satisfactory and is in fact the most hollow of defences for state-funded religious schools offered by the Government. The subjects in which religious schools are most likely to deny their pupils a broad and balanced education - Religious Education and Sex and Relationships Education - are not in fact on the National Curriculum. Good RE in community schools does not consist of religious instruction or confessional education - instead an objective and broad curriculum of religious and secular philosophies is viewed as best practice. But in religious schools RE is not such a subject and there is nothing preventing religious schools from teaching the 'ultimate truth' of any particular religion, and denying children knowledge of alternative worldviews.

Under Kenneth Baker as Education Secretary, the number of church schools decreased overall and applications from evangelical Christian, Jewish and Muslim groups to run state-funded schools were denied. Lord Baker recently spoke out firmly against the current Government's policy on faith schools in a Lords debate on the subject. It is not the business of the state to fund religious schooling.

Christian Schools Ask for Right to Hit Pupils

3 November 2001

This is from a report by Tania Branigan in The Guardian 3 November 2001. “Christian independent schools yesterday asked the high court in London for the right to smack their pupils ... The group of headteachers, teachers and parents believes that banning corporal punishment breaches parents' rights to practice their religion freely under the Human Rights Act. Corporal punishment in independent schools was banned in 1999, 12 years after it was outlawed in state schools. But John Friel, acting for the claimants, ... referred the judge to papers containing quotations from the Old Testament ... The Book of Proverbs 23:13 reads: 'The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to itself disgraces its mother.' He also cited 23:14: 'Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die. Punish him with the rod and save his soul from death.' ... The campaigners, led by Phil Williamson, headteacher of the Christian Fellowship School in Liverpool, are seeking a judicial review ... The ... School charges fees of £1,920 a year and takes pupils between four and 16. ... an NSPCC spokesperson said: 'Harking back to some Dickensian view of schoooling is no way for a civilised society to treat its children'. ... ” The article is predictably illustrated by a drawing of Wackford Squeers from Nicholas Nickleby.


Association of Christian Teachers
Sapere - Philosophy for children.
Ban Faith Schools Organisation.
Rod Liddle, Choice is Ruining Education.
Poll: Are schools based on religion a good thing? 7% yes 93% No!
Debate on faith schools