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Leicester Secular Society

CHURCH SCHOOLS

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Various recent (2005) notes on Faith-Biased schools, mainly from LSS member Allan Hayes.

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There a two Academies on the way in Leicester.

One, in south Leicester, has started building, the other on the north west of the City will probably get money for a feasibility study very soon.

Both are sponsored by the diocese and a local businessman, David Samworth and are to have a "Christian" ethos. The former includes a church on site. The sponsors will have a majority on the board of governors. In effect that will mean the Church is in control of educational policy, including RE, and staff appointment(Samworth has said that he does not want to be involved). Parents will have little say or representation.

We won't get creationism with the present bishop.

A big complaint about the way in which the Leicester academies have been promoted is the almost total lack of meaningful consultation with parents and teachers and the lack of accountabiliy of academy governing bodies.

Allan Hayes

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Data, comments and opinion against faith schools:

BHA article 2095

In particular see the "For more facts and stats on faith schools, click here " near the bottom, it will lead you to

BHA article 1915

Recent debate at Farnham:

BHA article 2100

BHA

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INTELLIGENT DESIGN AND BRITISH SCHOOLS

The following exchange took place at Education Questions in the House of Commons on 31 October 2005:

Dr. Ian Gibson (Norwich North Lab): To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many schools in England teach a course in which intelligent design forms a unit. [22201]

Jacqui Smith (Education Minister): Intelligent design does not form part of any programme of study in the national curriculum. In science pupils should be taught at Key Stage 4 "how scientific controversies can arise from different ways of interpreting empirical evidence [for example, Darwin's theory of evolution]". Although it is possible that intelligent design could be raised in this context, controversies need to be scientific in order to meet national curriculum requirements. Intelligent design may be taught in religious education lessons as a religious interpretation of how the world was created. All religious education syllabuses are devised by local authorities, so statistics are not held centrally.

NSS Newsline

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We need to distinguish the act of collective worship from the Religious Education. Parents can withdraw their children from both, or either (children themselves cannot, not even sixth formers in 11-18 schools). Schools, other than faith schools, have to offer RE according to the local Agreed Syllabus, which is formulated subject to government guidelines by the local Standing Advisory Council for Religious Education (SACRE) - every local authority has one. I am the Humanist representative on the Leicester one.

SACRE is also responsible for monitoring compliance with the rules for the daily collective act of worship (the majority of these act to be broadly Christian). A school can apply to SACRE for a "determination" to release it from the requirement about the Christian Character, but it must still have a collective act of worship. Several schools in Leicester with Asian (usually Muslim) student majorities have such determinations. As far as I know these schools, even with a 90% Muslim student body, have not so far adopted a Muslim act of worship, but have, commendably, used the time to consider issues in ways acceptable to most of us. We need to keep an eye on this.

I have just succeeded in getting my SACRE to agree that I should supply a list of resources and websites for helping teachers provide the opportunites to study "secular philosophies such as humanism" recommended by the non-statutory guidance (QCA article 7250) mentioned by Andrew Copson (suggestions welcome); and, I think very importantly, that a slot be made available at the annual conference for City and County RE Teachers for the humanist representative to talk about secular beliefs. I recommend trying to get onto local SACRES.

I do believe that the regulation virtually forcing children to perform an act of worship is profoundly immoral. It is only because it is so regularly ignored, particularly by secondary schools (BBC in 2004: BBC article, NUT: NUT article, from Mark Draco) that there is not more of an outcry for its removal.

I would be in favour of a letter to all MPs and Councillors, irrespective of party. MP's are likely to be more responsive to letters that come from their consituents AND which indicate substantial support (nationally as well as locally). Perhaps a model letter that can be personalised is appropriate. Some thought needs to be given to getting enough support. This, as we have seen with the opposition to the legislation on religious hatred this might be wide - some local investigation and promotion (a campaign to generate support) seems in order. I'll look into this.

Allan Hayes in Yahoo Groups, secular-newsline 18 Sept 2005.

14 July 2004

GIVE PEOPLE CHOICE
Letter by Allan Hayes in Leicester Mercury, 14 July 2004

A few weeks ago, the city education scrutiny committee asked the cabinet to defer a decision on the Church of England Academy proposal until the support of the community has been clearly established.

The cabinet noted this and agreed to make a final decision taking into account the result of the sponsor's community consultation.

Assurance was given that the consultation would be independent and it was expected that it would give people a real choice.

Instead, we have a pamphlet and a questionnaire (on the website at http://www.yourlocalacademy.co.uk) that are little better than manipulative advertising.

Just what answers are expected to questions like the following?

"We believe that the people of the Eyres Monsell and Saffron districts deserve to have a high-quality educational facility in the very heart of the community. What do you think?"

Important issues concerning alternative provisions, a possible non-church school, adequate representation of community and council on the governing body and so on don't get a look in.

True, it is now admitted that the church is contributing 250,000 from diocesan funds towards the 16 million set-up cost, rather than the 10 per cent, 1.6 million, that Bishop Stevens asserted two months ago (all costs after set-up come out of taxes).

But how can we be sure of the future of the proposed school when he tells us now that the diocese "would not be involved in a project which did not give equal access to all", whereas, only two months ago, he was writing defending selection on religious grounds in city schools?

This is not the way to treat people. It is not good enough.

é 20 May 2004

FREEDOM OF BELIEF
Letter by Allan Hayes in Leicester Mercury, 20 May 2004

Bishop Tim Stevens (First Person, May 13) is misinformed. Humanists oppose the French ban on the hijab, a meeting of the Leicester Secular Society opposed it (*) and two of us went to a Muslim meeting to offer support (*).

His implication that we would remove churches, mosques and temples is a serious smear. We have had to struggle for freedom of belief and practice, and will do our utmost to uphold it for everyone. I ask him to withdraw this aspersion immediately.

Humanists support religious education, both in Government bodies and locally. I am a member of the Leicester committee [SACRE] which has responsibility for it.

Of course, we would like to see the law on collective worship changed and proper provision for those who choose not to belong to a religion.

Opposition to faith schools is not just from humanists - the majority of people in the country, including some Anglican priests, are opposed to them.

Authoritative reports have repeatedly warned against segregation and parallel lives.

Mr Stevens refuses to acknowledge the divisive effect promotion of his institution is having in provoking other groups to demand the same privileges.

[Omitted by Leicester Mercury editor.] Finally his claim that the diocese would contribute 10 percent (2 million) of the 20 million set up costs is contradicted by the Mercury report of 19 February that it is contributing 250 thousand - a somewhat lesser strain on diocesan finances. And even 10 percent would not warrant giving the diocese effective control of the school.

* Web-editor's note. The LSS decision was to support the ban in France but that we need a different approach here. Our attendance at the Muslim meeting was to debate and support dialogue; for more details see Hijab Debate.

é 13 May 2004

‘First Person Column’ by Bishop of Leicester In Leicester Mercury, 13 May 2004

CITY ACADEMY WILL BE FORCE FOR GOOD RELATIONS

The Bishop of Leicester, the Rt Rev Tim Stevens, rebuts claims that the City Academy will be divisive

On Tuesday, this column provided a second opportunity for the humanist, Allan Hayes, to attack faith schools and particularly the proposed City Academy. He claims the Church is leading us away from integration and undermining community cohesion in Leicester.

His article contained a number of misleading points. Firstly, the Church of England is asked to contribute 10 per cent (not 1 in 80) of the total cost of the academy. This is a major strain on diocesan resources, but it is one we are prepared to try to meet in order to make our contribution to the great challenge of raising the standards of education in our city.

Secondly, Mr Hayes claims local children and their families will be evangelised whether they like it or not. This is a serious misunderstanding of the "Christian ethos" of a school. The ethos is about the way that the school treats people. It is about creating trust and it is about forgiveness, reconciliation and openness to people of all faiths and none. For this reason, the City Academy will be an entirely non-discriminating school, with admissions available, without distinction, to all the children from the catchment area.

Thirdly, the school will not become the property of the Church of England. The Church of England is to be a joint sponsor of the school in partnership with Mr David Samworth, a leading local industrialist. It will seek to provide high-quality education with the best educational values, open to all children in the neighbourhood. Mr Hayes criticises St Mary's School, in Hamilton, and St John's, in Clarendon Park, for an admissions policy which reserves some places for the children of Church members. Yet, the parents of children of other faiths are very keen to send their children to these schools.

The Times Educational Supplement, after the riots in northern cities two years ago, reported that pupils from faith schools were not involved in the community tensions precisely because of the respect for differences which they had learned.

Mr Hayes criticises the Church for last year's "inadequate consultations". Last year's consultations about the City Academy was a fact-finding exercise giving the Church an opportunity to meet parents and community members to talk about their concerns.

Further consultations are now planned. It will, in the end, be the views and the wishes of parents which the school seeks to meet, parents who on the whole do not share Mr Hayes's aggressive, secular stance.

The logical outcome of this kind of secularism is to be seen in contemporary France, where Muslims are no longer allowed to wear the hijab and where public signs of faith adherence are outlawed. Is this what we want for the City of Leicester?

Is it to be a city from which faith is excluded? Would it be a more peaceful city, a more coherent city, a more lively city if the churches, mosques, temples and faith schools were all removed from the landscape?

Mr Hayes and many other humanists and secularists are entitled to their views, but they are not entitled to claim that faith in this city has undermined social cohesion. Wherever you look, the evidence points in the opposite direction.

é 11 May 2004

‘First Person Column’ by Allan Hayes in Leicester Mercury 11 May 2004

THE CHURCH IS LEADING US AWAY FROM INTEGRATION

Humanist Allan Hayes is worried the Church of England's role in a city academy is undermining community cohesion in Leicester

Consultations are taking place about a proposed City Academy for the Saffron Lane and Eyres Monsell area. Investment in education for this area would be very welcome, but should the school be given to the Church of England?

I think not, but let's look at this issue.

For contributing just 1 in each 80 of the set-up cost, the Church is expecting to get a school that will, after set-up, be entirely paid for out of taxes.

The staff would be selected to support the Church's religious "ethos", and local children and their families would, like it or not, be evangelised.

The strategy was emphasised last May by the Archbishop of Canterbury, who urged Church schools to have a "core of Eucharistic worship" which can prove a "powerful form of evangelism for half-committed or uncommitted families".

This reinforced the recommendations of the Dearing report of 2001 about using schools to spread the faith and make up for small congregations.

This is not a proper use of public money.

Moreover, although the Church may be more inclusive in order to evangelise, when necessary, it is quite prepared to be exclusive when it can be, as witness the reserving of one-third of the places at the new St Mary's School, in North Hamilton, for church-going families; the admissions policy of St John's School Clarendon Park; and the recent change of status of St Peter's School, Belgrave, to voluntary-aided.

There can be no cast-iron guarantee that it would not in the future try to introduce selection in the academy.

The implications for social cohesion are serious.

If the Church gets the City Academy, it will be the third time in two years that it has got what it wants. This will be a clear provocation to other religious groups to demand the same treatment and a good argument for them getting it.

We would be moving towards a city where children are divided by diversity rather than enriched by it.

Change could come quickly, not just through new schools, but also through conversion of existing community schools and private schools.

The Church seems to hold all the cards. It ran last year's quite inadequate informal consultations, which it represented to Government as "encouraging"; it is running this year's formal consultations; it has representatives on all local government committees dealing with educational matters; and it has historical presence and privilege. However, it can and must be opposed on this issue.

We need to recognise that the Church, like any other institution, will pursue its own interests. In the 19th century, it helped block the development of a state-school system suited to a modern industrial society. The bad effects of that are still with us. We should not now let it lead us away from a school system for living together in our present diverse society.

The Church's consultations will last a further six months or so and the proposals will then go to council, but the debate should start now and in public.

é 5 July 2003

Statement from the Office of the Bishop of Leicester

Leicester Secular Society held a morning Conference on 5th July 2003 concerning the proposals for the two new "faith schools". Speakers included Allan Hayes (BHA), Dr Mukadam (Islamic Academy) and Ross Willmott (Labour Councillor and former Council Leader). No speaker on behalf of the Leicester diocese of the Church of England was able to attend, but Peter D. Taylor their Director of Education, e-mailed: "... the Bishop asked if you would be kind enough to make available the attached statement by having it read out and or available in printed form." Accordingly we exhibited it as a poster in the hall and in our window display.

The Church of England has a strong track record in delivering high quality education in partnership with national and local government, Consequently in partnership with a consortium of local business under the leadership of John Bennett of Advantica we are offering to sponsor a new Academy in the City of Leicester.

The Sponsors would be seeking to provide the best possible teaching and learning strategies along with a broad and balanced curriculum. The Government's current initiatives in wanting to develop vocational and technical opportunities for young people, present the academy with an opportunity to be at the forefront of such provision, creating an innovative curriculum to meet the diverse learning needs, life chances and ambitions of the of the local community.

Nationally and locally the church is committed to the principles laid down in Lord Dearing's report the "Way Ahead" whereby its schools must be inclusive and yet distinctive in their service to the community. Church school admissions policies are therefore inclusive. The Admissions Policy presented in the consultation papers for the new VA Primary School recently approved by the School Organisation Committee, highlighted the commitment of the Diocese to serving the local community with the majority of places being reserved for those who live within the catchment area. The admissions policy of a Church Academy would be equally focused on the local community and catchment. The Bishop of Leicester has repeatedly maintained that the Academy is being promoted to serve the local community, he is on public record affirming that commitment and has stated that if the Academy does not serve the needs of the local community then the Church of England will not support the proposal.,

The Diocese and LEA already work in close partnership as identified in the LEA's OfSTED report. We have a proven track record of partnership and collaboration. A church/business sponsored Academy would need to work within the City's secondary transfer criteria to contribute to a cohesive education provision for the young people of the city. The recently published DfES guidelines on School Admissions require Academies to consult with and be part of the LEA's statutory co-ordinated admissions process, in addition once an admissions policy is agreed for an Academy it can not be changed without the specific authority of the Secretary of State for Education.

Although an Academy is technically not an LEA school, the sponsoring Partnership of Church and Business, in accordance with Government Guidelines which expect Academies to share expertise, would be insistent that the Academy participated fully in the networked learning opportunities within the City. As prospective sponsors we are aware of the tremendous development that has taken place in our city secondary schools and would want an Academy to be part of that robust, challenging community; serving the best interest of the young people of Leicester. It is only through partnership and cooperation that good practice can be disseminated; new initiatives explored and mutual learning take place.

Government guidelines for Academies identify Governing Bodies as having members from the following constituencies:- the sponsoring body, the local community, the LEA, the staff, and the parents. The Diocese, in partnership with the Local Business Consortium, would be committed to this principle and believes that the community need to have a significant stake in the project, both at the planning stage and in the governing structure in order to ensure its success.

In addition the Diocese has repeatedly stated its commitment to recognising Trade Unions and Professional Associations and has also stated publicly its commitment to working within the Teachers Pay and Conditions legislation.

é 1 July 2003

‘First Person Column’ by Allan Hayes in the Leicester Mercury of July 1 2003. The following is the text that was printed.

FAITH SCHOOLS A BACKWARD STEP FOR EDUCATION


I have lived in Leicester since 1965. Over this period Leicester has seen the arrival of people from a great variety of backgrounds. They have enriched the city culturally and contributed to its well-being. We have learned to live together. Leicester is now an example to others. However, I am concerned that instead of making the most of this success we may be putting it at risk. The council is considering proposals for two faith schools: A voluntary aided Islamic Academy and a Church of England city academy. These would in themselves be divisive, but they would also point the way to more religious schools and a segregated school system.

Between the ages of three and eighteen many children would have little contact with those of other beliefs. This is not the way to help children benefit from our cultural diversity and prepare them for tomorrow's society. It is certainly not the way to nurture understanding and trust between children from different communities and between their families.

There are other ills to consider: Disputes over funding, an inflexible system of independently-run schools with segregated neighbourhoods around them, religious tests for student entry and staff recruitment, "cherry picking" of bright students. Let's be clear about what is being asked for: the proposers would get 90% of school building costs and 100% of running costs all paid out of taxes. They would control the religious ethos of the schools and have a majority on the governing bodies. As recently as May 13, the Commons' select committee on education and skills said: "Tensions in Northern Ireland between the two communities illustrate the problems that segregated schools can exacerbate". Similar concerns are voiced in reports commissioned by the council. I would rather look at the opportunities we have to build on success. Instead of being divided by schools we can use them to bring us together.

It is clear that the council has its doubts - it has changed its mind several times. It should look beyond these two schools and their proposers to establish a long term strategy, not just of social cohesion but of active co-operation. However, all groups in the city must be involved. Two groups should be brought in - teenagers currently or recently in our schools, and the considerable number of students who do not subscribe to any religion. It is important that we provide the latter with a basis to which they can relate, and here is where humanism can help. The British Humanist Association (www.humanism.org.uk) is consulted by government and international bodies, is represented on the Leicestershire Standing Advisory Council for Religious Education, and would welcome an opportunity to contribute to the good work being done by the Leicester Council of Faiths.

The column concluded with a notice of the meeting at Secular Hall mentioned above.

é 2003 Alert: Two New Faith Schools Proposed for Leicester

by Allan Hayes [from LSS Newsletter, issue 4, (2003)]

Leicester City Council is considering proposals for an Islamic Academy and a Church of England City Academy. These schools would be divisive and would limit the experience of children. If they are approved more such will surely follow, with serious consequences for community relations. I hope that we will actively oppose them by, for example, writing to the Mercury, to the Council Leader and to our councillors. The Islamic Academy would accept no more than 25% non-Muslims (and these under conditions); the Church of England City Academy is described as ‘inclusive’ but with a ‘Christian ethos’ – if the Dearing report is anything to go by, it would certainly be used to try to gain converts. All the running costs and 90% of the set-up costs would come from public funds. The governing bodies would have a majority of faith representatives and would have substantial independence in acceptance of students and employment of teachers.

References: (1) Leicester Mercury: (type "City Academy" or "Islamic Academy" in the Search Box, top right, click arrow). (2) Leicester City Council: Minutes, agendas and documents (click 'Meetings' in the top bar then 'Meetings' in the side bar of result. (3) Dearing Report The Way Ahead: see below for extract and link to full text.

é 2003 Extracts from the Dearing Report

This report, entitled The Way Ahead, was commissioned by the Church of England and is remarkably frank about their intent to use Church schools to gain converts to Anglicanism. The full text is available in PDF form at: http://www.natsoc.org.uk. The following are extracts from Chapter 3: the bold italics highlight points we wish to draw attention to, and /// indicates omissions.

The Church's need to reach the young

The Church has a major problem in attracting young people to its services as a means of discharging its mission, and one that causes much concern. This bears directly on the future of the Church. In contrast the Church has some 900,000 young people attending its schools. Not all of these schools are everything that they might be, but our experience is that the vast majority give their pupils the experience of the meaning of faith and of what it is to work and play in a community that seeks to live its beliefs and values. /// the fundamental characteristics of a Church school /// include meaningful daily worship and quality religious education as well as a distinctively Christian ethos. //////

We do not have a detailed analysis of Church attendance by young people under and over eleven years old. Observation suggests that attendance by those over eleven is a modest proportion of the 175,000 children who are currently counted as attending Church services on Sunday. One of the Review Group's central concerns is that, with our limited provision for this age group in Church secondary schools, we are not able to provide secondary school places for more than one in five of the children attending Church primary schools. This means that we are losing contact with most of the Church primary school children just at the time of life when they need answers to their questions and support in their faith. It is not that there is a lack of demand for places in many of our secondary schools. /// The gap between available places and demand for them is increasing: a reverse image of attendance at church services. We conclude that while current practice in some parishes, and perhaps many, may not place Church schools at the centre of their mission, without the Church schools the Church would be reaching only a small minority of young people. We also conclude that the Christian life of parishes and the experience of staff and pupils in Church schools are enriched once there is an affirming relationship between them //////

We have also noted that through the children attending its schools, the Church has an opportunity to reach out to parents. The 900,000 children provide access to parents, very many of whom would otherwise have no contact with the Church. As of necessity adults will increasingly be engaged in the practice of lifelong learning. If Church schools can become family learning centres in response to this development, so also the opportunity to reach out to parents will be enhanced. It has been put to us that a measure of the effectiveness of Church schools should be found in the number of young people they bring into Church services or other Church activities for children. Whether they come into Church or not, Church schools are giving them the opportunity to know Christ, to learn in a community that seeks to live by his word, and to engage in worship.

Where pupils come from homes which are not Christian, or only nominally Christian with parents who have little knowledge of the Bible, this is a gift they would not otherwise experience. For those from Christian homes it will help to develop their faith and endow them with knowledge they can pass on to their own children. To the extent that they do not go to church in their teen years or in their twenties, it may well be that the Christian grounding at school will bring them into church when they have families of their own. The justification for Church schools lies in offering children and young people an opportunity to experience the meaning of the Christian faith. //////

The policy of inclusiveness is most apparent in Church schools where, over the years, the community has become predominantly one of minority ethnic families, notably Muslim or Sikh. In these cases the school may be predominantly or even wholly of children of these faiths. We find that, in these cases, the schools are respectful of the faith of the parents, but nevertheless offer the children an experience of the Christian faith, both through the everyday life of the school and through inclusive forms of worship. The advice to us was that parents welcome the opportunity to send their children to a faith school where there is belief in God. The policy of inclusiveness extends also to children of no faith where, without seeking to convert those children to the faith, the school offers the practice of faith, worship and a school life founded on Christian values, all of which give the children an opportunity to make an informed choice that they might otherwise not experience.

3 November 2001

Christian Schools Ask for Right to Hit Pupils. 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.


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