A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, and the Labour Party - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

An idea for Ruth Kelly

An idea for the "Commission on Integration and Cohesion" set up by Ruth Kelly: stop dividing children up by religion. How on earth are we going to get the citizens of the future to live in an integrated, cohesive way if we have government policies that actually encourage children of different faiths to be educated separately?

I find the idea that children of one religion should go to a different school to children of another religion sick, not just divisive. Given that some faiths are also ethnic groups it is the first step on the road to apartheid.

Personally, I'd prefer that there was no role for religion allowed in any school and that faith schools were abolished. Given the difficulties of doing that when there are already CofE, RC and Jewish state schools I'd go for a compromise - all faith schools to have to admit 50% of their intake from kids not of the faith the school is linked to. The religions involved ought to welcome it as a chance to evangelise at assemblies ...

And I'd add in some busing, American-style, to ensure that where one faith or ethnicity is geographically concentrated, the kids from it get to mix at school with kids of different backgrounds. This implies some diminution of parental choice, but frankly the cohesion of society is a lot more important.

And I'd do the same to independent schools so that the rich or the religiously fanatical can't buy their kids out of growing up in a socially mixed school - I'd make it compulsory for every independent school to give 50% of their places to a mixed-ability intake from the local neighbourhood (e.g. Eton would have 50% of its intake kids from Slough on free places). The schools would either have to fund this by doubling the fees on the 50% still paying them, or be given the option of opting in 100% to the state system.


Anonymous The Labour Humanist said...

Luke - spot on. I haven't read any consultation docs yet, but we've got to move away from putting walls around people and labelling them by groups, and we've got to stop actively encouraging sectarian education. Whatever someone's historical/cultural background they are citizens and should be seen as such. Our schools belong to the whole community and should not be given away to groups to run them with a view of recruiting more believers to their religion.

Not that my hopes are that high.

3:16 pm, August 24, 2006

Anonymous Andrea said...

I agree that state school shouldn't be faith schools. State education shouldn't have the religion element IMO.

3:32 pm, August 24, 2006

Blogger Al said...

Forced (and it would have to be forced) busing is bad idea, even if well intentioned; in the States it did nothing to desegregate communities and didn't achieve a lot more than a white working class backlash (South Boston being the best example).
But in this case the backlash would (presumably) be spread around all different communities.
I guess uniting just about everyone in opposition to busing policies might be worth a try...

6:49 pm, August 24, 2006

Blogger El Tom said...

Luke, you are absolutely bang on.

the best way for us to learn about each other is to coexist, tolerate and cooperate.

And the best time to do it starts at 4 years old.

7:37 pm, August 24, 2006

Blogger Al said...

Out of interest, how do faith schools work in urban areas?

Out here in the backwoods, just about every school is a CofE school, but I'm not aware of there being bans on people who aren't Anglicans or who don't go to Church.

9:50 pm, August 24, 2006

Blogger Chris Black said...

I'd be happy with the status quo - except in really exceptional circumstances, no new religious schools. As far as I can tell, most existing religious schools are CoE primary schools in rural areas, and not known for their dogmatism.

I would prefer children to go to schools that teach reason rather than faith (without being ridiculously PC over issues such as school nativity plays etc)

2:37 pm, August 26, 2006


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