New faith school award scheme makes a mockery of inclusivity, says rabbi

A NEW church schools award scheme, which turns a blind eye to discriminatory and admissions policies regarding pupils and staff, has been slammed by the chair of the Accord Coalition, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain.

Dr Jonathan Romain

He said:

Some faith schools do not discriminate on religious grounds in their employment and admissions policy, and instead see their contribution to the education of children, regardless of their background, as an expression of their religious missions.

However, there are other faith schools that actively damage community cohesion, by only admitting staff and children from a particular background. These schools help create religious ghettos where pupils can grow up removed from those from different backgrounds.

Such schools undermine understanding between different communities and create an environment where mistrust between groups can more readily grow, potentially storing up problems for future generations to come.

The Church Schools Award, launched this week with the support of the Church of England’s National Society and education division of the Methodist Church, emulates the Accord Coalition’s own inclusivity Award, which was launched in 2009.

The new church school award deliberately ignores the admissions and employment policies of schools that discriminate against children and staff on religious grounds, while at the same time purporting to celebrate Christian schools that advance “community cohesion and global citizenship.”

This discrepancy “makes a mockery” of claims to promote genuine inclusion, says the Accord Coalition, which draws together a range of religious and non-religious education reform groups.

By contrast, the Coalition points out that its own Award is open to all schools and looks at all aspects of how those schools operate. It aims to reward those that do the most to function in inclusive ways and build bridges between different ethnic and religion or belief communities, irrespective of their foundation.

Romain added:

We welcome attempts to improve community cohesion, but the commitment of the Church Schools Award towards inclusivity and advancing community cohesion seems at best insincere, and at worst a distraction from the negative effects that religious discrimination of many faith schools has on wider society. It is very troubling therefore that the Church of England and Methodist Church have chosen to support the Church Schools Award on this basis.

The Church School Awards will be presented at a ceremony at Methodist Central Hall, Westminster, on 24 March 2011.

Simon Barrow, co-director of the Christian think-tank Ekklesia, a co-founder of the Accord Coalition, said:

It is vital to encourage all educational establishments in fostering good community relations. This is something which needs to be based on personal contact between children from different backgrounds in and out of school, not just textbook theory.

In this context, it is extraordinary and saddening that the new Church School Awards appear to have been established deliberately to bypass scrutiny of some key factors in overcoming lack of integration and cohesion­ – namely, the discriminatory policy framework on admissions and employment which allow publicly-funded religious foundation schools to favour or disfavour pupils and teachers on the basis of their faith affiliation or belief.

Such discrimination needs to be brought to an end, and the churches should be at the forefront of supporting such reform on Christian grounds, rather than seeking to ignore or disguise the problem for sectional advantage.

Meanwhile, we learn that The government has banned the largest sponsor of academies from taking on new schools until it dramatically improve the ones it already runs.

According to the Guardian, The United Learning Trust (ULT) was called into the office of the schools secretary, Ed Balls, last week and told it could not sponsor any more schools until it had driven up standards in the 17 it runs and the two due to launch next September.

It follows the spectacular failure of ULT’s Sheffield academies, which have been plagued with behavioural problems, have struggled to improve results and were judged inadequate by Ofsted inspectors.

The problems raise questions about government – and opposition – plans for large chains of independently run academies.

ULT is an Anglican charity chaired by the former Conservative education minster Dame Angela Rumbold, and includes the former archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey on its board. It is the largest academy sponsor and also runs a chain of 10 private schools.

HAT TIP: BarrieJohn (ULT report)

21 responses to “New faith school award scheme makes a mockery of inclusivity, says rabbi”

  1. Newspaniard says:

    A Rabbi complaining about the exclusivity of faith schools? Although I agree with all he says, I’m not sure of his motives given that Jewish faith schools are almost as exclusive as madrassas (which bloody Cameron is encouraging – so much for “Time for a change”)

  2. MrMonist says:

    @ Newspaniard

    Johnathan Romain is against ALL faith schools.

  3. tony e says:

    I have, I assume like most on this site, tuned into the coverage of todays visit by Ratboy. My inner masochist, I think.

    Even by the BBC’s standards the coverage is nauseating.

    What’s the bet he does not mention nor condemn the paedos?

  4. Stonyground says:

    I was going to say to Newspaniard that, uncharacteristically, Romain is one of the good guys on the subject of faith schools, but MrMonist has beaten me to it.

    I can hardly believe that Ratty is so lacking in imagination that he has trotted out the old lie that the Nazis were atheists. FFS if he has to traduce the unbelievers surely he could come up with something a little less threadbare than that.

  5. Broga says:

    Pete H.

    Thanks. I loved the Daily Mash report. In fact the report headed “Queen to have lunch with insane criminal” is the most objective and accurate I have read or heard all day amongst the oceans of bullshit.

    Good stuff, Pete, you have restored my balance such as it is.

    Just to add that the crap began early. I was on in the car with my wife when she pushed the radio button. The first words which came out were, “The Holy Father has been on the go non stop ever since he left Rome this morning.”

    Think fast guns, maybe Jesse James, and you get some of idea of the speed my missus reached for the off button. I didn’t have to do a thing.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I hope all will be able to put in a word with their elected officials about their objection to faith schools. This is an extremely important issue, caught at a crucial crossroads. The rabbi is absolutely correct. Additionally, faith schools threaten science understanding and critical thinking skills.

  7. Broga says:

    Pete H.

    Thanks. So did I. Thanks for the tip. I thought the report had the unique virtue, amongst the rest of the bullshit, of giving an accurate assessment of the proceedings.

  8. barriejohn says:

    Since we seem to be discussing The Godfather again, you must all be aware by now that he is comparing atheists with the Nazis!

  9. JohnMWhite says:

    I’m not sure what’s funnier, that the Catholic Online website is so ill-informed that they seem to think England and Britain are the same thing, or this gem from the BBC’s coverage of the atheism remark:

    “However, the Catholic Church has moved to play down the controversy, saying the Pope knew “rather well what the Nazi ideology is about”.”

    Yeah, I bet he does.

    And while apparently I’m a Nazi due to simply not wanting any faith to have a stranglehold on public policy, I’d just like to ask what faith Hitler was and what he hated more than anything (even, arguably, Judaism)? Oh, that’s right, he was a Catholic who despised secularism.

    Anyway, back to the topic, I wholeheartedly support the opposition to these awards. I remember well how stunting and isolating it can be to be in a faith school that snubs the rest of the world and tries to force anyone within its walls to fit their own particular mould.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Whilst debating a Christian on a Guardian thread about the poop’s outrageous statement, I linked to this memorabilia

    It’s an easy quick visual, removes the necessity of lengthy history/philosophy/theology debates. A picture is worth a thousand words, as they say.

    And wouldn’t you know, my comment got deleted!

    This is not my first deleted Guardian comment. I also had a Skeptics Annotated Qur’an link zapped.

    These days, when you look at Guardian threads, you see a sea of “Comment deleted by moderator.” What’s going on over there?

  11. barriejohn says:

    Pope Benedict = Epic Bent Pedo

  12. Stonyground says:

    Barriejohn where have you been? I specifically requested your help on the previous thread, about nuns selling ice cream, in your capacity as an expert on the Plymouth brethren and you were nowhere to be found. Now that you have returned, I would be grateful if you could give us the benefit of your wisdom.

  13. barriejohn says:

    I thought that Marcus had answered your question, Stonyground. The offending ad certainly did seem to have been placed by the Brethren – and only religiots would imagine that a long-winded diatribe like that would be likely to win them converts!

  14. valdemar says:

    Erm, Ed Balls hasn’t been schools secretary for a while now. The news item you link to dates from last November. There was this election, and stuff?

  15. barriejohn says:

    Valdemar: I did send Barry an email pointing out that fact! The reason that I originally drew his attention to the ULT business was an article in this week’s Private Eye (qv) saying that these people seem to be back in business again, despite their appalling catalogue of past failures.

    Yet ULT was lavished with praise, as its Manchester Academy was dubbed “fantastic” by Michael Gove in a speech last week, hailing the “huge success” of the academies policy.

    Gove, of course, inhabits a parallel universe, and the choice of the word “fantastic” was entirely appropriate!

  16. MrMonist says:

    Here’s Romain siding with Dawkins on Dimleby’s ‘Biq Questions’:

    (Note the Faith Schools Menace Imam too! Some kudos for letting him film his school after the drubbing Dawkins gives him here)

  17. MrMonist says:

    Here’s Romain siding with Dawkins on Dimbleby’s ‘Biq Questions’:

    (Note the Faith Schools Menace Imam too! Some kudos for letting him film his school after the drubbing Dawkins gives him here)

  18. James Garfield says:

    “The divorce between church and state ought to be absolute. It ought to be so absolute that no church property anywhere, in any state, or in any nation, should be exempt from taxation; for if you exempt the church property of any church organization, to that extent you impose a tax on the whole community.”
    1874 Congressional Record