Dorset town is set to become the first place with religion-only education
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Swanage in Dorset is set to become the first place in the country where parents will have no option but to send their children to "faith schools".
Swanage First School – the only community school in a 16 mile radius – is threatened with closure and replacement by a Church of England school. All 140 pupils will have to transfer to other schools in the area – all of which are "faith schools".
The County Council proposes closing both the First School and Swanage’s Church of England first school. The CofE school will then re-open on the community school’s site. It says it will "respect the faith tradition of St Marks [C of E school] and the ethos of Swanage First School" – whatever that means.
Paul Mason, Swanage First School’s headteacher, said: "Swanage will have a Roman Catholic primary school, a new Church of England school and no community school for 16 miles. It’s not right."
Frances Versluys, an NSS member who lives in the area, has written to the councillors responsible for the decision begging them not to deprive the town of such a high achieving school, and pointing out the disadvantages of "faith schools." She said: "More faith schools in the area will be a disaster, they cause discrimination and social injustice – because they cream off the best pupils, cause segregation in children’s minds and take the running of the school out of public control. This will prevent parents who wish their children to be educated in a secular school from having any choice in the matter, which is extremely important. You must take account of parents’ wishes, according to government policy."
Keith Porteous Wood, Executive Director of the National Secular Society, said: "The Government keeps telling us that parental choice is all important and that religious schools will only be established where that is the will of the local community. This plan shows how dishonest those promises are. The Church must be rubbing its hands with glee at the prospect of having a complete monopoly of education in the area – something I am sure it would like to have nationally. And the way things are going, the Government seems happy to help them on their way to achieving that ambition."
If you live in the area and would like to become involved in the campaign to save Swanage First School you might consider attending the launch of the newly-forming local Secularist group, which will take place at the Town Hall, Corfe Castle on 12 February at 7.30pm. Please call 01929 480340 for more information. Visit the Save Swanage First School website.