Church triumphant as its take-over of education continues
popularity : 17%
When the Education Secretary Ed Balls expressed concern about the way independent religious schools were operating in this country he was given a severe drubbing by the religious establishment who said he had "launched an attack" on so-called "faith schools."
All the same, Mr Balls asked the inspection body Ofsted to look at what was happening in non-state religious schools. He suspected that they were not preparing their pupils to be integrated as rounded British citizens.
Now Ofsted has published its report into its examination of 51 schools in the private "faith sector". Unsurprisingly it found that many of them used materials that had biased or incorrect information about other religions. There were instances of "displays of teaching materials in eight of the schools that had a bias in favour of one group," the report said. "For example, wording used to describe the situation in Palestine, seen in a Muslim school, used inflammatory language. Similarly, in a Jewish school, pupils’ writing used strong language in describing situations in that part of the world. Some of the published teaching materials seen contained biased or incorrect information about the beliefs of other religions."
This is hardly surprising information. Why on earth would a school that was set up to promote and push one religion on to children want to give the good news about its rivals?
The Ofsted report is gentle on these schools saying that they all "worked hard" to develop pupils’ personal confidence to deal with negative influences, such as anti-Semitism, without compromising their beliefs and included respect for other cultures and faiths. Pupils gained a strong sense of personal worth and of belonging to their faith community," the report said.
Some parents who were questioned said that their children had found the transition to state schools difficult because their religion was not the schools’ primary concern and wasn’t catered for in every particular. These are Muslim parents, of course, who are pushing for "prayer rooms" in all schools.
Needless to say, the Ofsted report did not question the divisive nature of these schools. It did not mention that pupils in them might never see a non-Muslim from one week to the next. The Government’s craven approach to this problem is dangerous. They are prepared to allow Muslim children to be brainwashed in these schools and then go along with the fiction that it is a balanced education that prepares them for life in secular Britain.
Let us not forget what Yusuf Islam — a leading light in the Islamia School in Brent, which is state-sponsored — says about the purpose of Muslim schools: "The ultimate aim of Islamic education is the realisation of complete submission to Allah on the level of the individual, the community and humanity at large". Or, as Ibrahim Lawson, the headmaster of the Islamia School in Nottingham said to Ernie Rea on the Radio 4 programme Beyond Belief: "The essential purpose of the Islamia school, as with all Islamic schools, is to inculcate profound religious belief in the children." Ernie Rea responded: "You use the word ’inculcate’: does that mean you are in the business of indoctrination?" To which Mr Lawson blithely retorted: "I would say so, yes; I mean we are quite unashamed about that really…" Mr Rea then said: "Does that mean that Islam is a given and never challenged?" Lawson: That’s right."
Mr Balls, like all his colleagues, assiduously and disgracefully avoids these inconvenient truths.
And to ensure that religion continues its take-over of our education system, the Archbishop of Canterbury gave a speech at Lambeth Palace last week to a gathering of heads from academies run by the Church of England. He said it was "designed to create stronger connections between Church academies and facilitate them in sharing good practice, especially in developing a distinctive Christian ethos within academies and building the capacity of leaders to improve performance."
Last month, seven new Church academies opened taking the total number now open to 27, with eight more in the pipeline scheduled for 2010 and around a further 30 projects under discussion. This number does not include the other academies run by non-CofE religious groups and is in addition to the proliferation of religious schools in the non-academy state education system. Quite soon "faith schools" will be inescapable and the religious hegemony in education will be complete. This is completely the reverse of the way that our society is developing and smacks of "We know what’s best for you" thinking in Church and Government.
LATEST: This morning’s Times Educational Supplement is reporting that the Government has serious worries about the performance of the United Learning Trust, an Anglican charity that is the biggest sponsor of academies, with 17 of them under its belt. The Government rowed back on plans to hand another academy in Portland, Dorset over to the ULT after its poor performance in other parts of the country.
The TES also reports that the Government has frozen funding to private minority faith schools that are looking to enter the state sector.