- Faith school
A faith school is a British school teaching a general curriculum but with a particular religious character or has formal links with a religious organisation. It is distinct from an institution mainly or wholly teaching religion and related subjects. The term was introduced in Britain in 1990 following demands by Muslims for institutions comparable to the existing church schools.
The Education Act 1944 introduced the requirement for daily prayers in all state-funded schools, but later acts changed this requirement to a daily "collective act of worship", the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 being the most recent. This also requires such acts of worship to be "wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character". The term "mainly" means that acts related to other faiths can be carried out providing the majority are Christian.
Independent schools are exempt from this provision, so it has always been possible to have an independent (not state-funded) school with no act of worship or those of other religions. However, many schools that were originally church schools are now largely state funded, as are some Jewish schools. These are allowed to have acts of worship "in accordance with the beliefs of the religion or denomination specified for the school". Until 1997, the UK funded only Christian or Jewish faith schools (Muslim schools existed but were privately funded), but the Labour Government 1997-2007 expanded this to other religions, and began using the term "faith school".
Note that the legislation of the United Kingdom varies between the different constituent countries, and thus there are some differences of detail in the educational governance.
English education includes many schools linked to the Church of England, which controls governance and admittance while the funding comes from the state. At voluntary-aided schools, the Church pays for 10% of projects; at voluntary-controlled schools, the Church contributes only the building itself. The Church sets the ethos of the schools and influences selection of pupils; at voluntary aided schools, usually half or more of the school's places are reserved for "actively involved" members of the Church determined by local clergy. These form a large proportion of the 6,955 Christian faith schools in England. The Roman Catholic church also maintains schools. In addition, there are 7 Muslim, 36 Jewish, 2 Sikh and 1 Hindu faith schools. Faith schools follow the same national curriculum as state schools, with the exception of religious studies, where they are free to limit this to their own beliefs.
"Voluntary aided schools" such as Church of England and Catholic schools are allowed to discriminate against non-Christian students but are not allowed to discriminate against staff of other faiths except in the appointment of religious education teachers. Staff are asked only to be sympathetic to the school's particular religious ethos.
Although schools existed in Scotland prior to the Reformation widespread public education in Scotland was pioneered by the Church of Scotland, which handed over its parish schools to the state in 1872. Charitably funded Roman Catholic schools were brought into the state system by the Education (Scotland) Act 1918. This introduced state funding of Catholic schools, which kept their distinct religious education, but access to schools by Catholic clergy and requirement that school staff be acceptable to the Church. The Catholic schools remain as "faith schools." The others are effectively secular and are known as "non-denominational" schools. The subject of religious education continues to be taught in these non-denominational institutions, as is required by Scots Law.
In Scottish Catholic schools, employment of non-Catholics can be restricted by the Church; often, one of the requirements for Catholic applicants is to possess a certificate that has been signed by their parish priest, although each diocese has its own variation on the method of approval. Non-Catholic applicants are not required to provide any religious documentation. Certain positions, such as headteachers, deputy heads, religious education teachers and guidance teachers are required to be Roman Catholic. Scottish faith schools have the practice of school-wide daily assembly/worship; some Catholic schools even have their own prayer. Whilst maintaining a strong Catholic ethos, Scottish Catholic schools have long welcomed pupils from other faith backgrounds, though they tend to give precedence to non-Catholics who come from religious families and a large number of Muslims also go to Catholic schools.
The Imam Muhammad Zakariya School, Dundee is the only Muslim school in the UK outside England, and is an independent school.
In the early part of the 20th century, the majority of schools were owned and run by either the Catholic or Protestant churches.
The Protestant schools were gradually transferred to state ownership under Education and Library Boards (ELBs) responsible to the Department of Education, but with an Act of Parliament to ensure that the ethos of the schools conformed to this variety of Christianity, and giving the churches certain rights with respect to governance.
The Catholic schools are not owned by the state but by trustees, who are senior figures in the Church. However, all running costs are paid by the ELBs and all capital costs by the Department of Education. The employment of teachers is controlled by the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools, who are the largest employer of teachers (8,500) in Northern Ireland. The 547 Catholic schools teach 46% of the children of Northern Ireland. Teachers are not required to be of the Catholic faith, but all those in Catholic primary schools must hold a Certificate in Religious Education.
While the Protestant and Catholic schools were theoreticlly open to all, they were almost entirely of their own religious sectors, so starting in the 1980s, a number of so-called integrated schools were established.
As of 2010, the great majority of schools in Northern Ireland are either Catholic or Protestant, with relatively few integrated, a situation called "benign apartheid" by Peter Robinson, the First Minister of Northern Ireland.
Issues about faith schools in the UK
In 2002, Frank Dobson, to increase inclusivity and lessening social division, proposed an amendment to the Education Bill (for England and Wales) to limit the selection rights of faith schools by requiring them to offer at least a quarter of places to children whose parents belong to another or no religion. The proposal was defeated in Parliament.
However, in October 2006, Bishop Kenneth Stevenson, speaking on behalf of the Church of England, said, "I want to make a specific commitment that all new Church of England schools should have at least 25% of places available to children with no requirement that they be from practising Christian families." This commitment applies only to new schools, not existing ones.
In 2005, David Bell, the head of the Office for Standards in Education said "Faith should not be blind. I worry that many young people are being educated in faith-based schools, with little appreciation of their wider responsibilities and obligations to British society. This growth in faith schools needs to be carefully but sensitively monitored by government to ensure that pupils receive an understanding of not only their own faith but of other faiths and the wider tenets of British society". He criticised Islamic schools in particular, calling them a "threat to national identity".
Although not state schools, there are around 700 unregulated madrassas in Britain, attended by approximately 100,000 children of Muslim parents. Doctor Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, the leader of the Muslim Parliament of Great Britain, has called for them to be subject to government inspection following publication of a 2006 report that highlighted widespread physical and sexual abuse.
In September 2007, attempts to create the first secular school in Britain were blocked. Dr Paul Kelley, head of Monkseaton High School in Tyneside, proposed plans to eliminate the daily act of Christian worship and cause "a fundamental change in the relationship with the school and the established religion of the country".
In November 2007, the Krishna-Avanti Hindu school in north-west London became the first school in the United Kingdom to make vegetarianism a condition of entry. Additionally, parents of pupils are expected to abstain from alcohol to prove they are followers of the faith.
In November 2007, the Jewish Free School in north London was found guilty of discrimination for giving preference to children who were born to Jewish mothers.
In January 2008, the Commons Children, Schools and Families Select Committee raised concerns about the government's plans for expanding faith schooling. The general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, Dr. Mary Bousted, said "Unless there are crucial changes in the way many faith schools run we fear divisions in society will be exacerbated. In our increasingly multi-faith and secular society it is hard to see why our taxes should be used to fund schools which discriminate against the majority of children and potential staff because they are not of the same faith".
Faith School Menace, a documentary by Richard Dawkins
- ^ Oxford English Dictionary citing The Independent
- ^ a b www.teachernet.gov.uk
- ^ Catholic Education Service
- ^ The Guardian 14 Nov 2001 Facts about Faith Schools
- ^ a b Schools and the Church of England: Church schools
- ^ a b "Hindu state school beginning work". BBC News. 2008-06-06. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/7440327.stm.
- ^ a b Gordon Cairns (2007-12-04). "My lack of faith stopped me being accepted". London: The Guardian. http://education.guardian.co.uk/faithschools/story/0,,2221130,00.html.
- ^ Association of Muslim Schools: Dundee
- ^ a b c d e The Bain Report (2006) Schools for the Future
- ^ a b http://www.onlineccms.com/] CCMS Official Website
- ^ Northern Ireland Commission for Catholic Education
- ^ Belfast Telegraph 15 October 2010 Separate schools "benign apartheid"
- ^ "Faith school rebels defeated". BBC News. 2002-02-07. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/1803226.stm.
- ^ Alexandra Smith (2006-10-03). "Church promises school places to non-Christians". London: The Guardian. http://education.guardian.co.uk/faithschools/story/0,,1886650,00.html.
- ^ Tony Halpin (2005-01-18). "Islamic schools are threat to national identity". London: The Times. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-1445275,00.html.
- ^ Alexandra Smith (2006-03-22). "Call for national register of mosque schools". London: The Guardian. http://education.guardian.co.uk/faithschools/story/0,,1736861,00.html.
- ^ Anushka Asthana (2007-09-23). "Crisis of faith in first secular school". London: The Guardian. http://education.guardian.co.uk/faithschools/story/0,,2175879,00.html.
- ^ Polly Curtis (2007-11-29). "Hindu school is first to make vegetarianism a condition of entry". London: The Guardian. http://education.guardian.co.uk/faithschools/story/0,,2218801,00.html.
- ^ Polly Curtis (2007-11-28). "Jewish school told to change admission rules". London: The Guardian. http://education.guardian.co.uk/faithschools/story/0,,2218154,00.html.
- ^ a b Anthea Lipsett and agencies (2008-01-02). "MPs to voice concerns over faith schools". London: The Guardian. http://education.guardian.co.uk/faithschools/story/0,,2234164,00.html.
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