How should faith schools operate?

This may be a bit of a Dead Horse item, but I haven't seen any discussion on the topic recently.

A row has broken out in Wales over the new RE Curriculum. See: https://inews.co.uk/news/education/secularist-groups-catholic-schools-welsh-government-religious-education-456956.

So: do we agree or disagree with the viewpoint of the schools, the Welsh Government or the Accord Coalition (which counts ministers of various denominations among its supporters)? And do we agree that faith schools should primarily select children from their respective faith communities for admission?

I write both as someone who has been a member of Appeals Panels for Anglican schools and also as a Minister has had to fill out references for applicants. I'll probably say more as the discussion develops.

Comments

  • Broadly speaking, and somewhat generalising, there seem to be three groups of parents who send (or, want to send) their children to faith schools:

    1. Those who are adherents to the religion that that school represents and want their children to be educated in an environment that aligns with their beliefs. I expect these parents would have the biggest problems with RE (or similar) that is more general than just the faith of the school.

    2. Those who are not especially religious, but value an more ethical approach to life and feel that a faith school will be more likely to teach general ethical and moral behaviour. From that perspective they'd probably value broader RE because teaching about a specific religion isn't really what they send their children there for.

    3. Those who perceive (possibly inaccurately) that faith schools result in better exam grades, and want their children to get the best grades possible so that they can move onto the best universities. They probably don't care about RE, after all a good grade or not in that is irrelevant when what university admission and future careers are interested in are maths, science, good grasp of English language, a foreign language etc.

    Whether any of that addresses the question or not, I'm not sure. I guess the question is how well a particular school feels that they align with any of the above. If a school has as it's mission to provide a place for children of a particular faith group a learning environment insulated from the wider world where that faith has an almost exclusive say then that's the equivalent of group 1 above, and will always find itself struggling to accommodate a large number of parents are in groups 2 or 3. Many faith schools started because the only options for a good education were in the private sector with high fees, and faith groups wanted to provide a quality education for the poorer families in the area. If they maintain that mission then they'll more naturally align with groups 2 and 3, but will have trouble accommodating parents in group 1 who want to know why their faith isn't given as much prominence.
  • Thanks Alan, I don't disagree with any of that. I'll see if others have anything to say.
  • Alan29Alan29 Shipmate
    Where there is a shortage of school places in an area faith schools can afford to be picky - letters from the PP/Rabbi/Imam certifying that they are actually members of that faith.
    Where there is a surplus of school places, they will be far less p[icky and maybe have no entry demands at all.
    Where a school gets financial support from a religious body I would expect that body to have a say over the RE curriculum and for the parents to not object to that curriculum.
    But I do get the argument that the government should not be using tax payers money to pay for a system that discriminates on grounds of faith.
    Trying to square circles here.
    I was an RE teacher in a catholic school for 25 years. I saw it as no part of my job to catechise pupils. That is a different thing and belongs in a different place. The only specifically RC element in RE was to take the RC paper at GCSE which examined topical themes (capital punishment, abortion, poverty, etc) from an RC perspective alongside alternative perspectives, with the pupils encouraged to come to their own viewpoint. It was an excellent course and the kids lapped it up.
  • SusanDorisSusanDoris Shipmate
    Reading with interest of course, but refraining from comment … ...
  • I disagree that faith based schools should exist at all. We have Roman Catholic schools and public schools for everyone else. Both funded by taxation. There is no such thing as RC math, science, reading etc.

    I disagree with private schools. It's elitist. And like the Germans, I'd ban home schooling too. Religious extremists and racists.
  • Raptor EyeRaptor Eye Shipmate
    edited June 29
    If schools are totally funded by the taxpayer, the government sets the curriculum, and the electorate can lobby the government.

    If schools are partly funded by the taxpayer, and partly by outside organisations, whether religious or sporting or arty etc, then those organisations have some say as to who is admitted and what they are taught, within the area of expertise they are offering. This needs to be agreed between the parties concerned so that there are clear and open policies, which are independently audited.

    I have no issue with this.
  • ForthviewForthview Shipmate
    In the UK,as far as I understand, parents are the first educators of their children and when the state provides a school, it does so in the name of the parents.
    In Scotland there are very few private Catholic schools, two perhaps, but twenty percent approximately of the public (state) schools are Catholic. These are supported by the state for those parents who wish to have their children educated in them and are open to all.
    There are one or two schools with an Episcopalian background. I say background as there is very little religious input from the SEC but the local bishop has the right to be interested in the progress of the school. There is one (sort of) Jewish state school, though it is not officially called a Jewish school.
    The other state schools in Scotland are called, I think still officially, non-denominational schools and are supposed to be vaguely Christian, though very often that is not the case.

    Catholic Primary schools will generally prepare Catholic children for the reception of the Sacraments and there is always a sort of religious atmosphere in the buildings. I suppose by that I mean religious imagery and scripture readings. With a decrease in the importance of religious observance a good number of the children present will either not be Catholic at all, rather coming in to the bracket of those whose parents for one reason or another value education in a Catholic atmosphere. They may well be Muslim.
    Of those who have been baptised in the RC church their parents may be a) believing and practising Catholics or b) sort of believing but non practising Catholics or c) non believing and non practising Catholics ,who nevertheless wish their children to have a 'Catholic' education.

    Amongst regular Mass goers one does not always see a lot of teenagers and 'yoof'these days and this was discussed on another thread. It is, however, significant that a good number of those non Mass going teenagers will return to the Church when they are responsible for the education of their own children. Religious practice in state secondary Catholic schools in mainly on a voluntary basis. If a Headteacher tries to promote Catholicism too much, he or she can get into trouble

    There are no faith tests in Scotland for entrance into a public state Catholic school.
    Of course not everyone would fell comfortable having their child at such a school.

    Again there is a determined lobby to empty schools of any religious teaching which is seen as indoctrination from wheresoever it comes, usually aimed at the right of religious bodies amongst others to have a voice on education committees.

    When asking oneself if faith based schools are a 'good thing' one has to ask oneself if a faith based life is a 'good thing' ? If the answer is yes, then faith based schools can be a good thing.
  • I should add to Forthview's excellent summary (though I think there are 3 SEC schools) of the Scottish situation that there are two very different sets of Experiences and Outcomes for RME (Religious and Moral Education) depending on whether the school is RC or not. I do think there is an issue if schools are teaching children solely about their own religion and not an awareness of other faiths.
  • chrisstileschrisstiles Shipmate
    2. Those who are not especially religious, but value an more ethical approach to life and feel that a faith school will be more likely to teach general ethical and moral behaviour.

    There's a sub-group of parents who are adherents of another religion but also value a more ethical approach to life and would rather their children go to a school of some religion than no religion.
  • TelfordTelford Shipmate
    I was born and raised in the Black Country but not in an area which was multi racial as it is now. At my school, RE meant teaching about Christianity. The GCE I took reflected this and lessons were actually called Scripture. I never spoke to a BAME person untill I went to live in Wolverhampton.

    A couple we knew cheated to send their daughter to a Catholic school as they thought she would have a better eduation. My children went to a multi cultural comprehensive school and RE lessons reflected this.

    My view is that if you choose to send your children to a faith school, you should abide by the rules of the school.
  • I disagree with private schools. It's elitist. And like the Germans, I'd ban home schooling too. Religious extremists and racists.

    Fuck you very much.

    I am neither a religious extremist or a racist. I have one kid full-time in public school, one full-time homeschooled, and one who is homeschooled but takes some classes in public school. It's about making the best choices for each kid.

    I know quite a lot of local homeschoolers. Many of them are religious (but not all by any means). It would be absurd to claim that there was no racism among them, but I see less racism in my homeschool friends than I do in my wider circle of friends and acquaintances. It's not all white kids either - I know homeschooled kids from all racial backgrounds. The only demographic that is almost completely absent in the local homeschool population is Latinx kids, and I'd guess that's partly economic - homeschooling does require you to have enough resources to have a parent available to supervise the kids' learning.

    Some people round here homeschool through the elementary years, and then send their kids to public middle school. This is basically motivated by a belief that the standard US educational system pushes academics too early. Other people with similar opinions send their kids to Steiner type schools or other alternative private schools, but private schooling is expensive. Home schooling is less expensive.

    I claim you know nothing, and are speaking through a combination of ignorance, prejudice, and salacious media reports about rather extreme cases.
  • DiomedesDiomedes Shipmate
    There are two RC Secondary schools in my town, one for boys and one for girls, each with a 'Grammar Stream' of about 30 pupils per year. They co-operate with sixth form classes in particular to enable a wider range of subject options. They have always been very popular but in the last 10 years the number of applications from Islamic families has soared. In my experience the parents prefer a school which values Faith - even if it is not their own.
  • 2. Those who are not especially religious, but value an more ethical approach to life and feel that a faith school will be more likely to teach general ethical and moral behaviour.

    There's a sub-group of parents who are adherents of another religion but also value a more ethical approach to life and would rather their children go to a school of some religion than no religion.
    Indeed, I did intend to include that in that group - as others have said, it's quite common for Muslim parents to send their children to church schools because they prefer a faith based education even if not their faith.
  • Just a quick note to say that, when I was mentioning "faith schools", I was thinking of those in the UK which lie within the public rather than the private sector of education. In a sense the whole sector is a bit of a relic from the C19, regularised by various Education Acts over the years.

    The situation in the US is, as I understand it, very different and not directly comparable.
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    The original deal back in 1945 or earlier was that ordinary faith schools were to be funded by the LEA and would provide a free education for the children of parents who were adherents of that faith. That's a key part of what used to be the difference between an LEA controlled school, and a VA (voluntary aided) one.

    That was a compromise thrashed out at the time from a history of contention which is now largely forgotten and which has been superseded by different contentions.

    Almost all VA schools (+ also quite a lot of controlled ones) were originally set up by churches, either funded by them or by people who identified with them, often before the state got into public education at all.

    The sadly late and much lamented Leo and I disagreed on this, but my view is that the Catholics got this one right and made a far better job of it than the CofE. They have always taken the line that you choose a Catholic school either because you're Catholic or because you want a specifically Christian and Catholic ethos for your children. They therefore set out to provide this. It's unreasonable and oppressive to expect them to change that. Parents who don't want their children to benefit from it should choose a different school.

    My view is that the prevalence of secularism means that specifically CofE or CinW schools should adopt the same approach. Some do this more emphatically than others.

    I don't know whether there are any Jewish schools in the publicly funded sector in Wales, but if there are it would be equally unreasonable to expect them to do otherwise than provide a Jewish ethos for their pupils.

    I'm speaking for England, and it's possible there might be some difference peculiar to Wales and related to disestablishment in 1914-20.

  • I gather from the Humanists UK info that parents sometimes send their children to Faith schools because they are the only option short of very long commutes. https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/schools-and-education/faith-schools/
  • TelfordTelford Shipmate
    I gather from the Humanists UK info that parents sometimes send their children to Faith schools because they are the only option short of very long commutes. https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/schools-and-education/faith-schools/

    No problem with that as long as they don't keep complaining
  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    How should faith schools operate? On their own dime.
  • TelfordTelford Shipmate
    mousethief wrote: »
    How should faith schools operate? On their own dime.

    If you are asking how they are financed, I would say that all children in this country are entitled to a free education.
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    mousethief wrote: »
    How should faith schools operate? On their own dime.

    Certainly, that's a general US position. AIUI, it derives from the constitutional ban on establishment of religion and from that has become part of the general ethos. There was an enormous battle here in the 1960s about government aid to non-government schools, whether they were religious or secular. Much of the opposition was based upon opposition to the Catholic Church, which operates an extensive system of very low fee parochial schools, as well as a few charging much higher fees. The battle resulted in a policy of limited government aid and over time that has become pretty generally accepted.
  • Alan29Alan29 Shipmate
    2. Those who are not especially religious, but value an more ethical approach to life and feel that a faith school will be more likely to teach general ethical and moral behaviour.

    There's a sub-group of parents who are adherents of another religion but also value a more ethical approach to life and would rather their children go to a school of some religion than no religion.

    Yes.
    Our RC school had a large number of Muslim pupils.
  • Alan29Alan29 Shipmate
    edited June 30
    I gather from the Humanists UK info that parents sometimes send their children to Faith schools because they are the only option short of very long commutes. https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/schools-and-education/faith-schools/

    I hope they are suitably grateful that faith coimmunities have provided a school where the government has failed to.
  • Alan29 wrote: »
    I gather from the Humanists UK info that parents sometimes send their children to Faith schools because they are the only option short of very long commutes. https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/schools-and-education/faith-schools/

    I hope they are suitably grateful that faith coimmunities have provided a school where the government has failed to.

    That is a rather obtuse way of looking at it. The government provides the bulk of the funds even for VA schools. In effect the government has provided a school, it's just one with a religious character.
  • chrisstileschrisstiles Shipmate
    Alan29 wrote: »
    I gather from the Humanists UK info that parents sometimes send their children to Faith schools because they are the only option short of very long commutes. https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/schools-and-education/faith-schools/

    I hope they are suitably grateful that faith coimmunities have provided a school where the government has failed to.

    I assume their push back would be that the presence of another school in the area is the reason another school hasn't been set up by the LEA or the Department of Education.
  • la vie en rougela vie en rouge Circus Host, 8th Day Host
    State funded religious schools are anathema in my part of the world. The only way to send your child to a religious school is to pay for it.

    The school we want to get our son into is a private bilingual school, but it's very oversubscribed. If we don't get a place, we will be going for a nice little Catholic school. We are not Catholic and have no intention of becoming so. Our choice would be entirely motivated by the atmosphere and pedagogy. We are not alone in this.
  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    Telford wrote: »
    mousethief wrote: »
    How should faith schools operate? On their own dime.

    If you are asking how they are financed, I would say that all children in this country are entitled to a free education.
    All children in this country (the US) are entitled to a free education, too. If they/their parents choose to attend a private or faith-based school, they’re making a choice to forego the free education provided them by the state.

    And yes, @Gee D. In the US, direct, general funding by the government of faith-based schools would be unconstitutional.

  • Alan29Alan29 Shipmate
    Nick Tamen wrote: »
    Telford wrote: »
    mousethief wrote: »
    How should faith schools operate? On their own dime.

    If you are asking how they are financed, I would say that all children in this country are entitled to a free education.
    All children in this country (the US) are entitled to a free education, too. If they/their parents choose to attend a private or faith-based school, they’re making a choice to forego the free education provided them by the state.

    And yes, @Gee D. In the US, direct, general funding by the government of faith-based schools would be unconstitutional.

    I think thats the case in France as well with its strict secularism - much stricter than in the USA AFAIK.
  • ForthviewForthview Shipmate
    Many faith based schools in France, educating about 17% of school population, are supported by the government with parents contributing between 200 and 2000 euros per year.
    In state schools also one has in the secondary to pay for books,so parents are generally making some sort of contribution
  • PendragonPendragon Shipmate
    I gather from the Humanists UK info that parents sometimes send their children to Faith schools because they are the only option short of very long commutes. https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/schools-and-education/faith-schools/

    Certainly there are quite a few villages around England where it was the CofE who set up a school before the 1870 Education Act made them compulsory, so there isn't necessarily a local alternative. It does vary, but they are often less overtly religious because they are educating everyone in the village, and if they drive non-religious parents away they may not fill the spaces for the whole year, which brings funding issues.

    I know that a lot of RC schools, if not pretty much all of them, have academised as part of a diocesan chain, which gives them more autonomy. This is also true of a lot of CofE ones, but not necessarily all those at primary level. All RE in faith schools is inspected by the denomination though, not Ofsted.

    I will post something later about our experience.
  • edited June 30
    I disagree with private schools. It's elitist. And like the Germans, I'd ban home schooling too. Religious extremists and racists.

    Fuck you very much.

    I am neither a religious extremist or a racist. I have one kid full-time in public school, one full-time homeschooled, and one who is homeschooled but takes some classes in public school. It's about making the best choices for each kid.

    I know quite a lot of local homeschoolers. Many of them are religious (but not all by any means). It would be absurd to claim that there was no racism among them, but I see less racism in my homeschool friends than I do in my wider circle of friends and acquaintances. It's not all white kids either - I know homeschooled kids from all racial backgrounds. The only demographic that is almost completely absent in the local homeschool population is Latinx kids, and I'd guess that's partly economic - homeschooling does require you to have enough resources to have a parent available to supervise the kids' learning.

    Some people round here homeschool through the elementary years, and then send their kids to public middle school. This is basically motivated by a belief that the standard US educational system pushes academics too early. Other people with similar opinions send their kids to Steiner type schools or other alternative private schools, but private schooling is expensive. Home schooling is less expensive.

    I claim you know nothing, and are speaking through a combination of ignorance, prejudice, and salacious media reports about rather extreme cases.
    No. I write from a jurisdiction that decided that it should be controlled by the poor immigrants who settled it, after the province was formed. Specifically it was decided that education was vital to equality. That private schools as seen elsewhere were classist and eliteist. Thus we ended up with excellent tax-funded schools and nearly no private schools. Also banned were fraternities and sororities at universities. My only quibble is that the act which created the province bowed to the eastern Canadian idea that Canada was French and English, catholic and protestant, and expressed this idea in education being of two tax funded streams.

    Perhaps your publicly funded schools are poor? That's too bad.

    We have an additional legacy in Canada of Residential Schools which were designed to eradicate non-European cultures and languages. Their legacy is of some billions in settlements to those who experienced "cultural genocide" as peoples, and also to individuals who were starved, raped, otherwise sexually and physically violated. So it makes us awfully suspicious of religiously-run schools (the gov't contracted with churches to run them),. and of schools where their isn't proper centralized control and oversight. So back at you.
  • Perhaps your publicly funded schools are poor? That's too bad.
    I'm going to assume that you haven't participated in any of the previous threads on schools and education. Because, a feature of those threads has always been statements from US based Shipmates that in many parts of the US the publicly funded schools are very poor - which is why many people in the US who can manage it either home school or pay for private school, often at substantial sacrificial cost. From a social perspective, parents who are able to do this probably reduce the quality of the local publicly funded schools because these are often the parents who motivate their children and provide other support to the school and private schools may attract the better teachers, thus making it a self-fulfilling belief that publicly funded schools are poor quality. But, who wants to criticise parents for making significant sacrifices to get their children a good education?
  • (Don't recall an educational thread before.)

    Is it racist also? Which I would understand that it is. The story I understood is that American deterioration of public education occurred when white people didn't want their kids educated with brown people's kids. But that's probably as foundational as their founding fathers. But I was raised on Tommy Douglas and Saul Alinsky..
  • MarsupialMarsupial Shipmate
    Seriously, the quality of the public school system is variable everywhere. There are some excellent public schools in Toronto, others that are not so excellent.

    The only anecdotal evidence I have of the excellence, or lack thereof, of Saskatchwan public school system is a liberal secularist friend of mine from Saskatchewan whose liberal secularist parents sent him to a private school run by the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, because they were unhappy with the quality of the local public schools.
  • So it makes us awfully suspicious of religiously-run schools (the gov't contracted with churches to run them),. and of schools where their isn't proper centralized control and oversight. So back at you.

    Like I said.

    You know fuck all.

    You are generalizing from your particular context in a way that betrays a complete lack of perspective. If you were to restrict your comments to the things that you know about, I wouldn't much dispute them. You've told us quite a lot about how things work in your neck of the woods, and there's much to admire about it.

    But your blanket accusations that people who don't share your preferences are religious extremists and racists are offensive and wrong.
  • You may personalize at your own risk. Schools are embedded in societies.

    And yes, the need for social and economic justice is more extreme in some places. I'm quite aware, as we cannot stop the news cycle telling us about it. Education systems that require parents to consider that tax-funded schools will disadvantage their children is criminal.

    I do not believe in religious indoctrination in schools, nor with educating children away from others of different faiths, race, income levels. My views are fully socialist for children (social democracy for societies). That who one's parents are should not be the determiner of what kind nor quality of your schooling.

    A search brought up this opinion, which is actually current (today):
    From the beginning of compulsory education in this country, we have thought of the government as having some right to educate children so that they become active, productive participants in the larger society,” she said. "But it’s also important that children grow up exposed to community values, social values, democratic values, ideas about nondiscrimination and tolerance of other people’s viewpoints.
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    edited July 1
    You may personalize at your own risk. Schools are embedded in societies. ....
    I think that's fundamental. Ignoring and denying it is stymying useful discussion or comparison on this thread.

    The OP is specifically about Wales, though the education system there is fairly similar to England and except for language which isn't what the OP is about, the debates tend to be on the same things. Even Scotland, though, has a different system.

    We can each of us use the thread to discuss whether we agree with the way this is balanced within our own society. We could use it to discuss and compare the preoccupations, differences, strengths and weaknesses of how the arguments pan out within our different societies. That's interesting.

    What isn't very helpful is the prevailing tone of, 'This is what the Ruritanian constitution says. So, this is how we do it in Ruritania. The Ruritanian way is the only way. The way you do it in Erewhon is therefore wrong'.

    Removed surplus quoting tag. BroJames, Purgatory Host
  • Well, perhaps I can now lay my cards on the table - and may I underline that I can only speak for the English and Welsh situations and not Scotland and Wales (which are I think a bit different) nor for anywhere else (which are probably very different!)

    As others have said, the fact that there are "faith" faith schools in the mainstream education system is very much a product of history. Much of public education was provided by the churches, often under such banners as the National Society (CofE) and the British & Foreign School Society (largely Nonconformist). The State came in at a later date and, over the years, various decisions were taken to integrate what already existed with this. As othes have mentioned, many village schools were and are linked to the Parish Church; conversely many schools in developing areas were secular (i.e. run by the local authority) from the start. The Catholic Church developed its own schools which were also brought under the State umbrella.

    This system, with its imperfections, seemed to work fairly well until fairly recently when, in my view, a few things changed. One was the secularisation of society which made many people question whether "church" schools should exist. Another was the developing multi-faith nature of the country in which other faith communities were asking for schools of their faith to be developed and included. The third - I think - was the church schools often developing a greater emphasis on being specifically "Christian" and making church attendance an arbiter of admissions. FWIW this sometimes went against the school's original Trust Deed, dating back a century, which no-one had probably looked at - I know of a co-educational primary school which made church attendance one of its admission criteria, however the Trust Deed stated that the school was for "poor boys in the parish"; technically financial status, geography and gender should have been the criteria.

    We are now in the situation where many schools will admit X children each year under "church" criteria and Y children (usually fewer) under "open" criteria. Sometimes the criteria, especially for the church criteria, are very strictly defined in terms of church attendance and activity. That sadly can lead to hypocrisy as parents may religiously attend a church for two or three years but, as soon as their child is given a place, they are never seen again. I don't like the system, and I suspect that some clergy deliberately subvert it. I would much prefer to see, where legally possible, such schools retain their ethos and clearly articulating it, while being open to children of all faiths and none.

    Now I feel it is entirely appropriate for a church school to have a strongly Christian ethos, especially in an area where a choice of schools is available: if you are strongly anti-Christian, don't send your child there! (Villages are, I think, different especially as many schools in smaller communities have been closed). However I feel strongly - and this is where I disagree with the Catholic headteachers - that (a) all schools should offer a properly diverse and well-taught Religious Education curriculum as this promotes understanding and harmony among communities rather than religious division; and that (b) it is not a school's job to inculcate the Faith - whether that be Anglican, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim or whatever - into children; that is the task of the individual families who hold to that faith, together with their churches, synagogues, madrassis etc.
  • Well, perhaps I can now lay my cards on the table - and may I underline that I can only speak for the English and Welsh situations and not Scotland and Wales
    All fair and reasonable comments in your post....but don't the Welsh often tend to live in Wales!
  • Baptist TrainfanBaptist Trainfan Shipmate
    edited July 1
    Well, perhaps I can now lay my cards on the table - and may I underline that I can only speak for the English and Welsh situations and not Scotland and Wales
    All fair and reasonable comments in your post....but don't the Welsh often tend to live in Wales!

    They do, normally ... I meant "not Scotland and Northern Ireland"!!!
  • AravisAravis Shipmate
    What would be your thoughts on a multi-faith primary school? I know of a church primary school in an area with a lot of Muslim children, where both the head teacher and the local priest would like it to be specifically designated as a multi-faith school. The Bishop refused.
  • I've never thought of that! There would of course be legal complications; from a practical point of view I don't know. Could be worth exploring!
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