Gove welcomes atheist schools
The Government is ready to back the creation of atheist schools as part of its series of reforms, the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, said yesterday.
He told MPs: "It wouldn't be my choice of school but the whole point of our education reforms is that they are, in the broad sense of the word, small 'l' liberal. They exist to provide that greater degree of choice."
His comments, made to MPs on the all-party Commons Education Select Committee, come after a group of mothers urged Professor Richard Dawkins, a self-avowed atheist and author of The God Delusion, if he would help to set up an atheist "free" school. Professor Dawkins replied: "I like the idea very much – although I would prefer to call it a free-thinking school. I would never want to indoctrinate children in atheism, any more than in religion. Instead, children should be taught to ask for evidence, to be sceptical, critical, open-minded."
The call for an atheist school comes in the wake of fears that the Government's plans could pave the way for more religious groups to run state schools. Between 35 and 40 of the 150 expressions of interest in the scheme are faith-based.
Mr Gove, whose two children attend primary faith schools, said he "recognised that there are some people who explicitly do not want their children educated in a faith-based setting". He added: "If Professor Dawkins wants to set up a school, we would be very interested to look at an application."
Faith groups wanting to take advantage of the scheme must pledge that they would keep only 50 per cent of their places open to admission on grounds of faith. However, Mr Gove said he doubted whether it would work the other way round. "I don't think we will have children saying in assembly, 'Our Father, which art not in heaven.'"
Neither the British Humanist Association (BHA) nor the National Secular Society support the idea of an atheist school.
In a wide-ranging interview with MPs, Mr Gove also announced the creation of an independent commission chaired by a Labour MP, Graham Allen, to investigate ways of ensuring that disadvantaged young people receive the best start in life. Mr Gove said that at present "rich thick kids do better than poor clever children" when they started school and "the situation gets worse".
Weather bomb in pictures: Storms cuts power for tens of thousands – and snow is on the way
Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
Russell Brand was rendered speechless on Question Time by this man
Fury at Airbus after it hints the super-jumbo may be mothballed
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Rozanne Duncan: Ukip expels councillor for 'jaw-dropping' comments made in BBC TV interview
Sony hack: Angelina Jolie branded 'seriously out of her mind' in further embarrassing leaked email saga
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...
£35000 per annum + Pension+Bupa: The Jenrick Group: We are recruiting for an e...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35K - £45K: SThree: SThree Group have been we...
£40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We are currently recruit...