Chalk Talk: How our faith schools are changing
Richard Garner has been Education Editor of The Independent for 12 years and writing about the subject for 34 years. Before becoming a journalist, he worked as a disc jockey in London pubs and clubs and for a hospital radio station. His main hobbies are cricket (watching these days) and theatre. On his days off, he is most likelt to be found at Lord’s or the King’s Head Theatre Club.
Wednesday 29 January 2014
Some of the myths that have developed over the years is that faith schools are exclusive, do little to counter homophobic bullying and are exacerbating a kind of unofficial segregation in their communities.
It can happen, true, but the latest inclusivity award from the Accord Coalition – the organisation set up to promote the idea that all state schools, religious and non-religious, should be open to all-comers – disproves the theory.
The winner in its secondary-school category this year is the Stockport Academy, a Christian faith school that chooses not to select pupils by faith, challenges homophobia and includes a range of beliefs in its religious-education syllabus. "This year's winning school provides a model for other faith schools," said Rabbi Jonathan Romain, who is the chairman of the Accord Coalition. "It is a rebuke to those who argue that a faith school will lose its character if it opens its doors to the wider community."
The winner in the primary sector – Newbury Park Primary School in Ilford – promotes a similar perspective. It invites volunteers from local sixth forms into the school to make presentations about their own beliefs and the importance of them to their lives.
Dr Romain said he hoped that the Newbury Park scheme would inspire other primary schools to follow suit. "RE can suffer from too great a focus on facts and understanding faiths through the eyes of religious authorities."
An awards ceremony like this, as one says, is pour encourager les autres.
Education has always been famous for the vast number of acronyms it is responsible for – the latest is "Macs".
No, it's not a reference to hamburgers or computer technology; it means "multi-academy chains".
Most academies now use the services of multi-academy chains. Paradoxically, they perform some of the functions that come under the jurisdiction of local-education authorities.
Some give their schools freedom to run their own affairs but some apparently have a stricter central control than the local authorities used to have.
Plus ça change!
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