Diversity, not division, is the way forward in schools

We can't claim to be a tolerant society when we still segregate our children based on the faith of their parents

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Could state-funded faith schools be on the way out? Let’s hope so. According to a recent Observer poll, nearly 60 per cent of us said faith schools should lose state funding or be closed down.

I’m with the majority. I grew up in a faith and I see that many religious state schools are leaders in their area. Parents flock to get their children into them, which is totally understandable. You can’t blame them for wanting the best. But you can blame the government for promoting a divisive education system in the first place.

We’re fortunate in this country that we’re free to practice whatever religion we choose, and long may that freedom continue. But religion is a personal choice. It’s not down to the state to promote or fund your beliefs. It is incumbent upon the state to provide education that encourages social cohesion. You can’t do that via segregation.

We claim to be a diverse and tolerant society. Yet we’re happy to divide our children by faith. How does that promote diversity? Yes, some faith schools do teach their pupils about other religions, and that’s only right and correct. But for a real education about others, you can’t beat the experience of mixing with different people, day in, day out.

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Crucially, faith schools do a disservice to the faiths and believers themselves. When children of a particular religion flock to their dedicated schools, regular schools in that area have few pupils of that religion. Their pupils don’t get the opportunity to learn and understand what their other religious counterparts are like. This leads to misunderstanding, division and, in some cases, racism.

What makes this all even more ridiculous is that by working the system, you can get your kids into a faith school even if you couldn’t give two hoots about the man upstairs. Many parents choose faith schools for their focus on discipline and values as well as quality education. These are all things that can, and should be, offered in a secular setting. We need to remove the faith aspect and work towards all schools being of a high standard.

It’s not down to the state to create divides based on religion among pupils too young to discern the situation for themselves. For a fully integrated society, children of all faiths should mix together.

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