Leading article: Faith and reason

Share

As a secular and liberal newspaper, The Independent naturally believes in the separation of the church and state. The disestablishment of the Church of England is a nettle that ought to have been grasped in Britain long ago. But given that it has not been, we understand the need for politicians to work within the anomalies thrown up by these unsatisfactory constitutional circumstances. One such anomaly is the existence of several thousand state-funded Church of England schools in the UK, and the privileged position they enjoy over other religious schools.

In a country that long ago sloughed off its monocultural religious character - and which now plays host to an impressive range of different religions - fairness demands that, if CofE schools have access to public funds, so should Roman Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh and other religious teaching institutions, the majority of which currently exist outside the maintained sector. For the state to continue to finance CofE schools almost exclusively gives the unfortunate impression of discrimination. The Government was therefore right in its latest education Bill to invite more faith schools to join the maintained sector.

There is a growing body of opinion in Britain that says faith schools of all stripes should be denied funding. It is argued that by encouraging a "sectarian" education system the Government is storing up trouble for future community relations. We do not share that view. For one thing, faith schools are not about to disappear if they are not funded by the state. There is clearly a demand for them from some parents. And no government is going to order them to be shut down.

It is surely better, therefore, to bring such schools into the state system so they can be properly inspected for compliance with teaching standards and the national curriculum. This will mean that obviously deficient, or extremist, institutions can be identified. An inclusive policy also gives the Government more leverage over admissions. The Education Secretary, Alan Johnson, in a speech yesterday, confirmed that a quarter of the intake of new faith schools should be "non-believers". This seems a reasonable quid pro quo.

We must not allow the present hysteria over the role of religion in our society to blind us to the central issue here: education. The reason faith schools are often popular with parents is not because they offer a segregated education (although that clearly can be the case sometimes), but because they achieve good exam results. Practicality, rather than idealism, should govern official policy on education. And this means more state-funded faith schools.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Beware of the jovial buffoon who picks fights overseas

Boyd Tonkin
 

My shameful failure to live up to the spirit of Christmas

Howard Jacobson
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all