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Darwin day makes natural holiday selection

Article | Published in TES Newspaper on 19 April, 2002 | By: Clare Dean

HUMANISTS this week called for six new public holidays, including Darwin Day on February 12, in a consultation document focusing on the controversial issue of religion and belief in schools.

Britain has eight public holidays, fewer than many other countries and the British Humanist Association believes more would be a significant symbol of respect for minority groups in schools.

It proposes a public holiday for each of the major non-Christian faiths and one for the humanists and other non-religious people.

The document also urges that religious schools opt out of the state school system or become more inclusive of pupils of all faiths or none.

Its call came as seven bishops and nine scientists - including TV naturalist Sir David Attenborough - wrote to the Prime Minister expressing concern about science teaching at Emmanuel City Technology College in Gateshead.

The college has been at the centre of a row over creationism. But the letter said: "The issue goes wider than what is currently being taught in one college. There is a growing anxiety about what will be taught and how it will be taught in the new generation of proposed faith schools."

Humanists want all schools to be flexible about school uniforms, to provide a quiet room for prayer and reflection and to rename RE as beliefs and values education.

Their proposals arise out of long-term opposition to religious schools as well as concern for the common good and human rights.

The humanists argue that pluralist community schools could be as effective as faith-based schools in helping parents who want to bring up children in their own religion.

In Home Office research published last year teachers were accused of being some of the "most common perpetrators of religious discrimination".

Humanists recommend that all teacher training should include training in multi-cultural awareness. They also want to enforce the General Teaching Council code of practice requiring teachers to respect pupils' social, cultural, linguistic, religious and ethnic background. org

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