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Talking point

What do church leaders and the National Secular Society think about increasing the number of schools run by faith groups.

Pete Broadbent, Bishop of Willesden and chair of the London diocesan board for schools, said: "There is huge demand for a church education in London, even among those who do not attend church. Our schools are for everyone. At Christ Church school on Brick Lane, east London, most pupils are Muslim. Church attendance in London is bucking the trend and rising. Lord Dearing has said we could double the number of CofE secondaries and still be oversubscribed."

Keith Porteous Wood, general secretary of the National Secular Society:

"Proselytisation, the specific purpose of religious schools, is not a proper use for public money. Our education system should not become a vehicle for the revival of the ailing CofE. Children of all races and creeds need to mix if we are ever to eradicate racism and religious prejudice."

Abdullah Trevathan, head of the 215-pupil Ilamia junior school, London, said: "We have a waiting list of 2,000 so there is huge demand and we can expect many more Muslim schools in the next few years. Far from being divisive, I think a faith school can build a child's self-esteem and confidence, qualities that lead to tolerance. People have nothing to fear from us. Bomb-making classes are not on the timetable!" Vincent Nichols, Catholic Archbishop of Birmingham, said: "Many Catholic schools are over-subscribed, but we can't open more just like that. We have to work with the education authority and unless there is an overall shortage of places it is difficult to open a new school."

Chief Rabbi, Dr Jonathan Sacks said: "Faith schools have an important role to play in our society. Much research has shown that successful schools are those that embody a clear ethos, something which is evident in virtually all faith schools. That is why they have an increasing appeal to parents, whether religious or not."

Amanda Kelly

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