Can you keep the faith without keeping unfair divides?

19th June 2009 at 01:00

Does Gerard Kelly, the editor of The TES, have a special interest to declare ("Damn it, faith schools are not to be feared", June 12) or is he simply being naive? Antipathy towards faith schools is not based on ill-founded prejudice, but on objections to what they do and stand for. Broadly, the schools fall into two categories: those that segregate entirely by parental religion, and those that do so partly or not at all.

While the first is the most obviously divisive, the second is in some ways more insidious, affording as it does the opportunity to preach to the converted and unconverted alike. By way of example, consider the Church of England's documents The Way Ahead and Sharing the Good News with Children: The Church of England's Children's Strategy, both available from its website (

Here, we find that the church sees children "not as objects of benevolence, nor even as recipients of instruction, but in the last analysis as patterns of discipleship"; that it wishes to increase "practical resources on evangelism among children"; and that it believes "children's attitudes are largely formed by the time they are eight. The church's key work starts, therefore, with very young children."

No wonder it is so keen on academies where pupils start at three. This is nothing less than a manifesto for indoctrination.

Mr Kelly asks: why not faith schools? I would ask, why? Accounting for socio-economic factors, they underperform. And, in a field where open-minded inquiry might be thought of value, they represent the view that the ultimate truth was established when the Earth was considered the centre of the universe.

The more faith schools we have, the more separation and ultra-conservatism we are likely to see in future generations, to the detriment of equality, social cohesion, scientific progress, and free speech.

Mike Lim, Bolton, Greater Manchester.

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