Faith schools are a force for tolerance

21st April 2006 at 01:00
Matthew Holehouse, in his article on faith schools ("No faith in new system", TESFriday, April 7) poses the question, "Isn't teaching their children in isolation from the rest their very purpose?"

Unfortunately, there is a popular misconception that pupils in faith schools study in "splendid isolation" unaware of the "real world". This is simply not the case. Apart from the fact that pupils attend sports clubs and other activities out of school, faith schools take their civic responsibilities extremely seriously.

Taking my own (Orthodox Jewish) school as a typical example; in the past three years we have raised funds for heart and cancer charities, the tsunami appeal, poppy appeal, Jeans for Genes, and hospitals. Our pupils participate in our education authority's Junior Citizenship Scheme and have performed at civic events. They have entertained children in Great Ormond Street Hospital and elderly residents at various care homes. There have been visits to and from local community schools to promote and understand other cultures.

Mr Holehouse states that "minimal religious observance at my school has bred a fairly easy disregard for faith". Perhaps this explains why so many parents choose to send children to faith schools. They want children to have a strong foundation in their own faith with a greater depth of understanding of religious texts, a stronger sense of history and a more detailed awareness of ritual than would be offered in mainstream schools.

This does not result in pupils from faith schools becoming intolerant of others. On the contrary, it gives them self-esteem and confidence in their own beliefs so that they can face the world with tolerance and strength.

Please come and visit us, Matthew, I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

Alan Shaw Headteacher Moriah Jewish day school Cannon Lane Pinner, Middlesex

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