The discussion of faith schools in your columns in recent weeks reveals some interesting points.
The argument against faith schools is being made by those from non-religious backgrounds. Don't they have a vested interest in opposing the development of any religion-based institutions?
The discussion does not show any contention between different religious groups. Instead, religious groups can respect each other's purposes in running their own schools.
"Segregated"? "Middle-class"? Many pupils at faith schools catch the same buses as pupils at other schools, get part-time jobs in the same shops, live in the same streets etc. If this is called segregation then the term should equally be applied to the way in which pupils are allocated to different community schools. I have found many parents in an East End community school to be just as supportive of my work as those in a voluntary-aided school in which I taught some 10 years ago.
It will not do for those of secular outlook to present a secular view of what religion is, and then expect religious communities to conform to that view. To argue that religious faith should be treated only as a private matter and kept out of the public realm is to betray a lack of empathy for Christian and Islamic belief and for other faiths.
There will be no genuine dialogue until secular thinkers can approach faith communities in a way that respects their religious nature. Faith communities wish to achieve an integration of faith and contemporary culture in their young people. They do not feel that this wish can be met in maintained schools - think of questions relating to sex and relationships during the school day. The framework first established in the 1944 Education Act, enables them to achieve it through faith schools run in collaboration with the state system. Perhaps now is the time to recognise the contribution that these schools have made to education in this country.
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