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Helen Kelly is a playwright and mother of a three-year-old boy. Her latest play, Catchment Christians, follows the angst and occasional hypocrisy of parents trying to find the right school for their children. It is being staged at the Artrix theatre in Bromsgrove on 14 May.
What is the play about?
It is about parents pretending to be religious when they are not in order to get their child into the best school in their area. It is a comedy and drama that looks at the fear that parents have when it comes to choosing a school. It is something that I am going through, or I am about to be going through with my son - although I might be putting my head above the parapet with this play. I can't exactly go and get him baptised now.
So is it for or against faith schools?
It has two story lines. It looks at the scholarly nature of faith schools - everyone seems to think that religious schools are highly academic and every parent is obsessed with getting their kids into these kinds of schools. Then it questions what this is doing to the spirituality of Britain, and what this does for the spiritual health of the country.
What made you write about faith schools?
I had a very, very Catholic upbringing and went to a Catholic school myself. Despite growing up in Leicester, which was a very Asian area, I grew up in a predominantly white Catholic environment because of the school I went to. Everyone on my street was Asian apart from one white family, and it was the little girl from that family I played with because she went to my school. It was as if I was taken out of the geographical and cultural context of where I grew up.
Is it daunting writing about religion?
It is a little bit scary, especially living in Birmingham. I was there when the Sikh demonstrators broke into a theatre showing Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti's (2004) play Behzti (which depicted sexual abuse and murder in a temple). There is a concern that religion could become the new censorship, but I think it is really important we stop to think about where we are going with faith schools. Are we drifting towards a world where your religion dictates what type of school you go to?
And are we?
The Government is bringing in these free schools and academies, which allow more religious schools to open, and will also mean they can opt out of being under local authority control. Schools are often the engines of cohesion, and if more schools can opt out, then we are in danger of taking that engine of cohesion for granted and losing it for good.