Religious divide

2nd May 2003 at 01:00
THE Bishop of Portsmouth's assertion (TES, April 18) that Church of England schools are not a force for division needs some qualification.

How divisive Church schools are depends a great deal on what kind of school they are (voluntary-controlled or voluntary-aided), where they are, and what the demand for them is. The usual situation is that where demand or the number of Anglican families is low, Church schools, even voluntary-aided ones, welcome children of other faiths and none. Where there is high demand, voluntary-aided Church schools tend to select those who either are Anglicans or are prepared to pretend to be Anglicans. The church itself seems divided about whether this is what it ought to be doing. And Church schools are funded almost entirely out of the public purse, something that is often forgotten (and usually glossed over by their promoters).

In addition, the Bishop ought to acknowledge that Church schools are driving the demand from other religious groups for schools of their own - surely a move towards social division rather than unity.

Marilyn Mason

Education officer

British Humanist Association

1 Gower Street, London WC1E

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