Religious needs being disregarded

11th November 1994 at 00:00
I read with interest Umar Hegedus' letter (TES, October 28) "Meeting Muslim needs".

Within my own sixth-form college I have recently raised exactly these needs in connection with a "student support services" list that is given to our students a few days after they join the college.

This list provides telephone contacts for a number of organisations relating to family planning, sexual health and orientation, and Aids education, whose work would not be supported by families from some religious and cultural backgrounds.

A year ago I raised similar concerns in connection with the college's approach to World Aids Day.

In part the response has been that the college is essentially secular and that students from religious backgrounds take that on board when they choose to join the college (but the college mission statement is neutral rather than secular).

But in the main, the response has been to disregard the concerns expressed, despite the fact that the college depends upon students transferring from religiously-based schools to meet its target numbers for funding from the Further Education Funding Council.

I have a serious concern that the needs of students from religious backgrounds who are studying within the mainstream of state education appear to be consciously disregarded, both within the Department for Education and at the level of individual schools and colleges.

If this is the case, it raises a serious question both from the point of view of equal opportunities and about the nature of our democratic society expressed in its educational structures.

JOSEPH SOWERBY

220 Rush Green Road

Romford

Essex

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