Society is the loser if faith schools win

23rd July 2004 at 01:00
It might be assumed that, as a rabbi, I am in favour of faith schools, but in fact I endorse Linda Smith's opposition to them (TES, July 9) and argue that the rush into such schools poses a profound danger to society.

If children mix only with fellow Jews or fellow Muslims or fellow Catholics from the age of five to 18, it is inevitable that they will develop a ghettoised view of Britain. The more multi-faith Britain becomes, the more we have to ensure the different groups do not grow apart. There is a real danger that an increase in faith-based schools in Britain will create a religious apartheid system that we will come to regret bitterly in 30 years' time.

Segregation produces children - and later adults - who regard each other with, at best, suspicion and, at worst, enmity. As a rabbi, I have made great efforts to provide my children with a strong Jewish identity, but I also consider it important for them to sit next to a Muslim in class, play football with a Methodist, be in detention with a Hindu and walk home with a "don't-know".

Parents who feel strongly about their children's religious identity have ample opportunity to provide it at home and through supplementary classes.

However good some faith-based schools may be individually, collectively they are a recipe for social separatism. We need to put national cohesion above religious interests. It should also be remembered that the more tolerant and harmonious is society at large, the safer and more valued are its component parts.

Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain Maidenhead Synagogue Grenfell Lodge Ray Park Road Maidenhead

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