Wilby on faith lacks logic

23rd September 2005 at 01:00
Peter Wilby's "logical" assumption that support of faith schools is that we end up with something close to racial segregation is lacking in both knowledge and logic ("Loosen religion's grip on state schools", TES, September 9).

In my 35 years as a teacher in Roman Catholic voluntary-aided schools, I have taught considerable numbers of children from the African-Caribbean, Chinese and Philippino communities, numerous children from first and second generation Polish, Irish and Italian backgrounds, pupils from other European backgrounds, and children from the Indian sub-continent. This is a characteristic of any Catholic school in a moderate to large urban community.

His contention that offering Muslims their own schools would encourage further segregation is not borne out by my experience. Once my own Catholic primary school was closed for the day so that all children could attend the motorcade of the Queen who was visiting at the time. A large number of children in our school were of an Irish background, some of their parents had Republican leanings and little sympathy with the Crown, yet the Church hierarchy wisely avoided any political fallout that would have arisen had they taken a narrow sectional interest. They were conscious of their primary purpose to serve the religious and spiritual needs of Catholics of all racial backgrounds.

There are parallels with the Catholic community of the Britain of 50 to 100 years ago and the Muslim community now. A century ago Roman Catholics were considered to have their loyalties to foreign powers. The power of the Catholic church to establish its own schools subject to the constraints of educational legislation, has been a positive force for inclusion into British society.

Bob Ganley 37 Morningside Drive East Didsbury Manchester

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