Enemies of faith schools want to strip them of the ethos which helps make them “distinctive, popular and successful”, the Church of England says.
Such opponents “try to dictate to parents how they should school their children”, argued Revd Janina Ainsworth, the Church of England’s Chief Education Officer.
The defence came in a letter published by The Times newspaper yesterday, responding to a previous letter from a ‘multi-faith’ group that attacked faith schools.
The group called for the Government’s new Equality Bill to remove the right of faith schools to select pupils and staff who share the school’s religious character.
The group’s letter was quickly welcomed by the British Humanist Association, which said it would “pressure Parliament to outlaw religious discrimination in our schools”.
Revd Ainsworth questioned the “religious” motives of the writers of the letter. “Seemingly,” she wrote, “it is against their religion to create schools with religious values at their core, or to develop schools to nurture children of the faith in that faith.
“Their proposals to strip faith schools of the right to use any faith-based admissions criteria would dilute a key ingredient that can help to make these schools distinctive, popular and successful.”
She said the group offered “no evidence of their direct experience in education” yet “try to dictate to parents how they should school their children”.
She went on: “The thousands of staff, governors and parents involved in creating inclusive, distinctively Christian learning environments in voluntary-aided church schools will say with one voice that their motivation is to provide the best possible place for children to learn and develop, spiritually, socially and academically.
“I know which motivation is trusted and appreciated by politicians, parents and children across the land.”
Last year she rejected the suggestion that faith schools could be stripped of their religious ethos and still maintain their popularity.
She said: “Some seem to believe that the Christian ethos, which is so valued by parents, is like a sort of magic dust that is sprinkled on church schools simply by association.
“But it is, in fact, achieved through the hard work of staff and governors in building a learning community that is underpinned with Christian values.”