Faith schools shouldn’t be allowed to teach religious education (RE) lessons in line with their beliefs, according to atheist campaigner Richard Dawkins.
RE is compulsory but not currently part of the National Curriculum, and faith schools have the liberty to determine the content of their RE classes.
During an interview with the Times newspaper Professor Dawkins said that RE should be taught in a “comparative way according to a national curriculum”, and accused faith schools of ‘indoctrinating’ pupils.
He added: “Faith schools should not be allowed to opt out of religious education. Yet they are given this free pass to do religious education in their own way, which is not inspected by Ofsted.”
His comments were made ahead of the screening of a controversial documentary, Faith School Menace?, which branded faith schools as socially divisive and educationally damaging.
However, last November a new report disclosed that secondary schools run by faith groups were better at building community cohesion than secular schools.
The research, led by Prof David Jesson of the University of York, analysed the Ofsted reports of various schools.
It found that secondary schools run by faith groups scored eleven per cent higher for their promotion of community cohesion when compared with secular schools.
The report also concluded that faith-based schools outperformed secular schools by almost nine per cent when it came to tackling inequality.
And earlier this year the Chief Rabbi said that faith schools instill virtues of hard work, discipline and a sense of social responsibility.
Writing in The Times, Jonathan Sacks rebuffed claims that faith schools are divisive.
And he dismissed the idea that faith is a barrier to academic achievement.
Lord Sacks said there is a paradox that Europe is the planet’s “most secular continent” and yet “faith schools are the growth industry of our time”.
He commented: “More and more people want them, and are prepared to go to great lengths to get their children admitted.
“This applies to parents who are not themselves religious. What is going on?”