Teachers’ union wants an end to faith schools

Faith groups should be banned from running schools, members of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) say.

At the NUT’s annual conference this week delegates are expected to debate a motion stating: “Religious groups, of whatever faith, should have no place in the control and management of schools”.

The union’s leadership is thought to support the general aim of creating a single comprehensive school system, but wants faith schools to change their admissions policies rather than phase the schools out altogether.

The NUT’s bid comes as the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) calls for the requirement for teachers to hold daily assemblies with a “broadly Christian character” to be scrapped.

The supporters of the NUT motion say faith school admissions policies create “segregated schooling”. Faith schools often out-perform their non-religious counterparts.

Christian and Jewish schools made up two thirds of the primary schools receiving ‘perfect’ results in the league tables published last week, though they only make up a third of all schools.

Representatives of the country’s 7,000 faith schools insist they should not be forced to drop their religious ethos, arguing that this is the reason why they perform so well.

Last year, Revd Jan Ainsworth, the Church of England’s Chief Education Officer, 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.”

A new coalition pushing for a ban on schools selecting pupils who share the religious beliefs of the school was formed last year. It includes the ATL, the British Humanist Association and theological think-tank Ekklesia.

However, the Government has indicated its support for faith schools. Children’s Minster Kevin Brennan insisted last year: “Faith schools are a long-established part of the state school system in England.

“Parents should be able to choose the type of education and ethos they want for their children.

“The bottom line is that faith schools are successful, thriving, popular and here to stay. It is down to locally accountable councils and communities themselves, not some campaign group, to decide what sort of schools they want.”

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