Protests over Dawkins faith school film

By Robyn Rosen, July 22, 2010

The Board of Deputies and a Jewish primary school have pulled out of a film about faith schools by controversial atheist Richard Dawkins, after parents protested.

Barnes Hassid Productions approached the Board in June about the documentary, due to air in August on More 4 and Channel 4.

Jonathan Arkush, senior vice-president of the Board, agreed to be interviewed, together with education representatives from the Church of England and the Association of Muslim Schools.

His interview was due to be filmed at Hertsmere Jewish Primary School (HJPS), but last week dozens of parents complained after they received a letter about the documentary. On Monday the school announced that the filming would not take place.

One HJPS parent, who did not want to be named, said: "When we first received the letter from the school I had no problem with it because I didn't know who Richard Dawkins was.

"But when I Googled him I found out his opinions on faith schools and how he thinks they are terrible for society. I thought it would be really damaging for the school."

Maralyn Zucker, HJPS chair of governors, said: "After due consultation, the school has decided not to participate in the documentary."

Atalia Cadranel from the Board said they too had decided not to participate. She said: "Despite numerous and credible assurances from the production company, the Board decided to err on the side of caution and not participate in this documentary, which sets out to go beyond the usual Dawkins headlines and get to grips with how faith schools are often successful.

"While the Board will not partake in the filming, we will still try to inform the Jewish part of the programme."

Russell Barnes, the producer, said: "After being led to believe it was possible to film at the school, we were told two days before filming this was not possible and we are still seeking some sense of why.

"We would still welcome an interview so that a Jewish faith perspective is fully reflected."

Last updated: 3:49pm, July 22 2010