Faith schools report attacked

By Leon Symons, December 11, 2008

A report calling for faith schools to stop selecting on the basis of pupils’ religion has been heavily criticised.

The Runnymede Trust’s report, Right to Divide? Faith Schools and Community Cohesion, says that “if faith schools are convinced of their relevance for society, then that should apply equally for all children”.

It questioned the commitment of faith schools to the government’s social cohesion programme and said: “Too often, there remains a resistance to learning about other faiths.”

Parents, said the report, can use faith as a means of ensuring social
exclusivity within the school.

Jon Benjamin, chief executive of the Board of Deputies, said: “The report sadly makes the fundamental mistake of regarding faith schools as homogeneous. Clearly there are wide divergences not only between individual schools, but also between the communities they serve, and the catch-all solutions suggested by the report demonstrate that this has simply not been understood.”

In a letter to The Times on Monday Alan Shaw, head of Moriah Primary School in Pinner, noted that the Runnymede research had been based on only seven schools.

“Perhaps if the authors had visited more… they might discover such schools have been at the forefront of community cohesion long before it became a political catchphrase.”

He set out the achievement of his own school and questioned the raison d’etre of the report, saying that the Trust should “concentrate on identifying, promoting and sharing best practice among all schools”.

Last updated: 2:04pm, December 11 2008