Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Faith Schools Under Pressure

Government-funded faith schools will be forced to shut down if the teacher’s union gets its way.

In the run-up to their annual conference, the National Union of Teacher’s (NUT) put forward a motion calling for ‘a long-term phased program of ending state funding to faith schools…’

When they met at Torquay from 14th – 17th April, the union discussed Government’s controversial Education and Inspections Bill. This Bill, opposed by the Teacher’s Union, would allow state schools more freedom to become self-governing trusts and to function independent of the local education authority.

During their conference, NUT passed a resolution instructing their Executive to seek amendments to the Education Bill. Such amendments included a ban on Christian schools offering religious instruction to the pupils unless it includes ‘unbiased teaching about all faiths and beliefs including secular beliefs within the context of the locally agreed SACRE syllabus…’
The demand for 'inbiased teaching' could force Christian teachers to be as positive about homosexuality and Islam as they are about the Bible.

Members of the union also moved to demand new laws preventing the teaching of ‘creationism or intelligent design as a valid alternative to evolution’ in science lessons. This was supported by members of the Royal Society, who fear pupils will not learn the value of genuine science if they are presented with both sides of the debate (I haven't been able to work that one out).

On 24th May, the Education and Inspections Bill passed its third reading in the House of Commons. It has now gone to the Lords where NUT is hoping their amendments will be accepted before the Bill is sent back to the Lower Chamber.

As things currently stand, faith or trust schools can choose their own curriculum and function independently of the local council network of schools, while still being partly subsidized by the Government.

Faith schools: ‘divisive’

One member of NUT suggested such schools provided ‘fertile ground for…terrorism’ and will ‘increase, rather than reduce, barriers to achieving an inclusive society.’ The British Humanist Association has called these schools ‘unnecessary, divisive and discriminatory,’ while Keith Mitchell, former director of education for County Durham, has argued that they ‘[represent] a serious threat to the future of comprehensive education.’

Many of these worries stem from the concern that children in ethnic communities will fail to integrate if they have their own schools to attend. We should learn from the American example, where the disaster of using the school system to achieve forced integration is well documented.
Implicit in many of NUT's arguments is the idea that to fight terrorism, ethnic division and class segregation, you must control exactly what is being taught and what viewpoint is being conveyed. It remains unclear how forcing Muslim children to sit through sex education lessons and the humanistic-driven national curriculum is meant to foster social harmony.
Steve Sinnott, general secretary of NUT, has expressed the worry that independent school teachers might try to ‘peddle’ their beliefs into the education process. Yet this does not mean that NUT favours a religiously and politically neutral education. The national curriculum is far from that. But they do want to be able to regulate what views are being conveyed to students. This includes the pro-homosexual, pro-abortion, pro-evolution, anti-biblical posturing that has become commonplace in the state schools.

Faith Schools and Homosexuality

Although it is expected that the Lords will reject NUT’s amendments, Faith schools are far from secure. Homosexual group Schools Out is campaigning that schools be included in the scope of the Government’s new Sexual Orientation Regulations.

The Government is currently consulting whether the Regulations to outlaw discrimination in ‘goods, facilities and services’ should include institutions such as schools and churches.

In response to the Government’s consultation paper, Schools Out has written, ‘Until the reality and understanding that LGB sexuality is as natural and usual as heterosexuality is enabled to permeate widely throughout the education system, the task of ending centuries of prejudice will continue to be an uphill struggle.’

If Schools Out is successful in its campaign, the new regulations will apply to privately funded Christian schools as well as state schools. ‘There are no circumstances,’ the organization has written, ‘in which schools, in any sector, should be exempt from the regulations.’ (Is this meant to include homoschools?) This would include mandating that ‘Informal areas such as corridors notice boards and those in common or staff rooms should be made to equally publicise LGBT organizations…’
(To read more about the involvement of homosexual groups in schools, click HERE)
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