Why do we still have faith schools in the UK?
Why do we still have faith schools in the UK. This system divides communities and encourages parents to pretend to be religious to get their children into the best schools.
Faith Schools in the UK
In the UK many primary schools are faith schools. That is, they are run in association with a particular religion, typically Church of England (or Wales etc) or Catholic.
These schools promote a religious ethos and take religious teaching more seriously than non-faith schools.
Note that in the UK there are no state secular schools. All state schools are by law required to teach religious doctrine. It's just that faith schools have more religion than non-faith schools.
What are Faith Schools
"Collective Worship" and school assemblies: your rights
Explains that in community schools, collective worship must be of a broadly Christian nature unless the school gets an exception due to the family background of the pupils, in which case alternative worship must be provided (e.g. there are some multi-faith schools in London).
Faith Schools are Often Better
Faith schools are often the better schools in an area. I've got first-hand experience of why this is the case. Parents who care about their children's education feel obligated to get them into a religious school.
We have three local primary schools. One is Catholic, one is C of E and the other is non-faith. The religious schools have better reputations. I have lots of friends and acquaintances who have suddenly found religion when they became parents. It's understandable, you want to do the best for your children. How bad could it be to go to church on Sunday and listen to a dull sermon and make a small donation. It's much cheaper than a private school.
My son will be starting primary school this September. I've had a very well-meaning friend emailing me to encourage me to try and get my son into one of the religious schools to avoid the rougher elements at the non-faith school. This is the default school for parents who don't have the foresight or knowledge to get religious when their children are small. Plus a number of idealogists like myself and my friend who thinks it's important for her son to go to a local school and be part of the community.
I should point out that the local non-faith school seems pretty amazing to me. I grew up in a much poorer area and the facilities at the school look excellent to me.
The religious schools have a reputation of being academically successful but very cold towards parents of the wrong flavor religion or no religion.
Why we haven't Found Religion
So why haven't we found religion to get our son into a better school? As I've said, it's not as though the less good school is non-religious - it still has to promote Christianity.
We certainly don't like the hypocrisy of pretending to be religious when we're not so that's not an option. However the schools do take some non-religious pupils. We could have tried to get our son in anyway.
But, we really don't like the idea of our son being taught science and religion by the same people. How confusing is that? Science teaches you to use the scientific method and evaluate the evidence. As non-believers we apply the same approach to religion and find it lacking. I don't like the idea of a teacher in a position of influence telling my son that there is a god as if it's a fact. I could get over this, I went to a C of E school and I turned out alright ;-)
I object to the existence of religious schools. They divide the community. My son won't get to go to school with some of his good preschool friends who live locally because their parents want them to go to a religious school. I think this is a real shame. Some of his friends are going to the non-faith school so we can't win either way. Wouldn't it have been nice if they could all have gone to their local school together? I don't want to support this divisive approach to schools.
Also, my older son is very literal and scientific minded. He's 4.5 and we haven't needed to discuss religion with him yet. Once religion comes onto his radar, which would certainly happen big time at a religious school, he's going to ask lots of great questions. We'll encourage him to think for himself but will share our views with him. I worry that he would share these views at school and this would cause problems. People don't like children who tell their kids that their parents don't believe in god. I hate to think what the Catholic kids would tell him, and he's a sensitive kid. He doesn't need that.
We won't be opting him out of religious assemblies or religious education at the non-faith school either. We don't want him to be different. Different, ha! Hardly anyone is genuinely religious in the UK. But withdrawing him would set him apart.
I just wish this wasn't an issue and that religion (or not) was something that was left to parents and Sunday schools. I don't think faith schools have a place in modern UK society.
Are we doing the right thing sending our son to a non-faith school?
Even though its reputation is less good than the religious schools
Note to the Religious
I hope I haven't caused offense. I know that in the US particularly religion is pretty prevalent and commonplace. I'm a humanist and don't understand this at all. But I do respect your right to believe. I hope you respect my right not to believe.