Posts Tagged ‘faith schools’

Five things we learnt from Tristram Hunt

29/10/2014, 04:49:26 PM

by Jonathan Todd

Having derided Ed Miliband as “a vulture” in his column, David Aaronovitch is not an uncritical Labour observer. Tristram Hunt, the Shadow Secretary of State for Education, was last night brave enough to sit down for an hour of conversation with him at a Progress #InConvo14 event.

We can only wonder what an hour of conversation between Miliband and Aaronovitch would tell us. But five things to take away from last night’s event were:

Labour loves teachers

Blowing smoke up the bottoms of teachers is a Hunt speciality. The policy chat was of lessons to be learnt from Finland and Singapore where a focus on teacher quality has driven improvement in school performance. The political pitch was also clear: for the support of teachers bruised by Michael Gove. Where Gove sought to bend them to his will, Hunt wants to put them on a pedestal. And if the Finnish and Singaporean experiences can be replicated, children and parents will thank Hunt.

Labour doesn’t love faith schools as much – but isn’t going to abolish them

Parental choice and school diversity become Labour virtues under Tony Blair. Last night, though, we debated what kind of divided society we might become if this choice is exercised to create a diversity of schools centred on different faiths and ethnicities.

Hunt recognised the concern but argued that school challenge and collaboration can overcome it. He claimed that these characteristics were present in the successful London Challenge, while their absence goes some way to explaining recent problems in Birmingham schools. A diversity of faith schools, on this argument, is unproblematic if they are challenged by Ofsted and integrated into local networks of both accountability and collaboration.

Labour wants to make a big play out of being pro-EU

“The thing,” according to Chuka Umunna’s recent GQ interview, “business fears most is exit from the EU, not a Labour government”. Umunna made this argument when it was put to him that Labour is anti-business. Hunt did the same last night when similarly pressed. Labour cannot be anti-business, so the story goes, because business values the UK’s EU membership and Labour government guarantees this membership, whereas Tory government doesn’t. Having cast around for business pitch, it appears that Labour has disembarked on what it thinks is a winner. (more…)

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If you don’t support religious freedom, then you don’t support freedom

16/06/2014, 04:29:31 PM

by Kevin Meagher

Given we’re constantly told we live in an age of evidence-based policy-making, the reaction to the so-called Trojan Horse case in Birmingham owes more to Medieval peasant superstition.

What has warranted the blanket media coverage of recent weeks? No organised conspiracy to ‘Islamify’ state schools in Birmingham has been uncovered. No evidence of criminality has been produced. No charges are pending.

All that has happened so far, despite almost daily media attention and a series of top-level investigations, is that a handful of schools in one if the poorest parts of the city are to be placed in special measures at the behest of schools inspectors.

Yes, there are suspicions about what might have gone on, however much of the reporting has been little more than conjecture – more heat than light – blackening the reputation of Birmingham’s Muslim community in the process.

But that didn’t stop yesterday’s Observer. With no substantive news from Birmingham to report, the paper fell back on the old tactic of producing an opinion poll which showed:

“70% [of the public] said the taxpayer should not be funding the promotion of religion in schools, 60% said such schools promoted division and segregation, and 41% said they were contrary to the promotion of a multicultural society.”

Of course it’s worth pointing out, for the avoidance of doubt, that parents who want to send their children to faith schools are still taxpayers. Just as it’s worth noting that none of the schools involved in the Trojan Horse ‘scandal’ are, in fact, faith schools at all.

Nevertheless, shadow education secretary, Tristram Hunt, was enjoined to comment. He thought the case “raised questions” about “how we manage potential tensions” around “faith, multiculturalism and state education”.


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We may not like faith schools, but we should respect those who do

23/02/2011, 12:00:14 PM

by Stephen Smith

There was much about Rob Marchant’s Labour Uncut piece on Monday, “Faith schools: a bad idea just got worse ”, that struck a chord with me. On closer reading, though, I felt a little uneasy about some of it.

The article addressed Michael Gove’s proposal to end the 20% limit on recruitment according to faith for faith schools which become academies. This would mean that an academy would then be able to restrict recruitment only to members of, for example, the Roman Catholic religion, or the Islamic religion.

Rob rightly raises serious concerns about this – it takes away what many would see as a key safeguard which prevents overly sectarian influence in our education system. Let’s not forget either that the proposed changes would also mean that these faith academies could receive 100% of their funding from the state, overriding, for example, the current requirement that voluntary aided schools must have at least 10% capital costs funded by the church. A state-sponsored Reverend Moon Academy doesn’t exactly sound like a vote winner  – but let’s hope that it wouldn’t meet the criteria for approval in the first place. (more…)

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Faith schools: a bad idea just got worse

21/02/2011, 12:00:00 PM

by Rob Marchant

God knows (if you’ll forgive the expression) what goes on in Michael Gove’s head. In politics, quotas are rarely a good idea at the best of times, but his removal of the 20% cap on teacher recruitment on grounds of religion has got to be a terrible idea, even for him. In short, he is saying that a school may recruit 100% of its staff according to where they worship or, indeed, if they worship at all.

Making decisions at world leader level is a lot harder than people often give credit for. Ataturk largely saved the modern Turkish nation by his wise decision to keep religion separate from state. And, say what you like about him, but Tony Blair usually had a pretty good nose for decision-making. However, there were undoubtedly the odd times as prime minister when he had clearly had an off-day, a row with Cherie or one too many gin and tonics the night before. Announcing his departure in 2005 but not saying when; the London mayoral elections; and faith schools. Anything involving religion seemed to have the potential to cloud Blair’s judgement, and occasionally cause him to ignore the timeless advice of one A. Campbell: not to “do God”.

So a scheme was cooked up to bolster faith schools, as a way to lock in the perceived positive effect of “specialist” status on academic achievement. Now, I can see the attraction for the Tories – they think they can get good academic performance “for free” – but isn’t there a flip-side to be considered? Why are faith schools such a bad idea? (more…)

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