I WONDER if you have heard friends in the pub or media columnists suggesting that ‘faith schools’ should be abolished?
The arguments are usually about children being ‘indoctrinated’, that there is no space in today’s secular culture for schools based on religion, or that admissions policies shouldn’t depend on people going to church.
I understand the arguments, but unfortunately they are based on a myth. There is actually no such thing as a ‘faith school’, if that means lumping together CoE, Catholic, Muslim and Jewish schools in the same category.
The 4,700 Church of England schools in the UK were not actually created to cater for churchgoers at all.
When the CoE first became involved in education, 200 years ago, it created schools that were specifically “for the poor of the parish”.
That’s because, in Victorian times, the rich could afford their own private schools. The poor couldn’t.
The government only started its own network of state schools many years later.
Today, those same schools still have that phrase in their foundation document.
They still serve their local communities.
In many rural areas, the CoE primary school is the only one for miles, so every local child goes there. In some areas, the majority of pupils at the CoE school might actually be Muslim, because that happens to be the local community.
It is true that such schools must be distinctively Christian, with a noticeable Christian ethos, and with the culture, relationships and community based on Christian values.
But that doesn’t involve indoctrination.
If it did, more of the pupils who go to CoE schools would become adult churchgoers!
Our schools simply don’t have that kind of influence.
The ethos of our schools, such as St George’s CoE Primary in Portsea, is about the Christian values of serving God and each other.
These schools are popular not just because they do well academically, but because many parents think those values are important – regardless of their own faith.
So the next time someone talks to you about ‘faith schools’, you can say there is no such thing – and that CoE schools are a force for good. We are proud that they are ‘for children of all faiths and none’.