The editorial in today’s Independent:
Free Schools should not be able to recruit on faith alone
A working definition of the phrase “the worst of all worlds” in education would be a faith-based free school, which, whatever its merits, is “free” to divide children and communities on fairly broad grounds. Such institutions do already exist, but their governing bodies are prevented from recruiting more than half of the intake on the grounds of religious affiliation, itself a notion that sends a shiver down the liberal spine. Now, there is agitation for that quota restriction to be lifted.
The reality of many faith schools, free or not, is that they are an exercise in parental deception. Previously Godless parents suddenly develop an interest in the Pope’s moral guidance or turn up to hear the vicar’s homilies on a Sunday morning.
For those parents unwilling to go through such charades, or who cannot afford to move to a prime catchment area, their children have to take whatever the local authority gives them.
With our continued subsidies to private schools with only a flimsy claim to “charitable” status, we have now created a patchwork of schooling in Britain in which money and religious belief (real or feigned) are the main determinants of educational success, which is itself linked to success in later life. None should be very surprised that social mobility is becoming a concept we will have to teach in history lessons. This situation is unfair and profoundly inefficient for the economy, and there is no cause to make matters worse by distorting education even further.
Even without the help of the odd religious extremist, if children of all faiths think it natural to go to schools separately, we should not be surprised if they feel they have less in common with their fellow citizens as they grow older. Faith schools, even with a 50 per cent quota for diversity, and even with some excellent teaching, have their drawbacks.
Excellent comment, except for the words “have their drawbacks” substitute “should be abolished”.