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5th August 2020

Stacey Shepherd’s Thought for the Day

Today’s story about the plans for a new secondary school on the Feeder Road made me think about how in some parts of Bristol, the only school options for parents are either faith schools or schools with a faith ethos. This is an even more common occurrence in rural areas where 53% of all primary schools are religious. Given that 52% of the UK claims to have no religion, and only 25% of parents say they’d want their children to go to a faith school this seems like quite a bizarre position.
Around a third of all state-funded schools in England and Wales are registered as Faith Schools. In addition, a number of state-funded free schools and academies which aren’t registered as faith schools still claim to have a ‘faith ethos’. And surprisingly, all schools, religious or not, are expected to provide collective worship with a Christian Character or another faith subject to approval.
Most types of Faith Schools are allowed to discriminate against both admission of children and employment of staff on religious grounds. They are also allowed to deliver Religious Education as per the tenants of their faith and are not required to educate their pupils on other religions or worldviews.
As a humanist I believe in the importance of an inclusive, secular school system, where children and young people of all different backgrounds and beliefs can learn with and from each other. Allowing children to learn about all religions and worldviews also encourages independent thinking, tolerance and compassion – qualities I’m sure we’d all agree we’d like to foster in our future generations.
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