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Friday, 14 December, 2001, 11:46 GMT
Are faith schools a problem?
One of the official reports on the summer's riots in England pointed to segregation brought about by schools being dominated by pupils from one faith or community as one of the key problems.

The government wants to encourage the setting up of more faith schools.

Some think this is a good move - others argue that it is bound to be divisive.

What do you think?

Is it inevitable that a school will reflect its local community, whether it is a faith school or not? Can an artificial mix of pupils be created? Would more faith schools worsen society's race relations?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

We were well integrated as a class

Gaya, Hong Kong
I went to a school in Bahrain where as a Christian, I got three hours of instruction in that religion every week. At the same time, the Muslims in our class were separated and instructed in their religion in a classroom next door. As there were only a handful of Hindus in my year, they got a free period. We were well integrated as a class and learnt a lot about each others' religions/cultures through everyday interaction. During morning assembly, a common prayer was said to a universal "God". The atheists could opt to stand silent.
Gaya, Hong Kong

I think it is important that ALL children should enjoy a rich mix of education, including religion. How else can they make informed unbiased choices as they grow up? But learning about the full spectrum of religions is not going to solve the problem - we must remember that the whole structure of British society is based around Christian beliefs, holidays and behaviour. Therefore a total re-think is needed to value and honour religious celebrations from all religions, not just Christianity.
Pamela, England

I think many folk are being too harsh on single faith schools. At my comprehensive school people of no faith at all were happy to abuse a person for being different in any way. I don't think religion itself is the problem in Northern Ireland; the quarrel is not about religion, it is about territory and government. Religion is just a label thugs get hold of.
Paul Preston, UK

I went to a single faith school and far from being segregated from other communities and religions, we were encouraged to learn about them. RE lessons covered Judaism, Sikhism, Islam and involved talks from people of other religions as well as visits to mosques etc.
Deborah Grieves, UK

A school should reflect the local community - there's nothing wrong with that - it just another way of saying that kids go to their local school. The problems arise when kids are taught that their community is in some fundamental way better than others and this, in effect, is what single faith schools do, since by promoting one faith they are implicitly saying that other faiths are inferior. Schools should teach facts and one religion's fact is another religion's heresy.
Albert, UK

Faith schools aren't just a problem, they're an abomination

Jon, Basingstoke, UK
Faith schools aren't just a problem, they're an abomination. If parent's wish their children to be instructed in their own particular faith, it should be in addition to a normal education, not instead of it.
Jon, Basingstoke, UK

It's a bit odd that David Blunkett is calling on communities to integrate, and yet his government is, at the same time, planning more segregation. We need only look at Northern Ireland to see where it leads...
Sue, UK

Faith schools are only a problem when the faith being taught is not tolerant of other religions. I believe that if the UK is going to be a true multicultural society then there is very strong reasons to ban single faith schools and get the kids mixing. What their parents teach them in their own time is their own business, but a stable mixed society is everyone's business
Charles, England

Shouldn't all standards be improved, not by dividing society further but by including everyone and raising standards for all

Kate, England
Faith schools are by their nature divisive. In a mixed school children can see that their classmates are different, but they don't see anything is wrong with that. Accepting children should grow into accepting adults.
Faith schools are normally of a better standard. Shouldn't all standards be improved, not by dividing society further but by including everyone and raising standards for all.
Kate, London, England

Whilst multi-faith schools would be an ideal scenario, it may not prove to alter the current situation at all. In France state schools are secular and therefore there is no discrimination on the grounds of faith.
Addressing the quality of education and ensuring that those from immigrant communities are offered the same opportunities as their Caucasian peers will ensure long term solutions to the ghetto-isation - or lack of choice.
Tracy Greenwood, England

I went to a faith school but it was hardly representative of the local community as we were bussed in from miles around.
I find it impossible to believe the government will even consider making more of them. They DO succeed in keeping communities apart. Besides, apart from compulsory prayers every morning, I can't remember learning anything of any note about the faith of the school outside the curriculum.
Frank, UK

Religion should be confined to the private sphere and neither endorsed nor sponsored by the State

Michael Entill, UK
As yesterday's reports into last summer's riots indicate, religious segregation has become a serious source of social instability in the UK. Faith schools segregate communities along religious lines and are therefore a significant contributing factor. Britain needs a constitution ensuring that the State and ALL of its institutions are secularised as quickly as possible, or the present social divisions will become unbreachable chasms. Religion - whether Christian or Muslim or other - should be confined to the private sphere and neither endorsed nor sponsored by the State.
Michael Entill, UK

Faith schools are a bad idea. They only make society more divided. Their superior performance academically usually comes from the fact that they can select the pupils they take and they often have more resources to use on them too.
Tom, UK

No matter what school, there will still be exclusions from the morning assembly, no matter how neutral or short the prayer part is. The problem is the parents and elders insisting that their children are different and better than the norm that causes the friction. Just take a look at Northern Ireland - if we took away the religious label, would the fighting go away also?
Hazel, UK




See also:

11 Dec 01 | Education
Analysis: Faith schools and quotas

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