Monday, 30 March 2015
Time To Close Religious Schools
Facebook inspired this post. The other day I noticed a question being asked - ‘Did you go to Sunday school?’ and was amazed at the number of responses such a simple question received. People detailed the names of their Sunday schools and I calculated, very roughly, that the responses were split quite evenly in favour of Sunday schools. There were several exceptions when commentators said they were a ‘waste of time’, ‘free parking for parents’ etc. Here in rural Perthshire, Sunday schools still exist. I’ve no idea of the attendance numbers but I have attended several Harvest Festivals and plenty children contribute to these occasions.
During a brief discussion about this with an online friend, he made clear he had no religious beliefs and apologised if anything he had said offended me. I replied I was not offended in the least and consider myself more in the ‘spiritual’ than the ‘religious’ box if boxes had to be ticked. Perhaps there is a fine line between religious and spiritual, because I would like to think deeply religious people do have an association with their spiritual side, although recent happenings in the middle east imposes doubt.
However, away from Sunday schools, more concerning is the numbers of British Muslim young people who are attracted to fight with the terrorist organisation IS. Court orders show a total of eight pupils from the same Academy in Tower Hamlets have shown an interest in Islamic fanaticism. How many more faith schools, funded by the state, are there in the UK which follow their own religious itineraries?
In the past 20 odd years politicians have gradually introduced us as a ‘secular society’. All well and good and I approve of tolerance is all religions to aid peace and enable us all to live together in harmony. This isn’t happening. Recently one father of a child who has absconded to Syria blamed the police for his child’s choice to join IS. Let’s not forget, 15 year olds today are much more mature than a 15 year old in the 50s and 60s. This same father was invited to Parliament to give evidence at a home affairs select committee and denied even knowing what Islamic radicalisation was. Obviously no official investigation was made into the father’s background prior to his invitation and subsequent apology from the police, until the Daily Mail uncovered the father’s beliefs.
Our society has changed radically in the past 20 years and it’s time all state funded religious schools were closed. Every child should be taught in schools which have the same curriculum and rules. That includes all Christian faith schools which are paid for by taxpayers. Each child will then have an equal opportunity within the state education system.
Keep religion out of our state schools. In 2009 there were 6,867 faith schools in England, with 395 in Scotland and 263 in Wales. Until 1959, the state paid for only half the capital costs of religious schools, but in the past 50 years the cost borne by the government has soared, finally rising from 85 to 90 per cent under Tony Blair in 2001. Increasingly, the 10% of capital costs that religious foundations are supposed to pay has slipped. Schools are claiming ‘exceptional circumstances; so often that the average contribution made by foundations behind faith schools is just 7.4%, and this results in additional costs of millions to the taxpayer.
For parents who what their children to be taught the family religion then let it happen outwith their state education. Every child must have the same chance.