United Kingdom faith schools socially divisive, states report

Call for school prayer assemblies to be replaced by non-religious periods of reflection

“In our view it is not clear that segregation of young people into faith schools has promoted greater cohesion”

“In our view it is not clear that segregation of young people into faith schools has promoted greater cohesion”

 

Allowing schools to select pupils on the basis of religion has been socially divisive and governments should recognise its negative consequences, according to a report on the role of religion in British public life. The Commission on Religion and Belief in British Public Life says that Britain is no longer a Christian country and should stop behaving as if it is.

The report calls for school prayer assemblies to be replaced by non-religious periods of reflection, for some Anglican bishops to give up their seats in the House of Lords in favour of other faith leaders, and for the BBC’s Thought for the Day to include contributions from humanists.

The report notes that religious segregation in education has increased in England in recent years, as governments have encouraged the growth of academies and religious schools.

“In England, successive governments have claimed in recent years that faith schools and free schools create and promote social inclusion which leads to cohesion and integration. However, in our view it is not clear that segregation of young people into faith schools has promoted greater cohesion or that it has not in fact been socially divisive and led rather to greater misunderstanding and tension,” it said

With only 7 per cent of children in Northern Ireland attending mixed or integrated schools, the report says that even those who do not wish to be educated separately often have little choice.

Church’s mission

“If there is a significant problem with our schools, it is that many of them are so popular that they are oversubscribed and not every parent who wants to can send their children to one,” a spokesman said.

“We believe that if the law on collective worship were repealed, schools would risk losing this vital element of shaping a community that reflects the full breadth of human experience. We know, for example, that the response of many schools to the horror of the Paris attacks will have been in the context of collective worship.”

Almost half the British population now describes itself as non-religious, and Christians make up just four in 10 of the population. Faiths other than Christianity still account for less than one in 10 of the population, but they are among the fastest-growing and have a younger age profile.