The government likes to claim that Faith Schools are popular with parents, so why is it – when asked directly – 83% of parents say that isn’t true? A new survey shows that to be the nonsense that we always knew it to be. The plain truth is now that there are more children who are being subjected to enforced prayer in Church of England schools than adults who choose to pray in churches each week.
Let’s be clear – if you create a school with its own rules, with tighter discipline and the right to suspend children who are disruptive then it is likely to be popular with parents. If the comprehensive down the road then has to take those disruptive kids then the comparisons between the two schools will be distorted, but this has little to do with a ‘Faith Ethos’. Add to that the fact that many of these Faith Schools were created as Academy Schools with investment of something like £20 to £24 million, with state of the art facilities, then parents are going to work hard to get a place there for their kids. Those parents are likely to be the more upwardly mobile, where the wife doesn’t work and can afford to pop round to the church in the 4 by 4 to do a bit of flower arranging during the week in order to qualify. I can’t imagine the single parent who does 6 shifts a week at the local supermarket being in that position, so we end up with social selection.
This creates the myth that Faith Schools are more popular with parents.
But where is the evidence that this really is a myth? Presumably we can simply ask the parents a direct question. There have been several attempts to do this and the results always appear to show a very significant majority for secular schools and against denominational schools. In fact, there has historically been a majority for getting rid of Faith Schools completely.
The latest in a long line of surveys provides some surprising insight into how parents are thinking, as reported by the National Secular Society.
You can download the survey results on this page.
The survey, by Hackney Council, is interesting because it shows results by religious grouping.
83% thought that Hackney schools should be non-denominational, against only 6% who disagreed.
65% had concerns about non-registered (illegal) faith schools
45% identified as atheist/non-religious compared to only 27% Christian
Remarkably: there did not appear to be any correlation between those who declared a religious belief and those not supporting non-denominational schools! It is clear from the numbers above that a very significant portion of those who oppose denominational schooling must be religious.
It was telling that the local Charedi Jewish community boycotted the survey, accusing it of being anti-religious.
It really is time that the government acknowledged that the only people who really want faith schools are the extremely pious – the rest of the population, apparently including most people who call themselves religious, want an end to them.