Here’s a new complication with religious free schools;
What if your child ends up being sent to the “wrong” faith school?
The National Secular Society’s newsline this week includes the story of a family whose daughter has been allocated a place at a Hindu primary school after missing out on the non-faith preferences listed on their application form.
Faith schools are increasing in number in the UK; this is deemed acceptable as we are a multicultural nation. The problem for this family is they are not of the Hindu faith and they are worried their daughter will feel like an outsider in a school where only 3 children come from non-Hindu families.
We are told a little about the school, Avanti Court Primary in Redbridge;
“The development of “spiritual insight” is at the heart of the school’s curriculum, which draws on the teachings of Krishna Chaitanya, a 16th century Indian saint. Collective worship includes Kirtan (chanting mantras), meditation and prayer. Children are not permitted to bring in packed lunches for fear that children may share food which may be against individuals’ dietary requirements.”
Hmm, spiritual insight, meditation, food taboos- where have I heard that before?
On the Nailsworth forum yesterday someone commented “If you don’t like the Steiner free school don’t send your kids there”.
Simple? Apparently not.
If, as has been suggested, existing schools in the Stroud area are threatened by a brand new 600 place school opening, we could easily end up with a situation where some unfortunate children will be allocated places in an anthroposophy [Steiner] school, where if they don’t like the eurythmy and the religious verses, or if they want to watch tv, use computers and eat chocolate, they will be outsiders.
It’s difficult to imagine a Steiner school being over-subscribed, so there will always be places available for the unfortunate ones who have failed to gain a place at their first choice school.
Another family was offered a place at the Avanti school despite their Muslim beliefs.
Redbridge Council say “…all faith schools must take a number of children who are not from that background”. That implies there must always be some families whose children will have to go to a faith school where the faith is not their own.
No-one considers the reduction in choice for the 70% of the population who have no religious conviction at all. The number of schools available to these families declines with each religious free school that opens. I find myself in agreement with the NSS who say no child should be expected to attend a religious school against their parents’ wishes;
“The best way to achieve that is to move away from the concept of faith-based schools that teach religion-specific values, and move towards truly inclusive schools that teach universal shared values”.