The introduction begins with an outline of the history of faith schools and I thought this particularly pertinent:
Increasingly since then, however, in response to the country’s growing diversity, plus ever diminishing regular religious observance in an increasing number of its households, the kind of religious education provided by these schools has tended to become of the non-committed variety that secular humanists are alone prepared to condone, but which was roundly condemned by William Temple. Likewise, their religious assemblies have tended to dispense with collective acts of worship. Instead, children attend the assemblies of community schools, as these schools are now known, are likely to be informed in them about current festivals of the faiths practised by the families of various of their pupils who may be invited to enact and talk about their associated rituals and ceremonies. Even some denominational schools, or faith schools as this variety of schools has since become called, have begun to follow community schools in offering neutral non-committed forms of religious education and non-worshipful assemblies. They have begun to do so, as increasing numbers of their pupils have started to come from families in which some other faith is practised other than that for whose nurturance these schools were established.
Despite all these concessions to diversity and to secular modernity, secular humanists remain dissatisfied by the place religion still occupies in the country’s state-funded schools. They consider many still far too accommodating of it. Their chief grievances have been three. First, they claim, publicly-funded faith schools are socially divisive and subvert community cohesion. They do so, these critics say, by segregating schoolchildren along lines of religion, and, since religion so often correlates with ethnicity, on those of ethnicity too. Second, they urge, faith schools give rise to a further no less pernicious form of segregation among schoolchildren, one that they claim is especially prejudicial to those who come from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds and attend community schools. This is the segregation of schoolchildren on lines of social class. Faith schools are said to generate such social segmentation between schools by their selective admissions policies which allow them, when over-subscribed, to accord priority to applicants whose parents can give them evidence of adhering to the faith of their sponsoring bodies. These admissions policies have been found to result in faith schools admitting a much higher proportion of children of middle-class background than do community schools.
The report goes on to look at:
Faith Schools, Religious Segregation and Community Cohesion – Pages 6-11
Faith Schools, Social Segregation and Social Mobility – Pages 11 – 15
Faith Schools, Indoctrination and Autonomy Pages 15 – 18
Here’s some snippets from the conclusion:
First, religious beliefs have been found to have a markedly beneficial effect on the academic performance of children in whom they have nurtured, especially if growing up in urban environments where the distractions from study can otherwise be liable to prove as alluring as they are damaging.
The provisions contained in the 1988 Education Reform Act for religious education were designed to make it possible for schools to provide such forms of it, even when their pupil rolls had become so diverse as to preclude any single form any longer being suitable for all of them. Only a hostile teacher-training profession, plus a colluding civil-service, conspired to place on these provisions such a tendentious interpretation as has led to their being taken to authorise, if not mandate, the neutral non-committed form of religious education that has replaced the committed variety in so many of the country’s schools.
Insofar as this country’s unique willingness to stand up to brutal dictatorship in 1939 and since has been due, not least in part, to the spirit that has been infused into the majority of its inhabitants by their common Christian faith, which I would unhesitatingly assert to be the case, then the broadly Christian type of committed religious education for whose instatement in all the country’s state-funded schools William Temple had been calling in his 1942 address is one from which all its inhabitants would benefit, as indeed would the rest of the world. They all would, provided schools there made due allowance for alternative committed forms of religious education classes and assemblies and even separate faith schools, for children of minority faiths for all which alternative varieties of committed religious education the 1988 Education Reform Act made ample provision.
All would stand to benefit from such committed forms of religious education in the country’s state-funded schools, not simply because it would be likely to improve the educational performance, behaviour and well-being of the nation’s schoolchildren. They would also all benefit because, I believe, only by continuing to provide it can this country be assured of remaining the independent and united liberal polity that it has for so long been and from whose continuing to be such all its diverse inhabitants would derive benefit, even those who do not share that faith or any other.