Sunday, 7 December 2008

No More Faith Schools!

I have today sent the following e-mail to Northamptonshire County Council in respect of the proposal to create a new school/Academy in Kettering to be run by the United Learning Trust - a Christian based organisation linked to the Church of England.

Dear Sir/Madam,

I would like it to be known that I strongly object to the closure of the above schools to form a new academy run by the the United Learning Trust (ULT), a "Christian educational charity and a subsidiary of the United Church Schools Trust".

From the consultation document I understand the school will be designated as a school of "religious character" yet (in pre-consultation answers to some questions I raised) I was informed that the academy will "...(not be) denominational in any way, express(es) bias towards a particular religion or imposes any one set of beliefs on children. The ethos is defined as the promotion of respect, care, compassion, tolerance, hard-work and discipline which have been used because ULT believe them to be universal values and relevant to people of any faith and those with none".

I am therefore perplexed as to why the school is defined as having a "religious character" and to also wonder why a clearly Christian organisation would want to run a school that promotes "universal values". What is in it for them in undertaking this responsibility? In fact I do not believe it for one minute, as this sounds like double-speak and hypocrisy.

I also asked whether or not the new Academy would "discriminate in any way in the appointment of any and all staff in respect of their religious or other beliefs?". The answer I was given was an unambiguous "No".

Yet, I am aware that even prior to the Academy being established and agreed, the ULT announced the appointment of the likely first Headteacher - who was white, male and (surprise, surprise!) a committed Christian. There was no competitive appointment process - thus breaching all agreed standards (and values of fairness and equality) to ensure the "best person for the job" (clearly "hard work" by white, Christian, men is valued more highly than others!).

Making an appointment in this way shows the hypocrisy of saying that there will be no discrimination on any grounds, yet clearly shows that ULT is quite prepared to discriminate against potential women, ethnic minority or non-Christian/non-religious potential Headteachers. Can we trust such an organisation when it so easily and readily breaches such "universal values" that it claims to uphold? Would you trust your children to be educated properly by such an organisation?

I also believe that it would be wrong to create a new religiously-based (and particularly Christian) school in the Kettering area alongside an already large number of Church of England primary schools and an existing (selective) Church of England secondary school.

Such a move will further fuel requests across the UK for more schools that reflect the religious character of other faiths (Jewish, Muslim, Hindu). Such requests are - in part at least - legitimised (in the context of fairness and equality) by the steady expansion (rather than reduction) in Christian-based schools.

Do we really wanting to move towards an ever more divisive and splintered school system based around the (alleged) faith of parents? Do we really want a society in which more and more children are being educated apart from their peers of other faiths (and of no faith)? Where, in considering this proposal, was serious consideration (e.g. by way of an equality impact assessment) given to the long-term consequences, not just in Kettering, or indeed in Northamptonshire, but nationally of such developments? Where was serious consideration given to the long-term consequences of such developments on community cohesion, equality, justice and fairness for all children of all faiths (and none).

I hope you will reject this proposal.

Yours sincerely,

Paul Crofts (Cllr)

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