I rarely blog about my own personal beliefs but I am a Christian and my oldest two children attend a Catholic school. For many years I also taught in a Catholic school before it became a joint faith school. Therefore reading today that religious teaching in schools is under scrutiny interested me on several levels. Do Catholic schools cause segregation? Should children have a daily act of worship in schools?
Firstly the religious teaching that takes place in the school I taught in and at my own children’s school might include a prayer, a reading or a moment of reflection each day. A candle may or may not be lit. It is not ‘heavy’ or forced down throats, more it is in the ethos of everything they do. This ethos includes believing in children, offering forgiveness when they make mistakes and guiding them to make the right choices. All values I want my children to learn and put into practise.
It has been suggested that:
Selection by religion segregates children not only according to different religious heritage but also, frequently and in effect, by ethnicity and socio-economic background. This undermines equality of opportunity and incentivises parents to be insincere about their religious affiliation and practice.”
However I believe that Catholicism or indeed Christianity as a whole is not segregating children. In fact my children’s social circle is wider than ever after attending a Catholic school. They have friends of many ethnicities and many are Catholic, why do we assume that Catholic = White middle class British? My children’s form photograph would certainly challenge that assumption.
Likewise the middle class assumption is incorrect with many families being from all socio economic classes. Maybe a look deeper into how many children are pupil premium would help dispel that myth. The school I taught in was in a more deprived area where we had many children in poverty, and we are talking real poverty. I have had children come into school hungry on more than one occasion and we would need to feed them. Likewise there were children in local authority care and those on the edges of criminal activity.
My children spend a day a year on retreat, there are a few Masses during the year and they have a daily act of worship over a tannoy system. However if you ask them what it is like going to a Catholic school they would tell you that they like their school, that they have lots of friends and their school is inclusive. They are learning to treat others with respect, dignity and kindess – I am sure that is taught in many of the other secondary schools too. I understand the argument that faith schools can be seen to cause segregation between religious groups but I also feel that faith schools are unfairly tarnished. I respect the choices of others, I do not expect everyone to share my religious views like they don’t share my political views (that much is evident from the lack of Labour voters in the last election!) however I do feel that my choice of what school I have sent my children to is under scrutiny and I do feel that assumptions are made about the people that go there.
I don’t really mind if an act of worship is removed from the curriculum – although I feel it would be shame as I think valuable morals are taught in these assemblies. Afterall many of us still believe in the ten commandments. If you don’t know them, look them up, how many do you agree with? I do, however, object to being told that faith school segregate. The faith schools I know all work hard to foster strong relationships in the community and with other schools. It would be wrong to take this choice away from parents.