Government keen on more faith schools but not everyone agrees
This government strongly supports faith schools and would like to see more of them. New faith academies and free schools may admit only half their intake based on faith where they are oversubscribed. But, according to Lord Nash, the Government ‘remain strongly committed to faith schools, which play a long-established role in our diverse education system. They allow parents to choose a school in line with their faith and they make a significant contribution to educational standards in this country.’
According to the five A* to C statistics, including English and maths, 65% of pupils at Catholic schools achieve five A* to C grades, as opposed to non-faith schools, where the figure is 58%. At level 4 of key stage 2, 85% of pupils at Catholic schools achieve a pass mark, as opposed to 78% for non-faith schools. Church of England schools achieving five A* to C grades, including in English and maths, score 62% versus 58%, and at level 4 of key stage 2 they score 82% as opposed to 78%.
A number of new muslim schools are now entering the state system too.
Some critics are concerned that faith schools could help segregate communities rather than support and promote social cohesion, despite a clear duty placed on schools to ‘promote community cohesion’. The government points out that ‘ All state-funded schools are also required by law to teach a broad and balanced curriculum that promotes the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils, and Ofsted’s inspection framework includes a focus on this’
However the Cantle report of 2001 in the wake of the Bradford/Oldham riots found that communities were developing in parallel with little interaction and criticised the Governments policy of encouraging single-faith schools as it raised the possibility of deeper divisions. Northern Irelands segregated school system has also been blamed for embedding and reinforcing division between catholic and protestant communities and helping to fuel the ‘Troubles’.
It is also the case that faith schools have been accused of not taking their share of FSM pupils, often below the respective local authority average, which helps inflate their academic performance. There is a significant performance gap between FSM pupils and their peers.