Wednesday, 23 February 2011

What Scotland tells us about faith schools

In my experience the overwhelming argument used in favour of faith schools is that they manage to deliver better education than other schools. Yet this is demonstrably a logical fallacy; it is not the faith aspect of the schools that delivers better educational outcomes, it is the combination of parental engagement, teacher motivation, community involvement and spirit, and other quantifiable factors.

The reason we know this is that here in Scotland the distinction does not exist. All schools in Scotland are faith schools. The distinction here is instead between “non-denominational” and “denominational” schools. The first term refers to schools which deliver faith education according to the teachings of the Church of Scotland, the second those which deliver to other faiths (mostly Catholic, but a very small number of Islamic and Jewish).

Yet despite all schools in Scotland being faith schools, the perceived distinctions remain in the eyes of parents and policy-makers. Denominational schools generally have good reputations, non-denominational schools have poorer ones.

So let’s stop pretending that this has anything to do with religion. The benefits we ascribe to faith schooling are really the benefits of increased parental and teacher engagement in a community-led environment. We can do this without religion. The real question is, why don’t we?

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