Humanists UK: Oppose plans for a surge of religiously segregated schools by writing to the Education Secretary

Jay Harman, Education Campaigns Manager of Humanists UK, writes:

Take action! Oppose plans for a surge of religiously segregated schools by writing to the Education Secretary today.

Last year the Government announced proposals to usher in a massive expansion of religious discrimination and segregation in the education system. Under the plans, the current requirement that all new ‘faith’ schools keep at least half of their places open to local children, irrespective of religion or belief, would be scrapped, meaning that all ‘faith’ schools could once again become entirely segregated in their intakes.

But now, after almost a year of campaigning by Humanists UK and its supporters, the Government is considering a u-turn.

All the evidence suggests that religious selection leads to greater segregation along religious, ethnic, and socio-economic lines, and reduces the access of local families to their local schools. In our increasingly diverse society, we should be encouraging those from different backgrounds and with different beliefs to come together, not introducing policies that will only drive them further apart.

Some people have already written to their MPs about this, or responded personally to the official consultation last year. If you are one of those people, thank you for your support, but now it’s crucial that you express your concerns directly to the Secretary of State for Education.

Please email the Secretary of State for Education Justine Greening and urge her to abandon plans to drop the 50% cap on faith-based admissions.

Our view is that there should be no ‘faith’ schools at all, but that as long as they do exist, they should have no right to discriminate. The 50% cap is an important step on the way to achieving that goal and to realising the fair, open, and inclusive education system we all want to see.

We’ve provided a template email on our website, which will be automatically emailed to the Secretary of State. You’ll also find suggestions there for how to make your response as personal as possible. The more customised your emai is, the more impact it is likely to have.

Please take action now!

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19 September: Ludlow and Marches Humanists meeting on Religious Education

Making Sense of Religious Education: A Humanist Perspective. An exploration by Dr Mike Radford Ph.D.

Mike took his first degree in philosophy at the University of Sheffield and his Ph.D. in Education and Psychology with Leeds. His career in education included teaching in primary schools and universities, and publishing numerous articles in academic journals.

Tuesday 19 September 2017, 7.30pm, at The Friends Meeting House, St Mary’s Lane, Ludlow SY8 1DZ. All welcome

BHA and Young Humanists move to protect non-religious parents with guide on religion in schools

From the British Humanist Association, 20 April 2017:

The British Humanist Association (BHA) and Young Humanists have published today a comprehensive guide for non-religious parents and young people, offering support and advice on how to navigate an education system increasingly subject to undue religious influence. The guide comes in the week that parents all over England discovered at which primary school their children have been offered a place for the next school year.

Religion in schools: a guide for non-religious parents and young people in England and Wales is free to download from the BHA’s website and aims to ensure that non-religious people are fully aware of their rights and the law as it relates to ‘faith’ schools and religion in schools more generally. The advice covers a range of areas, including Religious Education, Collective Worship, school admissions, and the teaching of Science, all of which can pose particular problems for non-religious families.

Currently, a third of state schools in England and Wales are ‘faith’ schools, meaning non-religious parents in England and Wales have access to around 7,000 fewer appropriate schools, or nearly two million fewer places, than their religious counterparts. Depending on their type, these schools can religiously discriminate in their admission arrangements, employment policies, and delivery of the curriculum, all of which has a deleterious effect on the rights of non-religious parents. What is more, the law still requires schools without a religious character to hold daily acts of Christian worship, meaning that even parents who have specifically chosen to avoid ‘faith’ schools cannot completely escape religious proselytising.

Commenting on the publication of the new guide, BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson said, ‘Despite the fact that as a society we are now much more diverse, and much more non-religious, the school system has only become more and more permissive to religious influence in recent years. This guide builds on the decades of support that the BHA has provided to parents and young people caught in the crossfire of this long-standing tension between religion and education, and will hopefully equip them to challenge unlawful and discriminatory practice wherever they find it.’

Lauren Nicholas, coordinator of the BHA’s 18-35s section Young Humanists, added, ‘Well over two-thirds of young people in Britain state that they do not belong to any religion, and nearly half of the population as a whole now say they are non-religious. And yet, whether it’s being denied access to your local school, being forced to pray to a god you don’t believe in, or being taught a narrow and doctrinaire religious education curriculum, non-religious people have never encountered a more hostile education system than the one they face now. We are a maligned majority. Ultimately we must repeal the legal freedoms allowing religion to run amok in our schools, but until then this guide will do a great deal to protect the rights of parents.’

Notes

For further comment or information please contact BHA Education Campaigns Manager Jay Harman on jay@humanism.org.uk or 0207 324 3078.

Read the ‘Guide for non-religious parents and young people’: https://humanism.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017-04-19-BHA-guide-for-non-religious-parents.pdf

Read more about the BHA’s work on:

Young Humanists is the 18-35s section of the BHA. Two thirds of Britons between the ages of 18 and 35 are non-religious, according to surveys, and most will share humanist values even if that’s not a term they’ve come across. Young Humanists exists to offer a space for non-religious people aged 18-35 to meet, socialise, debate and support each other.

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.

Humanists send Shropshire schools free copies of “What is Humanism?” book by Michael Rosen and Annemarie Young

bookcoverFrom 21 February, schools in Shropshire will be receiving free copies of What is Humanism?, a new book about Humanism from Michael Rosen and Annemarie Young, after a national crowdfunding campaign by the British Humanist Association.

Humanists are non-religious people who look to science and reason to understand the natural world and who make moral decisions based on empathy and concern for other human beings, rather than instructions found in holy texts.

The new book is the first book of its kind aimed at children, and was published to support teachers who want to explore non-religious ethics and humanist worldviews in Religious Education lessons. It features contributions from popular faces like comedian Shappi Khorsandi, physicist Jim Al-Khalili, actor Stephen Fry, and novelists Philip Pullman and Natalie Haynes, who are all humanists.

This is the first time the BHA has distributed a book to primary schools, and for many schools, it will be the first book about non-religious worldviews in their libraries.

Simon Nightingale is an accredited humanist school speaker with the British Humanist Association (BHA) who has in the past given talks about Humanism at a number of Shropshire schools including Meole Brace School in Shrewsbury, Burton Borough School in Newport and Telford Priory School. He says:

“Recent surveys have shown that over half the UK population live without religion and among young people it’s almost 70%. Of those that live without religion, almost all hold basic humanist beliefs, even if they are don’t call themselves humanists.

It’s so important that those who live without faith understand where those with faith are coming from. And of course that those with faith understand the basis of humanism. I am particularly keen to address some of the myths about humanists, for example that we are anti-religious; not at all, we are non-religious which is very different and indeed we support the rights of those with faith to live as they wish and we collaborate with other religions and interfaith groups to promote values we share with most moderate religions. Or that living without religion means we have no morals; on the contrary we have strong ethical beliefs based on our innate moral instincts, refined by evidence, reason and understanding each other. Or that humanists are devoid of any spiritual sense and that our lives are without meaning – that too is far from true.

Learning about Humanism helps children, whether they’re religious or not religious, to have a good think about where they get their values from and how they go about making ethical choices. A lot of teachers find Humanism to be a really useful perspective to explore in the classroom because it helps pupils to get to grips with big ethical questions and the wide variety of different religious and non-religious worldviews.”

Michael Rosen and Annemarie Young commented:

“Millions of people in this country and all over the world work out their philosophy of life, and how to live, without referring to religion. Schools quite rightly spend a good deal of time and effort exploring the ideas and philosophies of the world’s great religions, but the ideas of humanism, secularism, and atheism are largely ignored. The mismatch between what is believed and what is taught is surely wrong. Our book aims at opening up a discussion about what humanism is, and how people live their lives as humanists. Throughout the book, readers are encouraged to ask questions, in order to help them think for themselves and thus to counter prejudice.”

Simon Nightingale and other humanists were trained as a school speaker by BHA, which also provides teachers with free education resources through its website, Understanding Humanism. Teachers can also use the site to request a free visit from a humanist school speaker.

15 November: Andrew Copson talking to Ludlow and Marches Humanists on religious education. Car-sharing

On Tuesday 15 November, Andrew Copson, the Chief Executive of the BHA will be taling in Ludlow on ‘Religious Education – an update’. Andrew should be updating us on the implications and reaction to recent moves announced by Teresa May to allow 100% religious selection at faith schools. The meeting is at 7:30 p.m. in the Friends’ Meeting House (St Mary’s Lane, Ludlow SY8 1DZ).

We hope he will have a big turnout, but we know that it can be tiresome and expensive travelling to Ludlow from Shrewsbury, Telford and points north. Therefore we are hoping to arrange car sharing. If anyone would like to offer, or if you need a lift, please contact us through admin@shropshire.humanist.org.uk and we’ll try to help.

BHA: New research shows that 100% religiously selective schools will promote racial segregation

From the British Humanist Association:

New research carried out the BHA’s Faith Schools Campaigner has rubbished the Government’s claims that plans for a new generation of 100% religiously selective English schools will not lead to further ethnic or religious segregation. The Government had claimed that the cap has had no impact in reducing ethnic segregation.

The research, which is based on data provided in the Government’s recent green paper on increasing selection in English schools, has found that Christian schools with a 100% religiously selective intake are less diverse and admit a far higher proportion of children classified as ‘of white origin’ than schools which operate under the 50% cap on religious selection or do not select on religious grounds at all.

The research has also shown that the existing 50% cap on religious discrimination in schools has been more effective in reducing racial segregation in non-Christian ‘faith’ schools than the Government has given it credit for. We continue to call on MPs to resist attempts at permitting further religious segregation. Please remember to write to your MP via our facility to voice your concerns about these worrying new proposals.

 

Simon Nightingale on radio talking about faith schools and fair admissions

Simon Nightingale of Shropshire Humanist Group spoke on Jim Hawkins’ radio show on 16 June on BBC Radio Shropshire.

Listen on http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03wtk8f beginning around 8 minutes on the timeline.

This talk preceded the visit of Jay Harman of BHA to talk to us about the problems caused by faith schools.

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