Monday, December 01, 2014

Nicky Morgan takes on faith schools

Education secretary Nicky Morgan is taking on Britain's faith schools by ordering them to teach children to be tolerant of other religions and respect lesbian, homosexual and transgender relationships.

Schools have been warned that those that fail to follow new rules on "British values" would be judged inadequate and would face closure.

Trinity Christian School in Reading, which had an excellent report in 2013, has been told representatives of other faiths should be asked to lead assemblies and lessons, and staff should be prevented from teaching that certain lifestyles are wrong.

At an Orthodox Jewish primary school, a girl aged nine was asked if she understood how babies were made and whether she knew any homosexual people. A Jewish high school has been placed in special measures and rebuked by Ofsted for failing to promote "British values."

A consultation on school regulations during the summer was criticised for being too short and falling largely in school holidays. The new regulations, requiring all schools to actively promote "fundamental British values," were issued in September.

In a letter to Nicky Morgan last week, Sir Michael Wilshaw, chief inspector of schools, said of 35 maintained schools and academies inspected without notice since the beginning of September, 11 were not preparing pupils for life in Britain. They included schools that were not teaching respect for and understanding of the various faiths found in Britain, and schools that were not developing pupils' awareness and tolerance of communities different to their own. He said he intends to meet with education leaders from the different faith communities over the next few weeks to discuss Ofsted's inspection frameworks and guidance.

Christians are up in arms. They recognise there are many non-Christian religions in modern-day Britain, but they have different truth claims and cannot be all lumped together in a multi-faith mishmash.

Colin Hurt, director of the Christian Institute, says "The new rules are being used to compel religious believers to actively promote beliefs and lifestyles with which they profoundly disagree. There is vast scope for school inspectors to hassle individual schools, including any state or private school with a Christian ethos.

"The Government claims the changes are in response to the 'Trojan Horse' allegations in Birmingham. But it has now become clear that these school standards were in the pipeline in 2013 - long before the situation in Birmingham was uncovered in 2014.

"The new rules are divisive and are a powerful tool to promote secularism. . . They are promoting intolerance and disrespect for people with traditional religious beliefs."