Schools and Education
2012 ‘faith’ Schools officer fundraising appeal
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The BHA has always been heavily involved in education, and in addition to our education policy work and our work in providing education resources, our education campaigns – from state-funded ‘faith’ schools to the school curriculum – are a major part of our campaigning work as a whole.
Schools are where many people – parents, children and teachers – first encounter religion and religious privilege; school-related requests for help advice and guidance constitute the largest single category of requests for help that the BHA receives from the public. We have campaigned and lobbied for over a century for the rights and interests of humanists and other non-religious people in education, for non-religious beliefs to be respected in schools, and for a genuinely inclusive school system where all pupils are educated together, not separately according to the beliefs of their parents, and will receive a rounded and broad education.
We have a dedicated campaigns officer for our ‘faith’ schools and education campaigns – the only full-time campaigns officer on these issues. Since May 2011, this campaigner has been Richy Thompson. We’re currently fundraising to enable us to continue to employ Richy throughout 2013. You can support us at http://justgiving.com/nofaithschools.
We are interested in education for three reasons:
- we aim for the UK to be secular state with no privilege or discrimination on grounds of religion or belief. The continuing religious discrimination in our state school system is therefore a concern for us
- we aim for Humanism to be better understood as an ethical and fulfilling non-religious approach to life and so we have an interest in ensuring that it features on the school curriculum on equal terms with religions
- humanists see education as a vital process and have been rich contributors to both the philosophy and practice of education
We have an interest in promoting better education that will meet these aspirations because we promote humanist perspectives in public debate and policy.
We concentrate on laws and policies that are discriminatory and violate principles of human rights or equality in state-funded schools or on matters where we have a distinctive humanist view. For example we work for:
- an end to religious discrimination in school admissions
- an end to religious discrimination in school employment
- progressive reform of the school curriculum, including Religious Education, Science and Personal, Social, Health and Economic education
- inclusive assemblies in place of mandatory religious Collective Worship
Some of the issues we work on are specific to state-funded religious schools (‘faith’ schools) while others apply to education generally but are exacerbated in ‘faith’ schools. Because of this, we also work generally for an end to the expansion of ‘faith’ schools and the transformation of those that already exist into inclusive schools which serve the whole community.
What we’re doing
We work closely with parliamentarians and other key decision makers. At the moment, we are working on the UK Government’s reviews of the National Curriculum and of Personal, Social, Health and Economic education, and on the Religious Education Council for England and Wales’s RE Subject Review.
We have also been campaigning hard to make ‘faith’ schools more inclusive. For example, in November 2012 we took a judicial review of the decision to open two highly discriminatory Catholic schools in Richmond-upon-Thames. In July 2012, we triggered a European Commission investigation into employment laws for UK ‘faith’ schools. And in January 2013, we won an Information Tribunal case against the UK Government over its refusal to publish a list of the names, locations and religions of groups applying to set up Free Schools.
Our ‘Teach evolution, not creationism’ campaign has also had a string of victories, including evolution being added to the draft primary National Curriculum in England, and the fact that Free Schools now have to teach evolution but can’t teach pseudoscience.
We are also a founding member of the Accord Coalition – a wide coalition of organisations working for reform of state funded schools to make them more inclusive in matters of religion or belief. Accord brings together religious and non-religious supporters of change as well as teaching unions, human rights organisations and high profile individuals.
We’re currently fundraising to keep our dedicated campaigner on ‘faith’ schools and education – the only full-time campaigner on these issues in the UK. We’ve not yet raised his salary for 2013 – you can help us do so by donating at http://www.justgiving.com/nofaithschools.
You could research and take up one of these issues with your MP and/or local authority, or write to a newspaper. Our Take Action Toolkit has advice on how to go about this, while the Education section of this website has background and supporting arguments, in our summary of BHA education policy.
If there is anything in these pages that you need more information or advice on, please contact our Faith Schools Campaigner on 020 7324 3072.
You can also support the BHA by becoming a member. That helps in itself, and you can help even more by supporting our campaigns in the ways suggested above. But campaigns also cost money – quite a lot of money – and we also need financial support. You can make a donation to the BHA.