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‘Tackling one of our society’s greatest problems’ — leading academic on religious schooling joins Humanists UK team

A leading UK academic specialising in the study of religious schools has joined Humanists UK to head up its national campaign to abolish them in the state sector, which she describes as ‘one of British society’s greatest problems today.’

Dr Ruth Wareham has been appointed as Humanists UK’s new Education Campaigns Manager to lead the campaign to end religious privileges and discrimination in the education system, particularly in the areas of curriculum, admissions, and employment.

Dr Wareham has studied religious schools for over a decade. Immediately prior to her new role, she was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow on the Faith Schooling: Principles and Policies project based in the Department of Politics and International Studies at the University of Warwick. Before that Ruth earned her PhD studying religious schools, and before that she was a classroom teacher.

Today’s announcement coincides with the launch of Humanists UK’s annual online fundraising campaign to raise money for Ruth’s salary. The fundraiser is at https://www.justgiving.com/nofaithschools.

On her appointment, Dr Ruth Wareham said:

‘I am motivated by the firm conviction — cultivated through my career as a teacher and academic researcher— in the importance of inclusive, nonpartisan education which fully respects the rights and interests of children to form their own religion or belief.

‘My research has led me to conclude that the problem of religious schools is one of the greatest problems in British life today.

‘For many decades, Humanists UK has led the way with its policy and campaigning work on these issues. I am delighted to have been given the opportunity to use my expertise to help build upon previous successes and drive this important work forward.’

Welcoming the appointment, Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson said:

‘We are very excited by Dr Wareham’s appointment which adds even greater weight to our vital work defending the rights of children, parents, carers, and teachers in our education system and working for a fairer society for all.

‘More than a third of all state schools in England and Wales – more than 7,000 schools – are run by religious organisations and this figure is growing.

‘These schools are legally entitled to discriminate against children on the basis of beliefs they are too young to confidently hold for themselves, and which serve to divide communities rather than bring them together. We need to foster a more inclusive, kinder future based on shared human values and that outcome depends greatly on what we teach students today.’

About Ruth

In 2018, Ruth was awarded a PhD in philosophy of education by the University of Birmingham for a thesis entitled: Prohibition, Accommodation or Transformation? A Philosophical Investigation into the Moral Permissibility of Faith Schools in Liberal Democratic Societies. From 2017 until taking up her Humanists UK appointment, she was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow on the Faith Schooling: Principles and Policies project based in the Department of Politics and International Studies at the University of Warwick. She has a variety of relevant academic research interests, including religious education, religious schooling, indoctrination, moral education, citizenship and liberal theory. She is a member of the Executive Committee of the Philosophy of Education Society of Great Britain.

Prior to moving into academia, Ruth trained as a primary school teacher and worked in schools in and around Birmingham and the West Midlands for six years.

Notes

For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at richy@humanism.org.uk or on 0781 55 89 636.

For more information about our education campaigns, visit https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/schools-and-education/

At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.

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