Memorandum submitted by Christian Education
(i) Article 9 of the European Convention on Human
Rights and Article 2 of Protocol 1 of the ECHR allow for educational
diversity in line with parents' religious and philosophical convictions.
This diversity can only be provided by distinctive schools which
embody such convictions and this distinctiveness is only possible
if such schools can preferentially admit pupils from families
with their beliefs. Hence the current exemptions should continue.(ii)
Given the known diversity of belief and practice, to conform to
Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Article
2 of Protocol 1 of the ECHR different curricula will be needed.
To prevent suppression of diverse beliefs, the current exemption
of these curricula should continue.
(iii) In the tolerant, diverse and pluralist
society of Britain there will not be agreement or conformity;
but dissent, disagreement, disapproval or occasionally offence
are not the same as discrimination, and Articles 9 and 10 of the
ECHR maintain the right to free practice and expression of belief.
1. Christian Education Europe (CEE) is a
limited company with a board of five directors. My role is as
a consultant on home education issues and also legal matters.
The company has four parts:
The European Academy for Homeschooling
(TEACH) which has about 800 families enrolled. It offers regional
and national support, parent training, events and conferences
and test moderation. Membership of TEACH confers eligibility for
the International Certificate of Christian Education (ICCE).
Schools. There are some 59 schools with
an annually renewable contract. CEE provides training for school
staff, an annual Assistance Visit, an annual Educators Conference
and access to the ICCE.
Curriculum. CEE distributes the Accelerated
Christian Education (ACE) curriculum, with discounts for contracted
schools and TEACH member families. Originating in America, ACE
is currently used in 7,000 schools and many home schools in over
100 countries. CEE has an ongoing programme of producing UK alternatives
to supplement areas of the curriculum which have a specifically
American bias. CEE is part of the ACE Global Support team.
European Student Convention (ESC). This
is an annual four-day residential Convention for students from
the UK and Europe to meet and compete in over 120 events in eight
categories. Success at ESC entitles the student to attend and
compete at the International Student Convention held annually
in the USA.
2. The first issue is whether we are content
with the provisions of the School Admissions Code and the Equality
Act 2006 which permit schools to prefer one applicant to another
on the grounds of their religion. These provisions are found in
Section 50 of the Equality Act 2006 which allows schools of a
religious character, or with a religious ethos, or schools conducted
in the interests of a church or denominational body, to preferentially
admit children of that faith.
3. The first point we wish to make is that
it is extremely unlikely that anyone not of the faith would apply
to send their children to an independent Christian school using
an explicitly Christian curriculum. The schools and home educating
organisation of CEE offer a Christian alternative for Christian
families and hence need to be able to preferentially accept the
children from Christian families. To maintain a credible Christian
education, a school requires the support and agreement of the
parent, which implies selection of those families which will provide
that support. The rights of those not seeking a Christian education
are not affected, nor are they denied access to other educational
provision. A Christian education here means an education based
on the conviction that Christianity is true.
4. Another issue for many is the tendency
in some circles to confuse neutral with secular or non-religious.
The Norwegian educationalist Signe Sandsmark, writing in 2000
said "Christian teachers, and believers within other theistic
faiths, are supposed not to talk about God in a way that implies
He exists... But what, then, should the agnostic, liberal humanists
try to say, and avoid saying, if they want to be neutral, not
to reveal their own view?" Secular or non-religious is not
neutral, but is a worldview and value system in itself. In the
pluralist and diverse society of Britain, it has a place, but
should not be the only option available in education.
5. Article 2 of Protocol 1 of the European
Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) asserts a right not to be denied
education. It also maintains that the parents have a right to
such education as being in conformity with their own religious
and philosophical convictions. This can only be achieved by a
diversity of provision allowing different distinctives in education
and school ethos. Maintaining the distinctiveness of the education
provided can only be effectively achieved by ensuring that most,
if not all, pupils in a school come from families which accept
and support this distinctiveness, and this does not deny others
access to other educational provision.
6. Further, Article 9 of the ECHR maintains
the right to freedom of thought, religion and conscience; it also
maintains the freedom to manifest religion in worship, teaching
and practice. Our experience is that there are Christians who
consider giving their children a Christian education part of the
practice and observance of their religion, and seek to exercise
the right to practice their religion by home educating or sending
their children to an independent Christian school which supports
their belief. This in no way denies access to other educational
provision for others.
7. Regarding the continued exemption of
curriculum from the Equality Act. Clearly, the most important
issue in a school is what is taughtwhat the curriculum
lays down as needing to be known. This involves not only what
is positively taught by commission, but also what is negatively
taught by omission. Now, Article 2 of Protocol 1 of the ECHR maintains
the right of parents to have their children educated in accordance
with their own religious and philosophical convictions. This clearly
involves the content of the curriculum, both positively and negatively.
As Sir Walter Moberly, vice chancellor of Manchester University,
noted in his 1949 work The Crisis in The University, "If
in your organisation, your curriculum, and your communal customs
and ways of life, you leave God out, you teach with tremendous
force that, for most people and at most times, He does not count."
8. In England, the diversity of belief and
religious and philosophical convictions in the sense given by
the Equality Act 2006 need and require a diversity of curricula
to provide for the rights of parents to ensure that their children
are educated in accordance with their own religious and philosophical
convictions, as no one curriculum could accommodate the diversity
that exists. This diversity requires protecting from attempts
by those who disagree with one or the other religious or philosophical
conviction to suppress any curriculum they disagree with.
9. Article 9 of the ECHR means that no one
religious or philosophical conviction has the right to suppress
any other religious or philosophical conviction. This applies
even if the adherents of one religion or belief consider the tenets
of another discriminatory, as, for example, an adherent of a religion
or belief which allows polygamy may consider Christian teaching
on monogamous marriage discriminatory. This is not a reason for
suppressing a Christian curriculum which asserts that monogamous
marriage is to be followed. Other examples will no doubt spring
to mind. The exemption for curriculum from the Equality Act 2006
prevents attempts to suppress any curriculum which provides an
education in accordance with a distinctive religious and philosophical
10. The second paragraph of Article 2, Protocol
1 supplies reasons for applying legal limitations to the practice
of a belief. These are the interests of public safety, the protection
of public order, health or morals and to protect the rights of
others. These reasons for limitation of the practice of a belief
apply to the behaviour of the believer, not the behaviour of those
who disagree, so that disorder generated by a belief's opponents
is not a reason for limiting the belief, but a reason for limiting
11. Other issues. The Guidance for Schools
published by the Government refers a number of times to "diversity"'
and also "diversity of provision". Conservative evangelical
Christians have been a part of that diversity in this country
for more than 400 years and remain part of the diversity of British
life, and Christian schools remain part of the diversity of provision
acknowledged by the Guidance. The Guidance also speaks of "tolerance",
that is, not insisting on agreement or conformity, but allowing
ideas and behaviour which you do not agree with to remain a full
part of national culture. This clearly allows, even recommends,
tolerance of Christian and other faith schools.
12. It is inevitable, in a pluralist and
diverse society such as in Britain, that free expression of belief
will mean dissent, disagreement and disapproval, as well some
being offended. Dissent, disagreement and disapproval, however,
are not discrimination. Articles 9 and 10 of the ECHR maintain
the right to believe or change belief, and also to freely teach
and practice it, and also to express it publicly and freely. For
example, Professor Richard Dawkins can discuss religious belief
as a "virus of the mind" without discrimination occurring;
and therefore a believer can be equally critical of Professor
Dawkins' ideas, or those of another belief or practice, without
discrimination occurring. Freedom of expression can occasionally
mean people are offended: but again, being offended does not mean
being discriminated against.
We are convinced the current exemptions work
well in preventing discrimination against differing, dissenting
or minority beliefs and should continue.