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Secondly, in answer to the question of whether anyone else will go to those schools, Bradford council has decided that no school should be dominated by a particular ethnic race. It has moved the catchment areas around so that they are composed of mixed-communities. That can be done, and is being done in Oldham at the moment. There can be mixed community schools.
The noble Lord, Lord Ahmed, is not in the House tonight but I am sure that he must have read my speech. I do not believe that it is in the interest of the Muslim communities themselves to rush into establishing a great number of Muslim schools. If a large number of single-faith schools emerge in an area, say four primaries and three secondariesthere are 100 Muslim schools waiting, but there are also 100 evangelical Christian schools which in many respects are just as difficultthen the community will be closed. You will have a community that is closed upon itself. What will happen in that area? They will first ask for a separate inspectionand that has already been asked for. Secondly, they will ask for modifications to the curriculum. The most beguiling request of all is, Cant we have world history rather than British history?. Then, they will also ask in the Muslim schools for an observance of family Sharia law.
These communities tend to have two characteristicsthey are disadvantaged and poor. What we are really talking about is what is going to be the shape of our society in our towns and cities in the next 20 or 30 years. If the purpose is to create a total Muslim or Christian personality, then you will have isolated communities. The report into Oldham observed parallel and separate development. That is why this debate is important. I know that it is late at night and a difficult time to take decisions, but this is the first time that either House has had to discuss this matter and what will happen.
If the Government win tonightwhich I suppose is quite likelyand open the door to more faith schools, the people who start those schools will have to exercise considerable leadership to ensure that they do not create closed communities. We talked of the inspectorate under an earlier amendment, which I do not think is a substitute for this oneit cannot bear the weight it wants to carry. One of the things the inspectorate will have to do is find and draw the fine line between religious teaching and indoctrination, which is very difficult.
It is the only one which teaches its followers to gain political power and then impose a law which governs every aspect of life, discriminating against women and non-believers alike. And this is ultimately why naïve multiculturalism leads not to a mosaic of cultures living in harmony, but one threatened by Islamic extremism.
The overwhelming feeling of people in this House, whether they support me tonight or not, is to have some form of integrated education in our country. I would like to see children of different faiths playing together in the playground, sitting beside one another in maths and physics lessons, meeting over lunch, walking down the corridor together, taking the same bus home and then visiting each others family. That is what I didI visited a Jewish family back in Southport during the war. I would never have known what Judaism was about if I had not done that. If you have separate faith schools, and more separate faith schools, you will not have that. The House has to
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Baroness Massey of Darwen: My Lords, I support the amendment, to which I have put my name. The noble Lord, Lord Baker, and I have come to this from different standpoints. The noble Lord is an Anglican; I am a committed humanist, so there is no chance that God will phone me on my mobile phone.
The amendment may not be the perfect solution, but it would help integration and send a strong signal to schools. I am also disappointed and frustrated at the Governments failure to bring back a similar amendment as originally proposed, except it has meant that we have had a good debate.
Recent surveys have shown that 64 per cent of the public oppose government funding for faith schools, fearing their impact on social cohesionan expression heard many times tonight. I would prefer to have no expansion of faith schools, but the amendment tries to balance any expansion with the imperative to counteract the exclusivity and foster integration between faiths.
It is understandable that, with faith schools already funded through the public purse, others will want public money for their schools. But faith should surely not be allowed to override the needs of children for an education which opens windows to a wider world. Culture and beliefs should, in my view, be transmitted mainly at home, in the church, mosque or temple. The report on Bradford carried out by the noble Lord, Lord Ouseley, pointed out that young people realise that being taught in what he called religious ghettos is not a good preparation for life in a multicultural society.
I have been and am committed to sound, integrated education as a teacher, parent and school governor. My own children all went to local schools where they made friends across the religious and racial spectrum. I have also been privileged, through schools, to meet parents and teachers across the religious spectrum. The school where I am governor celebrates a multi-faith ethos most successfully. If a school has mixed faiths, then parents will be of mixed faiths and will create communities of mixed faiths. Separation will not do this, nor I fear in some cases will there be adequate emphasis on scientific fact or personal, social and health education. How will the inspectorate for separate faith schools operate alongside Ofsted?
I remember teaching personal, social and health education in a secondary school where a father prevented his daughter from attending the lessons on religious grounds, in case sex was mentioned. This girl
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I do not believe that faith schools will necessarily and voluntarily admit a percentage of children of other faiths or of no faith, though I know that some do. I had a graphic experience of this over the Recess. A Muslim boy I know wanted to apply to a well known Roman Catholic school in London. He lived nearer to the school than many who attend it. The case was a needy one, which I thought might attract some sympathy from the school. I was told that it only admitted children from Roman Catholic families and that the waiting list was also open only to Roman Catholic families. Some will say that that is fair enough, but I resent having to pay taxes to fund segregation, which is essentially what this is.
The Secretary of State for Education affirmed, as did my noble friend earlier, that consultation on this issue with various faiths has taken place. Were all beliefs consultedsuch as humanists and secularists? Were teacher organisations, governors and parents consulted? The Secretary of State says we should we seek voluntary agreements rather than use a blunt instrumenthis wordsto achieve the aims of integration. Yet Governments have used many a blunt instrument to change laws on matters of principle and practice. It seems that here, expediency is being peddled as sound educational philosophy.
There is some value in other amendments before us today about inspections and reviews. I have great sympathy with them, but I want to see more rigour attached to ensuring that schools represent a wide spectrum of belief and understandings now. As I said earlier, a strong signal is needed. The letter to noble Lords from the noble Lord, Lord Baker, myself, and the noble Lords, Lord Skidelsky and Lord Taverne, says:
Lord Taverne: My Lords, I have also put my name to the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Baker of Dorking. I wish to express my dismay at the Governments surrender to the Catholic lobbies. I am a great admirer of the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, and never more so than during the discussion on a previous amendment when he showed enormous chutzpah. There he was, sounding the bugles of advance to cover his retreat.
It strikes me how much this place, the House of Lords, is out of touch with what the people as a whole think. Those who support faith schools are undoubtedly over-represented in this House. As the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, has said, something
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I suspect the reason that many people do not want this is because they do not like the idea that children should be treated as Muslim, Jewish, Protestant and Catholic children. If you think about it, it is as wrong as if you treat them as Conservative, Liberal Democrat or Labour children. Most people do not want that because they feel they want children, as they become more mature, to decide for themselves what and what not to believe in.
It is perfectly true that religion is overwhelmingly determined by an accident of birth: who your parents are and where you are born. That is not true of allthere are convertsbut of most. I suspect that even as reasonable a group as the Bishops in this House, if they had been born in a Muslim country, would now be imams rather than bishops. As children learn to think critically and become more mature, they often abandon the religion of their parents. That is one of the reasons why there is a decline in church attendancesnot in the case of the Muslim community, but then if one turns out to be a Muslim apostate there are certain rather severe penalties.
The fact is that faith schools seek to ensure that the children they teach stay within the fold. I agree with the remarks made by the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, in the last debate on this subject. I support this amendment because it seems to be the only way to limit the role of indoctrination and to leave children as free as possible to make their own decisions about what to believe.
Lord Skidelsky: My Lords, I am also a signatory to the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Baker. I am always amazed how much theological energy there is still left, especially when we debate education. I wonder whether the Minister may sometimes feel he is back in the age of Gladstone, about whom he knows a great deal. All the issues we are discussing today would have been completely familiar to the Grand Old Man, and he would have attempted to discourse on them at immense length, though much more eruditely than any of us can probably manageexcept perhaps the Bishops Bench.
The basic historical situation is perfectly clear. The Roman Catholics, having been driven into a defensive posture by non-conformist attack, have long since joined forces with the Church of England in dogmatic defence of the 1902 Education Act, as amended in 1944, which, in Lloyd Georges words, put Rome on the rates. This is exactly the same debate as we were having in 1902, only now it is not Rome but Mecca.
I dare say that the best solution would have been that proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Peston, that most rational of men: that all state education, new and old, should be severely secular, with religious education left to churches, Sunday schools, mosques and other private foundations. That was essentially
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The 1944 Act established the principle, of which we should be aware in considering the amendment, that voluntary schools were supposed to give something in return for state support. They could opt to be controlled and obtain 100 per cent grant, or aided and get 50 per cent grant, or have special agreements and a 75 per cent grant. Each had a graduated obligation attached to itthe grant was in inverse ratio to the freedom to provide denominational instruction. In other words, the less they got, the freer they were to be religious missionaries. The principle is clear; if the state gives money to schools, it has a right to a say in school policy and aims.
What aims of educational policy do the Government want to see served by allowing new schools to be set up? That goes back to a debate that we have been having for the past 10 to 15 years, the main point of which is that such schools are part of the Governments choice agenda. Some of us have urged for a long time the idea that parents should be given a wider choice than they now have regarding to which schools they send their children.
The Government could have pursued that by allowing only secular promoters to set up state schools. In fact, as I understood it, the main clamour for new state-supported schools came from Muslim communities. So the Government decided, as part of their choice agenda, to put Mecca on the rates, just as Rome was put on the rates in 1902.
The Church of England and Roman Catholics do not want to disturb the existing concordat. They are relaxed that Muslim schools can be fitted into it without any major change. But we need something more robust, as I suggested in my previous intervention. First, we are dealing with large, newly arrived communities, not old, established ones. That presents us with problems of a completely different order from those that gave rise to the church/state debates of the previous century. Nebulous words, or even instructions, such as promoting social cohesion are inadequate to that situation, as the noble Baroness, Lady Flather, pointed out.
Secondly, the position is more complicated because Islam has more implications for the curriculum than Christian denominations. The problem is the requirement stated in a standard text that Islamic education should in all respects conform to Koranic guidance. That is particularly relevant to such areas of the curriculum as physical education, swimming, art, music, dance and sex education. Do we want government money to be invested in such deeply separated curricula? We should not want that and we should impose some requirement. The amendment of
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Requiring Muslim schools to take 25 per cent non-Muslim pupils will be a continuous check on any tendency to extreme separation, which would otherwise become unchecked. There are other ways of achieving greater integration of educational practices, but until the Government come up with something more robust, I urge the House to support the amendment.
I enjoyed the knock-about to which the noble Lord, Lord Baker, treated us earlier, but I think that he sometimes underestimates the passion that ordinary Catholics feel about this issue. I do not refer to the Catholic Church but to people who attend Catholic churches, who have been to Catholic schools and whose children attend Catholic schools.
The noble Lordperhaps inadvertently, because he said where his real target washas inflamed the passions of people in nearly 2,000 Catholic schools all over the country because his amendment has been interpreted by some as the beginning of the end of their control over their admissions policies. Many noble Lords and Members of another place have also received letters from those people. The position was exacerbateda point that he did not touch onwhen the Secretary of State said that this measure could be applied later to all church schools. That obviously fills people with a deep sense of misgiving and places at risk the gains that many people have made.
Lessons can be learnt from the experience of immigrant families who came to this country and integrated and married in the way that I described on Report. My mother was from the west of Ireland and came to the East End, where she married my father at the end of the war. He was a Desert Rat and, when he was demobbed, they married. In common with many people, I was brought up in the East End in a Catholic/Jewish neighbourhood and had the same kind of friendships as the noble Lord, despite the fact that I went to Catholic schools. I was privileged to go on to the Jesuit grammar school, having passed the scholarship at the age of 11. That represented yet more social division, as the noble Lord might see it, but, in fact, it provided me with an opportunity, and I am grateful to those who gave me those chances at that time. I am also very conscious of the way in which money had to be raised, street by street, neighbourhood by neighbourhood and parish by parish, to pay for the construction of those schools.
My noble friend Lord Skidelsky knows better than I do that the debate did not begin at the start of the 20th century. The noble Lord, Lord Baker, is a great admirer of GK Chesterton and is familiar with the rallies that he and Hilaire Belloc led in 1906 to fight for Catholic education in this country. They came to the issue having been informed by what had happened in the 19th century. After all, it was only in 1829 that
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If we want to integrate the Muslim community in this country, it will not happen by imposing 25 per cent quotas. Does anyone believe that, in the present climate, people will be queuing up to send their children to Muslim schools to take up that 25 per cent of places? It would be unrealistic to believe that. We will see change through patience and generosity and by working with the Muslim community in this country. I was very pleased to hear the noble Lord, Lord Ahmed, talk this evening about the responsibility that Muslims feel they have to work towards social inclusion, social responsibility and social cohesion. I am sure that that represents the best way forward.
It has been suggested in this debate and previously that somehow the church schools are not inclusive. However, the fact is that about 16 per cent of our population who qualify as ethnic minorities are in state schools. In Catholic schools, that figure is 18 per cent. Thirty per cent of pupils in Catholic schools are not Catholic. It is not as a result of legislation that those schools have come to admit people who are not Catholic; they have done so voluntarily.
You will understand, therefore, why our community is particularly shocked at the suggestion that the current model of Jewish faith schools would no longer have an assured future. You will also understand the concern that a discretion devolved to local authorities provides very little comfort, when there can be no certainty as to how that discretion would be exercised, either now or in the future. Finally, you should be aware of the fear, notwithstanding any current assurances, that these provisions might eventually extend to existing faith schools.
I think back to my own experience as a constituency Member of Parliament in Liverpool. It was suggested earlier by the noble Lord, Lord Peston, that Jewish schools are in some way non-inclusive. The fact is that, because there was a surfeit of places in the local Jewish school that served my own constituencythe King David High Schoolit had more non-Jewish than Jewish children. This matter is not as straightforward as noble Lords would have us believe.
I am afraid I do not believe that the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Baker, would achieve very much ... I do not think that the noble Lords amendment is practicable and workable.[Official Report, 17/10/06; col. 729.]
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