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Baroness Sharp of Guildford: Perhaps I may reply to the right reverend Prelate. The admissions forums are purely advisory. They cover all maintained schools. The definition of "maintained schools" includes both voluntary controlled and voluntary aided schools, but of course voluntary aided schools are their own admissions authorities. New Section 85A(1)(b) says,
The Lord Bishop of Blackburn: The noble Baroness takes my point exactly. I wanted to have on the record that we are talking about advice and that the governors of a voluntarily aided school would not necessarily be bound by that advice, although I would hope that they would listen carefully to what people were trying to say.
Lord Lucas: My Amendment No. 177 is in this group. Perhaps I may first say that I do not want to abolish faith schools. My position is very much the reverse. I want more of them. I want sufficient numbers of them so that those parents who do not spend every Sunday going to a church of a particular denomination can nonetheless find places in church schools if that is what they want for their children.
The fact that only 20 or 30 per cent of places in Catholic schools are given to non-Catholics says to me that there are not enough Catholic schools and that we should have a few more. To that extent, I very much support what was proposed earlierI forget how many months ago nowthat we should have an ability to create more Church schools. Later, I suspect, we shall turn to that matter, but I should like to see that process happening. What I do not like is parents who want a Church education for their child being excluded merely because they are, in a way, "sinners" or incapable of beliefs themselves.
That is my position on the matter. I do not understand how admissions forums are meant to affect this. They are just advisory bodies. They are a place where schools can get together and talk. If other schools find a problem with a faith-based school admitting only those of its faith, I am sure that they will discuss that without the need for Amendment No. 178A.
I would certainly not like the idea that a body such as this could start messing with the admissions powers of voluntary aided schoolsthey are for the Churches. My aim is to influence the Government to create a mechanism for more Church schools and to influence the Churches by saying, "Come on. Part of the 1944 settlement is that you should provide education for children who want such education, not just for children of people who are already adherents of your faith". That is part of the deal. The kind of education that they provide should be available to those who want it rather than just those who qualify for it. That is the difference between being a private and a state school.
I tabled Amendment No. 177 to ask how, under the admissions forum arrangements, we will deal with the situation in which the natural school for people is not within the LEA but in the neighbouring LEA. Obviously, that happens a lot in London, but it also happens in the country. For example, I can think of Dorset primary schools that are half a mile from a secondary school in Hampshire, which is where people would naturally go, rather than 15 miles the other away to the nearest Dorset secondary school. How will we deal with such cross-border questions? I merely ask the question.
Lord Pilkington of Oxenford: I apologise for rising again. I speak as the governor of Downside, which admits non-Catholic pupils. Why should not faith schools admit people of their own faith? We all concede that they admit people of variety of faiths, but my noble friend Lord Lucas seems to thinkI may be misjudging himthat it is wrong to favour people of their own faith. Of course they admit other peoplethat is a fact. But there seems to be an argument in this Chamber that it is wrong for people who believe in a faith to go to a school of their own faith. What is wrong with that? It should be allowed.
The schools have shown themselves generous. Downside admits Anglicans. Anglican schools admit Muslims and, indeed, everyone. They do an amazing job in their communities. Why should we introduce admissions procedures when the schools themselves are doing the job all right? The myth that spreads that faith schools are little ghettos is quite wrong in relation to my faithI cannot speak about other faiths, but I can speak about Roman Catholics and Anglicans. It is irrelevant for us to have provisions imposed on us.
Lord Lucas: I had better pick up on my noble friend's comments. Obviously, it is right that one cannot really have a Catholic school unless it admits Catholics preferentially. The same applies to an Anglican schoolit must be there for its community. The difficulty arises when there are insufficient schools of a particular denomination to satisfy demand, which means that they become purely one-religion schools and exclude those who would like that kind of education but do not happen to be sufficiently committedsome parents must produce a five-year history of having attended church every Sunday,
I refer to something else that the noble Lord, Lord Alton, said. I do not mean to characterise Oldham in any particular way but choose it as an example merely because it has been in the news. In Oldham an Anglican school exists as a refuge for people who can exit from the areas in which they would naturally go to school by saying, "I am an Anglican", leaving behind a school that becomes, in effect, a Muslim school. That is a destructive process.
If 100 per cent of the pupils admitted by a school are of the same religion, the school will be a force for social and racial division. Church schools should not do that; it is not part of the deal with the state. There is a responsibility to the community, and the school should recognise it. I am merely going by newspaper reports of what the head teachers of those schools in Oldham said. I find that difficult to reconcile with my view of the educational contract between state and Church.
The Lord Bishop of Blackburn: I did not wish to intervene again, but I get excited when we come to matters affecting Lancashire. It is grossly unfair to put Oldham's problems down to what is said to have happened in two Anglican high schools. If we considered schooling in Oldham across the piece, we would find problems. We must bear in mind what the governors of those schools face.
The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, cannot have it both ways, in one sense. If, as he wants, the schools were open to a wider community, the chances are that they would not be attended just by people of a particular faith who were prepared to go to church for five years. I must say that I have never heard of anyone having to go for five years, but, if there are such cases, I say, "Good luck to them". I have a lot of sympathy with that idea, but that is another story. If the noble Lord wishes to take that line, he must also consider the logic the other way. Burnley is the one town in the diocese of Blackburn that has no Anglican high school. I could turn the noble Lord's logic on its head and say that, if there had been such a school, we might not have had riots in Burnley.
If we start into such a debate, we will get into dangerous water. It worries me that we do not apply the same kind of criteria to the community schools, even though we know that the wealthy will buy houses in an area so that their children will be admitted. At one stage, my wife was head teacher of a wholly Muslim school. I should say "Asian heritage", but all the pupils were Muslim. It was a county school, not a Church school. Not a single member of the indigenous Dewsbury community applied for a place in that school. Earlier in her career, she worked in a prestigious school in Sunderland. People would ring up from Australia and goodness-knows-where to ask whether there was a place at the school, so that they would know where to buy their house.
We must be careful about arguments about social exclusion. Sometimes, Church schools are made to bear more of the blame for the disturbances, which we all regret, than they should. One of the problems in east Lancashire is that race and religion go together; that is the way it is. In the metropolitan areas, where there are black Christians, there are Church schoolssome not five miles from herethat are well racially integrated. In most schools, especially the primary schools, there is the kind of religious mix that the noble Lord seeks.
I discovered today that the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, is probably a friend, but I get tired of the constant repetition and refrain about schools in east Lancashire and, indeed, in Bradford, where there have been Anglican high schools only for the past year. Those schools can hardly be held responsible for creating the segregation in that community.
Baroness Blatch: I shall speak briefly to the other amendments in the group. I agree wholeheartedly with what the noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool, said about faith schools. As long as we have faith schools, their primary objective will be to give a place to anybody of the faith who wishes to have it and is committed to that kind of education. The Minister has already said that.
I agree with the constructive point made by my noble friend Lord Lucas. Where there is demand for a certain kind of ethos and educationsomething that we should welcomewe should try to expand the number of such schools available. It would be possible to be really innovative and set up a school run by Christians, Jews or Muslims and take all comers, if the original faith community is satisfied with the number of places at the school.
I have no problem with a school becoming all-Anglican, all-Catholic or all-Muslim if that is the demand. However, I have real problems about the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, and the point made by my noble friend Lord Lucas. The moment one goes down the road of social engineering one finds all kinds of difficulties. I accept the right reverend Prelate's comment that those schools are not responsible for the troubles we have seen either in Ireland, which is an extreme example of community problems, or in Oldham or Burnley. In fact, those schools are probably havens in areas where young people are learning fundamentally how to live with one another and respect cultural differences.
However, a point that has not been made in the course of this relatively long debate relates to safeguards for city technology colleges, the city colleges of technology and the arts and the city academies. I have a close knowledge of city technology colleges and I know that city colleges of technology and the arts and the city academies, which have emulated the way in which CTCs were set up, have a detailed legislative underpinning of their admissions procedures. They are wholly subscribed in great detail and are probably the most scientific comprehensive schools in the country. They have to take from across
I return to an earlier debate about our faith schools. I believe that the Minister admitted that there is only a relatively small problem in that some schools deliberately keep places vacant in the hope that a number of children of the faith will come along and fill them. She hinted that it was mainly in Catholic schools. Current negotiations are amicable and a solution appears to be forthcoming. That is to be welcomed.
All I know of Church of England Schools and of King David and other Jewish schools is that when there are vacancies they are open and welcoming to children from the local area. I do not see that as being a problem and I would prefer to leave the matter there. I believe that the faith community should be wholly satisfied and that the local community should have open access to any vacancies which arise. However, where the demand is greater than that, we should go down the road suggested by my noble friend Lord Lucas and consider the possibility of setting up yet more faith schools to satisfy the need.
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