According to the Catholic Education Service it is spurious to suggest that removing the absolute right of a religious community to educate its own children by introducing a percentage non-faith quota for Church schools would aid social cohesion. I'm not so sure.
Why? Well as someone whose teaching career was solely in the VA RC sector I would argue that it is neither spurious nor indeed contrary to the mission of the Church. Indeed I would go further and challenge the CES to publish a complete list of Catholic schools (secondary in particular) where it is already custom and practice that between 20% - 30% of the intake is from other faith backgrounds or none.
Opening up faith schools to people of different faiths (or none) would be a positive move towards greater social and educational inclusion. After all a truly 'Christian school' is surely one that seeks to be open and accessible to all as well as paying particular attention to the needs of the marginalized and the poor.
What is needed is a mature, open and honest debate about the type of educational system various faith groups would be happy to support and indeed help shape in the twenty-first century. Should it be an inclusive, comprehensive system that intrinsically values and caters for all pupils regardless of their spiritual, economic or social capital? Or should it be a two-tier, elitist system that perpetuates privilege, does not help promote the common good and is contrary to the message of the Christian gospel?
Here are some practical suggestions for reform:
1. Insist that all state funded VA schools set a aside a minimum of 20% of its annual intake for the pupils of parents of other faiths or none.
2. Require all VA schools to publish their admission figures (criterion referenced) annually.
3. Require all VA schools to provide LAs with action plans (updated annually) as to how the school will actively seek to promote community cohesion.
Do you agree? What else might we add?