|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Mr. Hoban: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for reminding me of that. My hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh) said that his children attended that faith school. I understand that its catchment area covers children who do not live far from here. Faith schools' catchment areas can be incredibly wide and attract pupils from diverse backgrounds.
Mr. Hoban: What happens when faith schools are oversubscribed? That applies to many of them. If the new clause was accepted, many more parents who want their children to attend a faith school would be disappointed.
My hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr. Goodman) made a thoughtful speech and referred to circumstances in which a local education authority could be taken over by religious fanatics who would change the character of the schools. Perhaps many of us believe that that is far-fetched.
Mr. Hoban: My hon. Friend must know what was in my mind. I know of a local education authority that would probably want to use new clause 1 to change the character of schools. Southampton city council is along the coast from my constituency. An article that was conveniently timed to coincide with Christmas stated that the manifesto that Labour councillors were due to draw up would oppose Church schools
Mr. Hoban: I am grateful for that point. I do not want to probe too deeply the motives of the hon. Members who have tabled the new clauses and spoken in favour of them. Perhaps they show an intolerance of others' views that they have not so far expressed openly.
New clause 1 puts faith schools at risk. New clause 18 would preserve the status quo and prevent those of other faiths who wished to set up new faith schools from doing that. It would also prevent the expansion of Church of England secondary schools.
New clause 1together with new clause 2, about which the hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon spoke earlieris aimed at changing significantly the ethos of faith schools and interfering in how they are run, but it is not the role of Parliament to tell schools how they should admit pupils and select staff.
Geraint Davies: I share the concern of my right hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) that more and more purely selective faith schools could lead to social segregation, intolerance and a distortion in local education choice. In my constituency, there are examples of people who have had to move house to move away from a faith school because they have no faith, to be near to one of the better schools. That happens in any case, but the more faith schools we have, the more such distortions will occur.
I recognise the need to balance the right of schools to have their own separate identity and ethosif there is local demand for thatwith the choice for local children in terms of access to the best schools. I represent a multicultural constituency, and it is not apparent to me, by any stretch of the imagination, that local Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs or, indeed, Christians want their own schools. Religious people often do not want religious schools; they might, however, want schools that simply have a leading ethosa Christian ethos, for instancerather than an overwhelming, 100 per cent. religious environment.
The key issue that I want to bring to the debate is the distinction between two categories of faith schools. It is a distinction that has not been brought out so far, and it is critical to the shaping of the social and educational future of this country. The two types of faith school available are those that are voluntary aided and those that are voluntary controlled. I have already tried to make this point in interventions on the Secretary of State and other of my hon. Friends.
I shall outline the difference between the two types of school. In voluntary-aided faith schools, the governing body is controlled by the relevant religion, the governors are the employers of the teachers, and the diocese or religion can dictate 100 per cent. preference in terms of
In contrast, we have the voluntary controlled faith schools. I believe that, in promoting more and more faith schools, the Government should introduce regulationsor at least issue guidanceto demonstrate that they would prefer faith schools to be voluntary controlled. In such schools, there is a clear religious ethosthey are faith schoolsand a number of governors are of the religion in question. That religion is also represented on the appointments panel, so that the head teacher and senior staff reflect the religion and ethos of the school.
The admissions policy of voluntary-controlled schools, however, does not require the intake to be 100 per cent. based on their religion. Instead, it reflects the normal local education authority procedure. That means that such schools reflect the community that they serve. In a largely Muslim community, for example, the majority of children in such a school might be Muslim. Through natural migration and parental choice, individual schools can develop a religious leadership and ethos without it being completely of one typein many cases, that means one racial type as well as one religious type. About 40 per cent. of Church of England secondary schools are voluntary controlled. They welcome children of other denominations, but their leadership is clearly Church of England. Eighty per cent. of Church of England primary schools are voluntary controlled, rather than voluntary aided.
The plan for the extra 100 faith schools must embrace other denominations, and if they were voluntary controlled, the Churches would take a leading role in running them while allowing them to remain accessible to local children. In the example given by my right hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, he mentioned a village in which there were two secular schools. He said that if that were changed to one secular school and one faith school, that would reduce the choice available to local children, in that only one school would be available to them if they did not support that faith.
However, if the faith school in that example were voluntary controlled, as opposed to voluntary aided, that would not be the case. Local people could use either school, because there would be open access. However, in such a scenario, members of the community with that faith would naturally migrate to the school that denominated itself religious with open access, and that leadership would be reflected in those who chose to apply. Anyone could apply, but, in practice, the same choices would remain and such problems would not arise. They would arise, however, in a voluntary-aided school.
The distinction between voluntary-aided and voluntary-controlled schools is critical to the shape of education choices and possible social segregation. Many of my constituents, be they Christian, Hindu or of another denomination, might want to attend a school that has a religious ethos, but is not overwhelmingly religious. For example, some 90 per cent. of students in a voluntary-controlled Church of England school in Tower Hamlets, of which the Bishop of Blackburn's wife happens to be the head, are Muslim.
That shows that the complexion of faith schools can alter through demographic change in the local catchment area. The students of that school are clearly happy to attend, and it is no surprise that the Bishop of Blackburn takes the Anglican view that the Government should introduce regulations to prevent 100 per cent. religious preference in any given school. There is support for Anglican schools as well as support for more general inclusion.
Hon. Members have referred to the difficulties in Oldham and Bradford. Oldham has a voluntary-aided Anglican school that is 100 per cent. Anglican and 100 per cent. white, but Bradford does not. In Bradford, the issue is housing segregation. There are complicated problems, which relate to segregation and society, and it is too simplistic to say that they all derive from the schooling system, but, given the congruence of faith and ethnicity in schools, the segregation of schoolchildren clearly does not always help communities to gel.
On voluntary control versus voluntary aid, no particular demand exists for a big increase in the number of voluntary-controlled Catholic schools. The demand comes from Anglicans, who have asked for an extra 100they are happy with the principle of voluntary control.
I press the Government to signal strongly that, in welcoming new faith schools, they have a clear preference for voluntary-controlled schools. Such a system would preserve status: it would not change all-Catholic schools or, for that matter, any others, given that we are discussing new schools. It would enable Anglicans to do what they want, ensure local access for local people to the school of their choice and enable Sikhs and Hindus, for example, to attend Muslim schools alongside Christians. It would also enable the establishment of new Muslim schools and schools of other religious traditions.