Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Faith Schools and Syllabuses

This report on a faith school in Auerbach having changed the state syllabus in line with its beliefs raises many of the questions as to threat vested interests pose to a national curriculum.

A national curriculum (in theory) sets a general standard of education for everyone in a country. It offers a shared knowledge-base, and ensures that we all start life with something in common. The idea that some elements of a scientific education may be unpalateble to some faith groups is not new, and if they are to continue to receive government funding, we must do edverything we can to ensure that pupils at these schools do not miss out on the basic information we consider vital for a citizen to have before they leave school.

Monday, October 10, 2005

BHA's Argument Against

This is a much more complete rundown of some of the thinking about faith academies.

Given that the government is determined, despite a loack of proof of the model, to expand the city academies acheme, it is vital that humanists start their own academies. Not to do so is to consign children to religious indoctrination from an early age.

Sir Peter Vardy profile

Sir Peter Vardy is a multi-millionaire. Sir Peter Vardy's likes God. His educational adviser doesn't like gays, and thinks children should be told that. Sir Peter Vardy heads The Emmanuel Foundation, which is sponsoring many city academies. There is a Red Pepper profile of him here...

Teachers at 'city academies'

Unlike those who wish to tach at a normal state school, those who wish to do so at a 'city academy', do not have to be registered with the General Teaching Council. Pupils at a city academy, then, are not assured of the basic competence of their teachers, nor do they have any protection against potentially dangerous 'teachers'.

Helpfully, academies can also opt out of national pay agreements, and some teachers claim that they have been forced to sign 'gagging orders' in order to work at an academy.

City academies: a curriculum favouring private interests, disseminated by those without qualifications, governed outside the standards that govern education in the rest of the country. The danger these schools present highlights how important it is that, if there is no other way of combatting 'the Emmanuel Foundation', we must raise money ourselves to open academies which will offer something better.

Someone will sponsor them, this is our opportunity to ensure that values of liberal humanism take precedence over those of McDonald's...

Thursday, September 29, 2005

The idea

Right. There are some of us out there who still cling to outdated notions of education, who are worried by the numbers of city academies being run by religious organisations. In our view (I say 'our', at the moment it's just me) education should steer clear of indoctrinating children intobelief systems which have no verifiable basis. The should teach young people the skills needed to analyse and pose arguments, that they might better search for truth. Indeed, inasmuch as they should promote a questioning attitude and a desire for testable propositions, schools should not be about faith at all. Faith is the opposite of education.

Thus, it seems to me to get a number of high-profile atheists to put their name behind a project to raise money to open schools which have no religious bias at all, and, indeed, only study religions as one would study any magical, anthropological systems. Instead, the focus will be on history and science, the creative arts and literature and on pupils gaining a knowledge of the history of human thought, that they might be encouraged to develop and test theses for themselves.

Obviously, as yet, there is no curriculum, no set of ideas, nothing more than what I've said above. If anyone knows Stephen Fry, Richard Dawkins, Philip Pullman, Francis Wheen or James Randi, please pass this along to them. Or, if you have any ideas, please leave them in the comments box....