Faith Schools and Education

Liverpool Humanist Group presents:-

Faith Schools and Education

a talk by Richy Thompson

Date:     Thursday 12th January 2012
:    7.30pm
The Crown (upstairs room), 43 Lime Street, Liverpool L1 1JQ
Suggested contribution of £2-3

Richy Thompson, BHA Campaigns Officer, in Liverpool with Richard Jacques, Chair of Liverpool Humanist Group.

Richy Thompson, BHA Campaigns Officer, will discuss the history of ‘faith’ schools in England from the founding of the “National Society” (the National Society for Promoting Religious Education) up to the rise of Academies and Free Schools, before debunking some of the myths surrounding them. Richy will also explore other issues of concern to humanists in the area of education.

The Christian Church was arguably the first provider of schools and universities in England and Wales.

The National Society was founded in 1811 to provide schools for poor children.

The original name was ‘The National Society for the Promotion of the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church’. The founders were deeply concerned about the fate of the population, including children, working in the factories, mills and mines of the newly industrialised Britain. They set up the Society to raise money to build schools and pay teachers.

These schools were to teach basic skills and also to provide for the moral and spiritual welfare of the children, by teaching them the ‘National Religion’ – Christianity as represented in the Church of England and Wales.

Their aim was to found a church school in every parish and by 1851 (still 20 years before the state took any responsibility for education) there were 12,000 schools across England and Wales.

Following the reformation in the 16th century, the Catholic Church’s role as a provider of public education went largely underground until the 1800s. In 1847 the Catholic Poor School Committee was established which focussed on the promotion of Catholic primary education. This was followed by the re-establishment of the Catholic hierarchy in England and Wales in 1850. Because the Church has always viewed education as vital to the formation and development of the whole person, it put the setting up of schools for the Catholic community ahead of building churches, often using its schools in those early days as the place of worship for the parish.

The British Humanist Association advocates a genuinely inclusive school system in which all pupils are educated together, not separately according to the beliefs of their parents. Humanists believe that the rights and entitlements of both the religious and the non-religious can be respected within community schools.

BHA education policies arise out of humanist principles and concern for the common good and social cohesion, as well as an awareness of the needs of non-religious people and experience of working with members of religious groups. The objectives of the BHA in the area of education are:

  • Inclusive, integrated community schools, and an end to state-funded religious schools, which are unnecessary, discriminatory, and potentially very divisive.
  • Inclusive school assemblies, not compulsory “collective worship”.
  • Reform of “Religious Education” to be an objective fair and balanced education about religious and non-religious beliefs and values.
  • A broad education that prepares young people for adult life in a pluralist society, including sex and relationships education, values and citizenship education, and the development of curiosity, thinking skills and creativity.

Richy Thompson - BHA Faith Schools Campaigner

Richy graduated from the University of Oxford in 2010 with a first in Computer Science. While a student there he founded and was the first President of Oxford Atheists, Secularists and Humanists, and also coordinated the first Oxford Think Week. He subsequently became Press Officer of the National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Student Societies (AHS), and in July 2010 was elected as the third President. He simultaneously became a campaigns volunteer at the BHA as well as the European Humanist Federation, before becoming the BHA’s Faith Schools and Education Campaigner in May 2011.

In a climate of thought that is increasingly unfavourable to (Christian) beliefs it is a mistake to try to impose them on children, and to make them the basis of moral training. The moral education of children is much too important a matter to be built on such foundations … Margaret Kennedy Knight (1903-1983) speaking in a BBC radio broadcast in 1955 entitled Morals without Religion.

All children should be free to grow up in a world where they are allowed to question, doubt, think freely and reach their own conclusions about what they believe. Ariane Sherine Comedy writer and journalist.

The good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge.
Bertrand Russell (1872 – 1970)

Three words you will never hear a religious person say to their offspring: “Think for yourself”. Anon.

We educate each other. Richard Jacques and Rex Bradley


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