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8:00am Thursday 2nd August 2012 in Letters
Sir – “Children should be educated together, regardless of religion or belief” was the concluding theme of talk given in Oxford on July 20 by Richy Thompson, faith schools campaigns officer at the British Humanist Association.
Not surprisingly, the majority of his talk focused on demolishing the six most common thoughts underlying many people’s reasons for supporting ‘faith’ schools: Faith’ schools improve parental choice; Parents have the right to have their children educated in their faith; Faith schools have a better ethos than other schools; Faith schools are more successful than other schools; Church of England schools don’t really seek to indoctrinate — they look to serve the whole community; Only the non-religious oppose ‘faith’ schools.
Other key points during a well-attended and lively discussion were: The BHA believes that children should be taught about religion and non-religious beliefs as part of a larger subject, based around philosophy; All schools should have to provide a sex and relationships education programme that includes (inter alia) unbiased information on contraception, abortion, sexual orientation plus different forms of family relationship; There are several further topics that academies and free schools should not be exempted from teaching.
Earlier, Mr Thompson recalled the somewhat unexpected comments of a Roman Catholic bishop: “I do not see how any man, wishing well to the public peace and who looks to Ireland as his country, can think that peace can ever be permanently established, or the prosperity of the country ever well secured, if children are separated at the commencement of life on account of their religious opinions.”
John D White , Chairman, Oxford Humanists