THE two recent stories, reported in the Worthing Herald, about very young children being forced to travel up to three miles to first/primary schools, not of their choice, were shocking.
There are three issues here – choice of school, cost of travel and inconvenience, and the problem with state faith/religious schools (Heene CofE First School).
Parents don’t want choice and don’t want to use transport. All they want is to send their children to the nearest state school that has excellent academic standards and discipline.
With a sharp decline in church attendance, and the inevitable closure of churches, it was no surprise the Rt Rev John Pritchard, Bishop of Oxford, chairman of the church’s board of education, has finally admitted the uncomfortable truth.
He has rightly said there must be an end to CofE schools reserving all their places solely for Anglican churchgoers and only 10 per cent should be allocated now to practising Christians.
He also said its primary function and privilege is to serve the wider community.
As a member of the National Secular Society (NSS), I think this is a welcome step in the right direction, that will partly end religious privilege and unfair selection.
But the NSS’s ultimate campaign strategy is for the abolition of all state-funded faith/religious schools. These schools, of whatever religion, breed discrimination/difference/ignorance that inevitably lead to dangerous sectarianism in many communities.
Religion divides families, local communities and countries, all around the world. Every child must be allowed to grow up free from narrow religious hate doctrines/dogmas. Supernatural religious beliefs belong in the home, and in a place of worship, not in our schools/education system and the political arena.
Note: secularism means separation of church and state, not atheism, that many people mistakenly think – even the Pope!