Faith Schools are Sect Schools sign now

An open letter and petition.

The term 'faith school' fails to reflect the critical view that many British people take of schools with "religious character". (64\% of the adult population thinks "the government should not be funding faith schools of any kind"; ICM, August 2005.)

We propose the term 'sect schools', which gives a voice to common criticism. All schools with religious character are sect schools.

By adopting this term for common usage we convey dissent from the practice of institutionally associating children with any religious group or beliefs. Sect schools pressure pupils to conform to a particular theological perspective, whether or not they are explicitly inculcated. Religious branding of education divides the children of whole communities, such as the inhabitants of a town, along lines of (presumed!) religious belief, seriously threatening communication between sectarian and ethnically-correlated groups.

With regard to enacting the proposed Education and Inspections Bill (first published 28th February 2006), we submit that:

As community schools would be harder to open, and closed in response to failure, a tendency toward Trusts and City Academies would be initiated
If the experience with City Academies is reflected in Trust schools, we would expect around half of the external partnerships to be with religious groups and churches (including a disproportionate number of well-resourced fundamentalist and evangelical groups)
The partners' powers over those schools is inflated, offering sectarian control over a school's educational programs; their "ethos", funds, staff, employment criteria, rules, disciplinary procedures, admission policies...
Ongoing selection by "faith criteria" will prejudice the state-funded schooling of the children of under-represented groups, which forces parents in minority faiths, and parents who dissent from any religion, away from state-funded sect schools which might otherwise have been their first choice

We therefore call either: for the proposed Bill to be amended to disallow religious "partnerships" and religious sponsors from any such involvement with state-funded schools (including radical amendment to "Trust school" legislation); or for the Bill to be scrapped. (We note that both the Association of Teachers and Lecturers and the National Union of Teachers are opposed to "Trust schools".)

Furthermore we call for the unqualified abolition of "religious character" for existing state-funded schools in general. No child's state-funded education should come hand-in-hand with a presumption of religious belief.

We will use and promote the term 'sect schools' as an alternative common reference over 'faith schools', and encourage others to do so. We will encourage others to sign up to this petitional statement through www.bob.seldo.net/schools (where it will remain open to new signatories after it has been sent to the specified recipients).

This is not about "parental choice". This is about the right of each individual child to freedom of and from religious belief.

(Note to signatories: This petitional statement will be copied, by the composers, as an open letter to various national media sources, and to the specified recipients in time for the first vote on the Education Bill, Wednesday 15th March. It will be sent in full, with the exception of this note, and signed "Sincerely, N members of the British public", with a link to the names of all the undersigned. You are encouraged also to copy it to other media sources and MPs in your own constituency.)

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Aline AvilaBy:
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Petition target:
Members of the House of Commons and the House of Lords, and To: the British public

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