Monday, April 14, 2008

Ed Balls ‘has betrayed Church of England’ over schools

The Church of England’s chief education officer, the Rev. Jan Ainsworth, has accused the Government of betraying the Church of England over its attack on faith schools. When the Department of Children Schools and Families announced that ‘the vast majority of faith schools’ were breaking the law with their admissions policies, it was rounded on from all quarters.

Frank Field MP wrote: ‘Ed Balls's recent attack on faith schools (was) not simply incomprehensible, but near criminal. The PM … must rein him in. A rant against faith schools may be good for positioning a candidate for the next leadership contest but it is deeply damaging to a government that is trying to prevent itself being confined to a political life-support machine.’

The allegation is that church and other faith schools use their admissions policies to exclude difficult and disadvantaged children. This constituted ‘shocking evidence’ of social selection, which suggested that ‘faith schools nationwide were asking parents for hundreds of pounds, weeding out poor or difficult children, and refusing to give places to children in local-authority care.’

As the Church Times points out: ‘Many schools have amenity funds, usually organised by parent-teacher associations. Contributions are never demanded in return for a place. The school cited by Mr Balls as seeking £800-plus a year from parents was a voluntary aided Jewish school that has been subjected to anti-Semitic attacks and threats and requires additional security. It is not a typical aided school.’

Anglican, Roman Catholic, and Jewish educationists complained that their schools had been unfairly traduced. Colin Hopkins, director of education for Lichfield diocese, said that the public had been given an ‘outrageously false impression of our schools’. But Mr Balls was having none of it, so he organised a press briefing and said he wanted ‘to draw a line’ under the dispute, and he did so by publishing a list of schools with their alleged failings, suggesting that they were 'a law unto themselves'.

The Board of Education, which had been advised that the statement was to be published, was not warned about the press briefing. The Rev. Jan Ainsworth has therefore questioned Mr Balls’ motives, observing: ‘The Secretary of State must have known his decision to go public in this way would result in hostile coverage. There is a real feeling of betrayal by the minister, and some anxiety about the direction of future relationships with his department.’

When one considers the inquisition faced by supporters of Roman Catholic schools, the slur against Jewish schools, and this gross misrepresentation of Church of England schools, it is difficult not to conclude that Labour is distinctly hostile to faith-based education.

Not only have Church of England schools consistently supported fair admissions policies, including the banning of interviews, but they continue to be the centuries-old embodiment of the mission to the poor, as the Dearing Report of 2001 stated. The Church of England has been a substantial provider of primary schools, of fewer secondary schools and of a significant number of teacher training colleges of which most remaining examples are now universities. The Dearing Report proposed the extension of secondary provision, which is well under way. However, there is little Church of England provision in post-16 and none at all in the Further Education sector. The Academies programme offers a new route for the entitlement of schools with a designated Church of England character. These are targeted towards areas of high deprivation in traditionally Labour constituencies.

But perhaps Mr Balls has simply not noticed that.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The antipathy to faith schools is plain; what is to be done about it is slightly more challenging in the longer term. It will take work across the board in many different areas.

It must be galling for the Left that, for all their attacks, faith schools are very popular with parents of their localities. They tend to have good outcomes for children and BETTER cultures. Let's not be shy about being "judgemental" in this context.

The presence of traditional values, better discipline and fewer gimmicks must surely be a major factor in the choices parents make.

How galling for our opponents to see that when faith schools succeed, it demonstrates that their more "moderns" nostrums have failed. This is why they seek other explanations rather than accept the obvious.

If we are to stake out a case for strengthening the sector however we shall need to be strong and clear about taking on a number of associated "sacred cows" of the
left, and that is a major piece of work across the board.

If there is a straight choice between faith criteria and "inclusion" we have to support the former.

The building of community through communal acts of worship is a major problem for the secularists but one we ought to be ready to re-establish in those faith schools where it has been allowed it to slip. Exposure to the theology, values, and language embodied in the Bible and Hymns is an important part of who we are as a nation and a number of improvements in many areas of life can be started from this first step.

The Left identified in the sixties that they could only prosper if they captured the culture and dominated the narrative of public discourse with their version of morality which became known as political correctness. It is antithetical to, and a direct rival of, faith.

We have to realise that the weakening of faith in all schools and the liberalisation of the media and academic life has the underlying strength which enabled the advance of liberal secularism.

We may think we are only defending faith schools but we shall have to range over many wider areas if we are to unpick and mend the shoddily made fabric of New Labour's Britain

14 April 2008 at 09:26  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's two too many words in that quote.

'Church of'

14 April 2008 at 12:05  
Blogger Little Black Sambo said...

Anon 9.26: What you say so concisely provides an excellent key to so much of what this government has done since 1997. They hate the country as it was when they took it over, and are trying all the time to change it into something completely different.

14 April 2008 at 12:35  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

LBS you are correct they want to change us into a region of Europe. What they will do then I don't know as MP's will be surpluss to requirements

14 April 2008 at 13:07  
Anonymous irene lancaster said...

What has the government said about Muslim schools, if anything?

14 April 2008 at 20:15  
Anonymous hear o israel said...

your grace
I am astonished at the ignorance of eds statement , of course the immediate response is one of anger , but as that subsides you are left wondering what this mans head is full of ??

he is the minister for education so i can only assume that he was criticisng the standard of education , given that he has been part of this government for some considerable time , you would have thought he would attained a level of dialogue and understanding about the fabric of our nation , instead we appear to be treated to a shallow discourse or snapshot of a personally held objection to faith , it all appears "so weak" .

ed appears to have declined cross examination which would obviously show up his limitations further , whilst many in the teaching profession are angry at his ignorance , many parents are angry at his attack on there choices and beliefs .

considering he is thought of as being the next leader of labour , it is obvious that he shouldnt be allowed even near a leaflet hand out, he clearly has not retracted or appologised for the very stupid statement , which leaves one wondering even more is he trying to educate us in somthing else?? whilst at the same time denying cross examination .

"so weak" eh ed or perhaps "so what"

15 April 2008 at 00:22  
Blogger Snuffleupagus said...

Your Grace
Balls is an idiot and I don't like him much but what he says about faith schools is not wrong. The point that ought to be made here is that ALL schools use whatever avenues which are open to them to try to fix their entry. They all do. There is no exception. Any Head who knows anything, knows that the easiest and fastest way of raising results, or keeping one's results high, is to improve the intake.

Faith schools have additional avenues over ordinary schools. So Balls is not entirely incorrect. What is interesting however is that he only points out the discrepancies of faith schools, and not of other schools. And that is where the prejudice lies.

16 April 2008 at 01:20  
Anonymous Voyager said...

The election of a Marxist Government in 1997 revealed itself over the years - now we know that at the apex of the "movement" they hold there is "No God but Caesar."

16 April 2008 at 15:06  

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