Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain
July 1, 2008

Cristina Odone’s report on faith schools published by the Centre for Policy Studies misses the point. The point of is not that faith schools have discriminatory admission codes and employment practices, cream-skim pupils, or turn away children in care although they do. Rather, what makes faith schools fundamentally bad for children is that they are more concerned with the inclusion of religion – the religion of the child’s parents – than the inclusion, wellbeing and educational needs of the child.

According to Ms. Odone, Islamic schools are crucial to the emancipation of girls because they give parents the confidence to keep them in school for longer. But relegating girls to Islamic schools where they are indoctrinated in their parents’ beliefs, segregated on the basis of sex (imagine how unacceptable this would be if it was based on race), veiled, prevented from mixing and playing with boys, prevented from doing sports, dancing and so on is anything but.

In Islamic schools such as the Hawza Ilmiyya students are taught to despise unbelievers as filth, and to hold males and females as unequal. Ibrahim Lawson, headteacher of Nottingham Islamia School, clearly states their main purpose: ‘The essential purpose of the Islamia school as with all Islamic schools is to inculcate profound religious belief in the children.’

Education, however, is meant to give children access to science, reason and advances of the 21st century not the other way around. It is meant to level the playing field irrespective of and despite the family the child is born into. It is meant to allow children to think freely and critically – something that religion actually prohibits and often punishes. Contrary to Ms. Odone’s claims, this can only be guaranteed via a secular educational system.

Until children are given precedence over their parent’s religion, the Government, with its commitment to faith schools, will continue to fail them.


  1. Hi BobThe downsides are also an issue – which is why we say that they are true. However, if every faith school did not discriminate, did not cream-skim and did not turn away children in care, it would actually be worse still for children as it would mean more would be admitted!Seriously, though, I worry sometimes that attention is only focused on the secondary issues thereby missing the bigger picture, which is what we are trying to bring attention to.Hope this is useful.

  2. Hi MaryamI agree with you that “educating” children in a way which biases their religious ed toward any particular religion is bad in and of itself, and that the child’s right to a balanced education should be “given precedence over their parent’s religion”, as you put it.However I don’t see why this means that the other downsides of faith schools aren’t also an issue. Discrimination in admissions on grounds of religion is what leads to social segregation. Discrimination in employment means there are fewer jobs for minority religious and non-religious teachers in the state sector. And the back door social selection (the “creaming off” of richer pupils, however inadvertently) leads to an unbalanced system and, again, another kind of social segregation. I don’t think Odone “misses the point” by addressing these issues – rather it’s just that she has an insanely lopsided view of those issues! which runs completely counter to the evidence available.

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