Education chief’s comments upset conservative Christians

Feb 8, 2018 by

from CEN:

The comments came from Amanda Spielman during her speech at the conference of the Church of England Foundation for Education Leadership.

Mrs Spielman (pictured)  praised Church of England schools, explaining that among these institutions in particular, the spiritual and moral dimension of young people’s education ‘tends to be exemplary’.

However she added, ‘a discontinuity emerges’ when schools fail to link academic achievement with ethos, reiterating that ‘there should not, indeed cannot, be a trade-off between school ethos and school outcomes’.

This ‘does not match with the reality in all of our schools today’, she added.

Mrs Spielman also pointed out that while many faith schools are ‘exemplars in promoting tolerance’, not just of different faiths, but also lifestyles and cultures, ‘tolerance and respect does not mean that we should privilege all belief above criticism’.

“Ofsted inspectors are increasingly brought into contact with those who want to actively pervert the purpose of education,” said Mrs Spielman.

In response to a question she said that it should not be assumed ‘that the most conservative voices in a particular faith speak for everyone — imagine if people thought the Christian Institute were the sole voice of Anglicanism’.

That comment angered activists. Canon Dr Chris Sugden, Secretary of Grassroots Conservatives, said: “To refer to and indeed select the Christian Institute as being comparable with Islamic fundamentalism was more than regrettable.”

He added: “If this prejudice and illiteracy is an example of the British values she believes should be taught, we all have to worry.”

Mrs Spielman explained that ‘under the pretext of religious belief, some use educational institutions, legal and illegal, to narrow young people’s horizons, to isolate and segregate, and in the worst cases to indoctrinate impressionable minds with extremist ideology’.

“Freedom of belief in the private sphere is paramount, but in our schools it is our responsibility to tackle those who actively undermine fundamental British values or equalities law,” she added.

She said that ‘rather than adopting a passive liberalism that says “anything goes” for fear of causing offence, schools leaders should be promoting a muscular liberalism’. This type of liberalism, she added,‘holds no truck for ideologies that want to close minds or narrow opportunity’.

“Church schools must not, in their entirely correct goal of promoting tolerance, shy away from challenging fundamentalist practice when it appears in their schools or communities.”

Mrs Spielman warned that similarly,‘schools must not allow pressure from certain elements of school communities to dictate school policy’, and nor should they allow‘vocal parental minorities to pressure other parents and children to act or dress against their wishes’.

“Giving way to the loudest voices is the opposite of tolerance,” she added.

She explained that these concerns are not about mainstream Anglican, Jewish, or Muslim practice in schools, but pointed out that ‘there are segments of particular faiths that are determined to use our schools to promote beliefs and practices that are an anathema to British values’.

Mrs Spielman explained that one of the greatest areas of concern is ‘what is happening under the radar in so-called out-of-school provision- a mainstay of the work of the church’.

“Itis hard to think of a more British institution than a Sunday school. Similar positive activity groups exist in other faiths, providing extra-curricular activities, language training and spiritual instruction.

“But some other out-of-school settings operate less benignly. These institutions, some of which operate as illegal schools, use the opportunity to – in the words of the former Prime Minister – put ‘poison in the minds, hatred in hearts’ of young people. They need to be tackled,” she added.

She said that it is a matter of regret that the Church has resisted changes in the law to allow Ofsted to inspect these settings.

“This is not about infringing religious freedom: no one is proposing a troop of inspectors turning up at Sunday schools. Instead, it is about ensuring that the small minority of settings that promote extremism are not able to evade scrutiny,” she explained.

“If we are to protect many of the tenets that the Church holds dear, we need the power to tackle those trying to use education to undermine them.”

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