Let children experience people from different backgrounds and learn together in a religiously neutral environment.
The Islamic free school Al-Madinah in Derby has been closed. Ofsted continues investigating without comment, so we are at liberty to pick from a number of reasons so far offered for the closure.
Thus far the school has been accused of a number of violations of Ofsted standards, including: making girls sit at the back of class, mandatory headscarfs for non-Muslim teaching staff, not following the national curriculum but devoting two hours a day to islamic studies, and flouting ‘health and safety’ rules.
This seems a good time, then, to make clear a broader set of principles which should apply to our schools: schools are places for education – not indoctrination that women are inferior, nor learning religious texts by rote while neglecting core learning requirements for the wider world.
Taxpayers deserve better than this. We may be stuck for the time being with existing religious schools. But that is no excuse to encourage separating children by the religion of their parents further with the creation of new religious free schools.
In doing so, we are entrenching the mistakes of the past. Segregation is wrong, and the school system is not the place to encourage it. The notion that we are all equal citizens in a secular democracy, the idea of pluralism – that we can have conflicting ideas while upholding key universal ideals – is undermined by it.
Schools are supposed to be bastions of education, there to create able minds which can freely think for themselves. Let us put resources into that – and not allow misogyny and segregation to happen, not just at the tax payers expense, but at the further loss of social cohesion.
Otherwise be prepared – for the sake of parental ‘choice’ – for more new schools that fail to educate but instead indoctrinate. Already there have been concerns in other new free schools concerning creationism and homophobia reminiscent of section 28.
How about we stop the indoctrination of children at taxpayers expense? Instead, let children experience people from different backgrounds and learn together in a religiously neutral educational environment.
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