Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Turmoil over Faith Schools

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Turmoil over Faith Schools

Article excerpt


TONY BLAIR'S push for more faith schools was in a "total mess" this evening.

While religious leaders demanded more places, MPs protested that religious schools were already too dominant.

A Roman Catholic leader said his Church would need a dramatic expansion of places to meet demand from the growing population of Catholics from eastern Europe.

But arguing in the opposite direction, the Labour chairman of the Commons education select committee, Barry Sheerman, warned against moves to increase the number of state-funded faith schools.

Speaking to the Standard, he called on Mr Blair to announce a root and branch review of religious schools and attacked Education Secretary Alan Johnson for making up policy "on the hoof ".

Liberal Democrat education spokesman Sarah Teather said: "The Government are in a total mess. If they want to solve it sensibly they should investigate it in depth."

Meanwhile, Conservatives moved to force a vote in the House of Lords to reinstate Mr Johnson's plan to make Continued on Page 2 faith schools admit a quarter of pupils from other religions or none at all.

Simon Hughes, the Liberal Democrat MP who is the governor of a CofE school in London, went much further by calling for three-quarters of places in faith schools to go to people from all religious backgrounds.

The new divisions opened up within hours of Mr Johnson's hasty retreat from a statutory quota system for outsiders.

The Prime Minister has championed the cause of faith schools throughout his decade in power and chose the Roman Catholic London Oratory for his sons.

But Mr Sheerman echoed the concern felt by many Labour MPs, who hear protests from parents that they are denied places in good local schools because they do not have the right beliefs.

He said: "Remember, most peo-Continued from Page 1 ple do not go to church or to any religious institution. Yet, here we are as taxpayers paying for all these schools in the state sector. …

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