Commenting on news that the head teacher of Monkseaton High School in Tyneside who wanted to set up a secular trust school had been rebuffed by the government, Keith Porteous Wood of the National Secular Society said:
“The Church is unwilling to loosen the stranglehold it has on education in this country. More and more parents are expressing unhappiness at the forced worship that goes on in schools, the proselytising nature of much religious education and the ever-increasing number of schools with a religious ethos.
“What is far worse is that the Government seems unwilling to listen to these anxieties and continues to allow the churches to use schools as places of evangelism and indoctrination. The Government clearly cares more about propping up the churches than it does in allowing people to be educated in the way they want.”
“Church attendance has been in decline for sixty years and now only one in fifteen people are in church on an average Sunday. This is projected by Christian Research to drop to one in 50 by 2040. The majority of the population are not practising any religion. According to two large studies, around two thirds of secondary children do not regard themselves as religious. These children are being betrayed by the Government.”
“It is time that fundamental changes are made to the involvement of church and religion in education in this country. It seems extraordinary that religion – above all other ideologies – is allowed such a free rein on captive children like this. Schools are forced by law to worship every day, whether they want to or not. They are given religious education that verges in many schools on evangelism. Unless their parents consent to their withdrawal from indoctrinating religious education, they are not permitted to opt out. This is surely an abuse of their Human Rights.
“The church and the government talk a lot about ‘choice’ in education, but where is the choice for children who don’t want to take part in religious activities? Only 8 per cent of Londoners are in church on an average Sunday, yet twenty percent of secondary school places in London are in religious schools, and more such schools are planned.”
He said that the National Secular Society supported the call for secular schools. “Why shouldn’t there be schools where those who don’t want religion foisted on them can learn in peace? Is there to be nowhere that children can escape from the clutches of religious propagandists?
September 24th 2007