Saturday, April 12, 2008

Even When You Choose A Non-Religious School, Religions Still Get A Say In It

I recently discovered that by law, local Councils which have a Scrutiny Commission responsible for education must co-opt representatives of religions onto that Scrutiny Commission with voting rights (scroll down to paragraph 52 of the link - it refers to Section 21 of the Local Government Act 2000). My own local Council, Hackney, has gone a step further and appointed three extra religious reps, presumably because if you are going to privilege religion, then why not privilege them all equally?!

My first gripe is that any post in government that has any power should be elected. Voting rights for unelected people is anathema to democracy.

But the main issue I want to take up here is the involvement of religion in education. What if you have a complaint about your school or your borough's education system that, for example, it is giving too much of a platform to religion? What if you want the Scrutiny Commission to look at improving sex education? Will you get a fair hearing? Who will speak up for secularists, even for atheists?

And what of 'choice'? Several times on this blog, I have taken issue with the very existence of religious schools. But even if you accept or defend religious schools, this law goes a step further - it gives religious organisations a say in education whether you want them to or not.

My partner and I chose to send our kids to a secular school, Brook Community Primary School. Many defenders of religious schools make their case on the basis of 'parents' choice'. I invite any of them to explain what happened to my 'choice' when unelected religious representatives still have a say in my kids' education even when I opted for a non-religious school.

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