Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

School of Education

Faith schools face challenge in teaching for community cohesion

18 March 2008 |

Faith schools could do more to teach for citizenship and social cohesion, Professor Audrey Osler told MPs on 12 March, when she gave evidence to the parliamentary committee on Schools, Children and Families.

From September 2007 all maintained schools in England are required by law to promote community cohesion. Although state-funded religious schools place considerable emphasis on religious education as a means of promoting cohesion, the evidence suggests they do not make the most of citizenship education as a way of enabling young people to acquire the skills for living together in a multicultural society, she told MPs.

Teachers in community schools are often ill-at-ease in discussing matters of faith and religious diversity, and are more comfortable in addressing other cultural issues. Teachers needed more support and training in order to enable them to fulfil the community cohesion duty.

Following government concerns that religious state-funded schools are flouting a national admissions code designed to crackdown on selection and social segregation, Professor Osler highlighted how across the country there is concern in local communities that the most vulnerable children are not able to access places in religious schools. She was drawing on research undertaken in partnership with the Runnymede Trust.

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