Databank of information on faith schools policy and practice updated

May 7, 2015

Photo of a bookSeveral new and insightful pieces of research have been added to the Accord Coalition’s research databank – the most comprehensive source of information available on policy implications of the state funded faith school sector and their practices. They include pieces looking at the impact of ethnically diversity in schools upon social cohesion and attitudes in regards to state funded faith schools.

New research added includes ‘Do Ethnically Mixed Classrooms Promote Inclusive Attitudes Towards Immigrants Everywhere?‘ by Germ Janmaat (January, 2015), which provides a powerful boost to advocates of ethnically mixed schools as a way of boosting cohesion and social cohesion. The study assessed survey data collected from over 100,000 13 and 14 year olds in 38 countries, to ascertain whether or not more diverse classrooms made pupils more tolerant towards immigrants and those from different backgrounds. Variables looked at included the ratio of first  to second generation migrant children in class rooms and the ratio between these and other children.

In conclusion the author states that ‘On the whole, the results of this study are welcome news for the advocates of desegregation, as they suggest that ethnically mixed schools are well positioned to promote inclusive out-group attitudes among native students … in sum, this study suggests that policy makers should consider ethnic mixing as a strategy to promote more inclusive out-group attitudes among the native majority.’ (p819-820) The paper also found that a higher proportion of second generation children in classes led to more positive effects from ethnic mixing, suggesting that as immigrant communities become more settled so the potential for integration improves.

The Church Growth Research Programme Report on Strands 1 and 2: Numerical change in church attendance: National, local and individual factors‘ by David Voas and Laura Watt (February, 2014) form part of a group of reports commissioned by the Church of England to identify what causes churches to grow, so as to help identify ways to stimulate growth elsewhere. This report contained several findings in regards to Church Schools, which spark questions about whose interests state funded schools should be seeking to advance.

Analysing survey results, the authors note that ‘The results for church growth are interesting. Here the Church school has a key role … The most direct impact on attendance may be felt in areas where a popular C of E school is over-subscribed. Some churchgoing is clearly motivated by a desire to qualify for school admission, but the boost to attendance may last into the longer term if families decide to stay.’ (p23-24) It was later noted that ‘Middle class suburbs with church schools … offer great opportunities [for growth]’ (p26).

Meanwhile a ComRes poll of British Muslims commissioned by BBC Radio 4’s Today programme and published in February in 2015 found that, by more than two to one, people disagreed that they would like to send their child to a Muslim state funded school if given the choice. The survey echoes others showing popular support for religiously integrated schooling, though it is revealing given the enormous disadvantage that Muslim people currently face in accessing many of the best schools. State funded faith schools often top local leagues due to cream skimming children from more affluent families, but 99% of them are Christian or Jewish, putting non-Christian and Jewish people at particular disadvantage.

Chair of the Accord Coalition, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, said ‘The databank brings together and summarises high quality research from reliable and trusted sources, and we hope that by helping to collate this information Accord will continue to give the public debate around the role of religion and belief in education greater focus. The latest update reinforces several pieces of existing research and it is important that, in addition to finding out new insights, existing assumptions are re-examined, so we can continue to be confident in positions we hold.’

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