Databank of faith schools research updated

August 4, 2017

The Accord Coalition has today updated its free to access databank of research regarding the role of religion and belief in school age education. Newly added pieces of academic study include ones that make arguments which run counter to positions held by Accord, highlighting the breadth of information that the databank seeks to provide.

New additions include ‘The take-up of free school meals in Catholic schools in England and Wales‘ (2017) by Montemaggi, Bullivant and Glackin for St Mary’s University Twickenham’s Benedict XVI Centre for Religion and Society. The paper seeks to contribute to the long running debate about faith schools and social selection and (though Accord criticises the lack of evidence presented) it argues that cultural or other demographic factors may mean the number of pupils entitled to free schools meals (a government measure of deprivation) are disproportionately undercounted at Catholic schools.

Questions around faith schools and social sorting are further explored in ‘Faith Schools, Pupil Performance, and Social Selection‘ by Andrews and Johnes for the Education Policy Institute’ (2016). In a detailed assessment of attainment at state funded schools in England, the report finds almost all the difference in attainment between faith and non-faith schools can be explained by the characteristics of the pupils that are admitted. The authors calculate that the odds of a child eligible for free school meals getting into a local religious secondary school is 70% the odds of any given local child gaining entry.  The report concludes that the Government’s proposal to lift the 50% cap will undermine social mobility and not raise overall educational standards.

Another article that had been added which argues against positions held by Accord is ‘Are faith schools educationally defensible‘ by Ameen and Hassan for the journal Research in Teacher Education. The article seeks to defend faith schools from criticisms that they may undermine community cohesion and pupil autonomy. The authors question the effectiveness of ethnically mixed schools in helping produce positive attitudes between people of different backgrounds and argue that mutual understanding may instead be better advanced by the nature and breath of the curriculum taught by schools.

Non-faith schools are accused of failing to properly uphold pupil autonomy by imposing a ‘singular moral hegemonic viewpoint based on secularism and Eurocentrism’ (p13). Controversially, the authors complain that the Theory of Evolution is presented in schools as scientific fact and not ‘conjecture’ (p15), despite an overwhelming scientific consensus existing in support of the Theory. The paper recommends the promotion of ‘anti-racist and tolerant education’ in all schools (p16).

Chair of the Accord Coalition, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, said ‘It is important to engage with evidence and arguments from different sides of the discourse around the role of religion and belief in education. This should enable us all to have greater confidence in the positions we hold and, ultimately, help us focus on solutions that best serve the interests of pupils and wider society. We hope the databank – which is the only freely available recourse of its kind – will help advance these aims.’

If you aware of any research that is missing from the databank please let Accord know at or on 020 7243 3071.

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