“There is a serious problem with the religious school system in Wales” | Will Hayward – Will Hayward
In Wales we have a serious problem with our religious schools.
Let me describe a situation that happens all the time in our current education system.
There’s a secondary school down a street in a city like Cardiff.
This school is a denominational school that follows the Catholic religion.
The school is taxpayer funded and is considered the best school in the area.
Because it’s so popular, it’s massively oversubscribed.
Rhys is a year-old boy who lives on the same street as this school. He will soon apply for secondary school. His mother has a good job and pays a lot of taxes which fund the school.
Unfortunately, because this school is oversubscribed, the Welsh government allows them to select their students based on their faith.
Rhys may not be allowed to attend this school because he is not Catholic. Instead, that spot can be given to a child from 20 miles away, whose parents have decided to raise him Catholic.
Instead of walking for a minute to get to school, Rhys now either has to take a bus across town every day. Or maybe his mom will have to drop him off before she goes to work in the opposite direction.
You think this system absolutely stinks? You’re not alone.
A Censuswide survey last year found that only 17% of people thought publicly funded schools should be able to select students based on their religious beliefs.
I want to explain why the current system is not only unfair, but also cruel and harmful for all of us.
Before doing so, however, I need to establish a few ground rules and assumptions so that we’re all singing from the same hymn sheet (lol):
Religion is a choice. No child is born with a religion. It is taught to them (usually by their parents).
Religious institutions do not serve the state, it is our money that finances these schools.
Faith, by definition, is belief in something in the absence of fact.
First of all, does this actually happen? Yes.
As an example, take a look at the selection criteria for Corpus Christi Catholic High School in Lisvane, Cardiff.
In the case of over-registration, six of the seven selection priorities involve the child being baptized.
Babysits or has taken care of baptized Catholic children.
Babysits or has taken care of non-Catholic children.
Baptized Catholic children (a) residing in the catchment area and (b) attending a designated Catholic elementary school.
Baptized Catholic brothers or sisters of students already in school at the time of determination and who will be students when the applicant begins school.
Baptized Catholic children (a) residing in the catchment area and (b) attending an undesignated Catholic elementary school. 6
Baptized Catholic children residing in the catchment area.
Other baptized Catholic children.
Only then are non-Catholics residing in the catchment area considered and even then they must attend a designated Catholic primary school.
In all these cases, a copy of the baptism certificate is necessary as proof.
Now, this is not to attack this particular school. This is just one example and the school has a lot of non-Catholic students.
He’s not even going after the Catholic Church – all denominations are allowed to do that.
It’s a pretty awful situation when a school is allowed to say that a child is less deserving of state funds because his parents taught him to worship the “wrong” god.
Not to mention the utter hypocrisy of saying that a child shouldn’t have a place because he worships the “good god” but in the “wrong way”, as if a Catholic child enrolled in a Protestant school.
Beyond all of this are the societal costs to all of us of this policy of forcing us to live in our little bubbles.
At a time when we all seem more divided than ever, wouldn’t it be better if our schools (regardless of faith) exposed young people to peers of all faiths and none?
Wouldn’t that engender empathy and compassion for the beliefs of others rather than creating the “them and us” attitude that we see in our political discourse?
Surely, if a child has come to his religious views after hearing and seeing other points of view, his faith will only be stronger for the experience?
Ultimately, I believe the state should not fund any religious schools.
The UK government’s own religious freedom toolkit states that human rights law gives parents and legal guardians the right to educate their children in accordance with their religion.
Despite this, he adds that “the state is not obligated to actively participate or provide resources to assist parents in such religious education” and that “parents are not entitled to state funding. for denominational religious education or religious schools that conform to their own beliefs”.
However, while we are stuck with these religious institutions running schools, they should not be able to choose who is entitled to taxpayers’ money.
This is by no means a Welsh-only issue. It’s the same in England.
However, education is a devolved issue, so it is within the Welsh Government’s ability to make this change. The earliest would be best.