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Keeping faith -- schools must balance ethos with equality
Date:9/1/2010

London, UK (September 1, 2010) Faith based schools are on the rise in the UK, apparently boosting educational standards. But are religious values at odds with legislation on equality? Research that appears today in the journal Education Management Administration and Leadership published by SAGE shows what happens when school values and those of the state diverge, with unfortunate consequences for gay students and staff.

The UK Government, and certainly former Prime Minister Tony Blair, suggest that faith based schools contribute to choice and diversity, and also raise educational standards. Brian Caldwell's theory that schools with a strong 'spiritual capital' can raise student achievement has been influential.

However, Gerry McNamara and James Norman from Dublin City University, set out to investigate whether giving control of a school's ethos and philosophy to churches or other organisations can lead to unfair policies and practices, as has been the case in the Republic of Ireland.

In Ireland, the vast majority of schools are owned and managed by the Catholic Church but funded by the state. State measures to encourage equality and protect minorities such as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LBGT) students are often not transmitted or supported in these schools, and due to legislation loopholes schools can also sack LGBT teachers to protect their ethos. Could something similar happen in faith schools in the UK?

McNamara's research shows that Catholic schools showed a marked unwillingness to address LGBT issues under sex education, flouting national policy. Worse still, teachers' failure to respond to serious homophobic bullying in schools was commonplace.

McNamara suggests that teachers and presumably school leaders felt constrained or even intimidated by the power structures within which they operate. "There was little indication at leadership level that concerns about social justice and equity were leading
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Contact: Jayne Fairley
jayne.fairley@sagepub.co.uk
020-732-48719
SAGE Publications UK
Source:Eurekalert

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