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

to a willingness to take potentially controversial initiatives," says McNamara, "and this timidity seems to percolate down through the staff structure".

Legislation loopholes allowing schools to choose pupils to 'protect its ethos,' mean that faith based schools operate in what McNamara describes as "an equality vacuum," where it is not clear what their obligations are under the equality legislation.

Finally gay and lesbian teachers in schools were also fearful for their positions since the churches had sought and obtained exemption from the legislation designed to protect minorities from discrimination in employment. This is despite the fact that Ireland has introduced a comprehensive and advanced set of legislation on equality.

This research has implications for schoolteachers in all faith schools, including those in the UK. "Fundamentally, it is the responsibility of all those who are identified as leaders within the school community to ensure that practical steps are taken to challenge and respond to homophobic bullying," says McNamara.

The Catholic Church primarily runs schools not to provide choice and diversity or to raise standards, but to promote faith and religious knowledge among young people. In this context, it makes sense that such schools reflect the teachings and ethos of the church, which acts as their patron.

In Ireland, this is an inherited reality, which must be managed as well as possible. In Britain the authors conclude that if faith based schools are to be further encouraged, the State should retain adequate power to require schools to comply with, for example, equality legislation and with the prevailing standards of justice and tolerance in the wider society.


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Contact: Jayne Fairley
jayne.fairley@sagepub.co.uk
020-732-48719
SAGE Publications UK
Source:Eurekalert

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