26 July 2006


Australian Politicians can learn from the House of Lords


In recent times two former Secretaries of Education in the UK have admitted mistakes in allowing "faith schools" (church schools in Australia) to expand in the UK.

1. David Blunkett

David Blunkett, who was a Labour Party Education Secretary from 1997 to 2001, was, while in office, an apparently passionate advocate of minority "faith schools". He now admits that he did not think they were a good idea at all. He told an audience at the Institute of Contemporary Arts that in 1998, when he first announced that the government would fund Muslim schools, his decision was driven, not by conviction, but by pragmatism. He said that, particularly in places like West Yorkshire, youngsters were going 15-20 miles to quite unacceptable education which was anything but open and liberal. He preferred them to be part of the State sector where they could be regulated and taught a national curriculum.

Mr Blunkett admitted that it :

"was not one of my finest philosophical arguments. I didn't feel wholly comfortable with it - but I didn't feel comfortable with the idea of saying :' We already have Catholic, Anglican and some Jewish schools in the system. I'm afraid we can't have yours.' "

Australian readers should recall the statement of Dr. John Dunmore Lang over 100 years ago, when he saw through, and articulated this problem. If you give State Aid to the Roman Catholic , the Church of England, and Jewish schools, you have to also give it to Muslim schools.

John Dunmore Lang had the answer to the problem. You don't give it to any religion.

It is very simple, but it is too simple for our politicians and churchmen. Dunmore Lang was a church /state separationist, a supporter of public education and a No State Aider.

2.        Lord Baker

Lord Baker was the former Education Secretary in the Tory Government. For those interested in the Education question and the funding of church schools, much of the recent debate on 18 July 2006 in the House of Lords is of interest to those in the Antipodes. He said;

" Let us be aware of the exclusive nature of the schools that are being established. Another admissions policy that I have found states that the aim of the school is to produce,

" Muslim personalities through the training of children's spirits, intellect, feelings and bodily senses."

I have nothing against that, but, I believe that that instruction should take place in mosques, synagogues, temples and churches. Until 1997, that was the policy. The Government changed the policy, reversing the policy of all previous Secretaries of State, including myself. On the whole we resisted giving permission to exclusive faith schools. In my time, I had no applications from Christian bodies, but I have applications from Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and Sikh bodies. I always found good reasons why one could not give permission, and I believed that that was the right policy to follow. The Government ( Blair government0 changed that policy, which was a grievous and huge mistake, and successive generations in our country will suffer from it."

Lord Baker later continued:

" To create exclusive faith schools is fundamentally wrong. At a time when the world is faced with two religious wars, it is extraordinary that we are prepared to consider this."


Unfortunately, this time round, the Lords failed to solve the problem with the logical conclusion: No State Aid !

Although Baron Massey moved a new clause in the Education and Inspections Bill , namely:

"Bar on Establishment of New Schools of a Religious Character"

(1) No proposals may be published under this Part or any other enactment for the establishment of a foundation or voluntary school of a religious character

she did not bite the bullet and tackle existing Roman Catholic and Church of England schools.

Lord Baker also failed to bite the bullet of religious indoctrination. He proposed a weaker solution. His amendment indicated that the establishment of a new faith schools would have a requirement that 30% of the children enrolled came from other faiths.

unfortunately their motions were not as strong as their comments in the House.

But at least, in the UK there are some politicians with the intestinal fortitude to actually discuss the issue and move motions openly in Parliament. Australian politicians, for at least 35 years have avoided the issue at all costs, looking backwards at their religious masters while some assert the existence of an Australian "secular" state!

If readers require any further information on the above, DOGS suggest they visit the National Secular Society website at DOGS congratulate and thank the National Secular Society for providing valuable information about the United Kingdom situation on their website.


for further information listen to 3cr 855 on the am dial

12.30 p.m. ON Saturdays.

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Last modified:Wednesday, 26 July 2006