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Status Quota

Britain's faith schools welcome students from other religions.
2007This article is part of CT's digital archives. Subscribers have access to all current and past issues, dating back to 1956.

The British government has scrapped plans to compel religious schools to enroll 25 percent of their student bodies from pupils of other religious backgrounds.

Alan Johnson, secretary of state for education, stepped back from the proposed law after lobbying by Catholic, Jewish, and Sikh leaders. Vincent Nichols, the Catholic archbishop of Birmingham and chairman of the Catholic Education Service, urged all 2,000 Catholic head teachers to lobby their members of Parliament (MPS). The government became alarmed at the possible effect on its MPS who depend on the Catholic vote.

But the key to the turnaround was the Church of England, which provides around a third of the state system's schools. The church has said it will set aside a quarter of the places at its new schools for people outside the church. The government seemed satisfied with this voluntary agreement.

Some suspected that the government pushed the 25 percent rule in order to curb schools of minority faiths from furthering the trend toward ghetto communities. Some 120 Muslim schools are likely to apply to be included in the state system. Currently, the vast majority of England's 7,000 faith schools are Christian, with 36 Jewish and 8 Muslim.

Many evangelicals have been bemused by the debate. "When you consider any of the flash points in recent years, you would certainly not attribute them to faith schools, church or otherwise," said Rod Thomas, spokesman for Reform, which represents many conservative evangelicals in the Church of England. "In many ways 'quotas' was a solution looking for a problem."

All state schools teach the national curriculum, which includes the requirement to teach basic tenets of all major religions. Non-church schools water down or ignore the obligation ...

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