When the British Labour Party called for cross-party talks to discuss how religious education should be conducted and supervised in the state, a widespread concern was that the taxpayers’ money should not be used to fund faith schools in Britain, as it considers itself a multicultural nation.
Opinium carried out a survey which revealed that 50 percent of voters believe faith schools that give priority to applications from students of their own faith and preach only their religion, should not be sponsored by the state or be abolished. Of those who displayed concern, 70 percent said taxpayers should not fund the promotion of religion in schools, 60 percent said faith schools promote segregation and division, 41 percent said the schools do not encourage a multicultural society, and less than 30 percent said there is no problem with faith schools being sponsored by the state.
While Labour is in favour of state-funded faith schools, they have raised important questions concerning education and religion in a multicultural society, after a recent controversy in Birmingham, where a number of schools were criticized and put into special measures following allegations that hardline Muslims were infiltrating them.
However, none of these schools criticized by Ofsted were faith schools.
Shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt said, “Events in Birmingham have raised questions about faith, multiculturalism and state education and in the aftermath this is the moment to think about discussing, on a cross-party basis, how we manage potential tensions, particularly in urban districts.”
Hunt said that Ofsted should thoroughly inspect how religion is taught in faith schools and ensure only qualified teachers give instructions on the subject, asserting all religions need to be taught to students and not just one.
Currently, there are 6,844 state-funded faith schools in Britain of which most belong to the Church of England while the others are associated with Roman Catholics, Methodists, Muslims, Jews and Sikhs. Of all these schools, 763 are academies or free schools.
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