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Thursday, September 28, 2006

Girl banned from school bus because she is not baptised

From Ekklesia - 06/09/06

A girl has been barred from taking an official bus to her Church of England school because she has not been baptised. The move brings a new dimension to an ongoing controversial debate about transport to faith based schools, as well as access to them. Many church school already face the accusation that they discriminate unfairly in their admissions policies in favour of children of parents who attend the churches linked to them.

In the latest case Sydnie Jai from Hatfield, Hertfordshire, was hoping to attend Townsend School in St Albans, travelling by bus as her two brothers had done for some years. But Hertfordshire County Council said she must use public transport because she had not been baptised, reports the Evening Standard. A statement from the council said: "We provide free transport to all children attending their nearest maintained faith school if they have a place there in line with their parents' beliefs. This applies for children aged eight or over where the family lives more than three miles away. To qualify for free transport to a Church of England school the child must be baptised or have a parent on the parish electoral roll. We think it quite reasonable when offering transport to faith schools that parents show that the child is of that faith."

Sydnie's mother Frances Wood told London's Evening Standard newspaper she was furious at the council's inflexible attitude. "I can't believe they've stopped Sydnie going to school on the bus," she said. "It's totally outrageous." The council statement added: "If the family do not wish to travel on public transport, there would be the opportunity to attend a local school in Hatfield. Officers are in the process of contacting the family to discuss what support might be available to Sydnie."

In 2004 there was a similar case involving Laura Abbott, who was ineligible for free transport because she did not want to attend a faith-based school, opting instead for a secular school. The British Humanist Association considers that many current LEA school transport policies contravene the Human Rights Act.

In a 2003 survey of Local Education Authorities in England and Wales, they found that 33% of responding LEAs provided help for pupils going to a faith-based school chosen in preference to a nearer community school on grounds of religion – but not to pupils going to an equally distant community school in preference to a nearer faith-based one on grounds of belief. Another 1 in 3 LEAs acknowledged other forms of discrimination such as giving preferential treatment to religious believers or sometimes applying different rules to different belief groups. It has been their contention that school transport policies should treat religious and non-religious families even-handedly.


dbackdad said...

It may say this in the article but you'll have to excuse me because I don't understand all the terms for your schools, but are these church-based schools state funded? I'm getting that impression.

CyberKitten said...

dbackdad asked: are these church-based schools state funded?

I think that depends...

As far as I know only Independent or Private schools don't get State funding. Or at least not totally State funding - though I understand that they are Government inspected and must conform to National standards.

Although nominally a Catholic I have never attended a Catholic school. However, certainly my Junior School (up to age 11) and both of my High Schools (up to age 18) where all Church of England schools - but, as far as I know, where wholly State funded. The complicating factor in all this, from a US Point of View, is that we have a State religion in the guise of the Church of England and therefore CofE schools are also State schools. How Catholic schools (of which there are many) are funded I have no idea. I'm guessing that the Church contributes something but I'm not sure how much (if anything) the State contributes.

Is this any clearer?

Juggling Mother said...

There are three types of state funded schools now: Local Education Authority or LEA (C of E or secular, with a "broadly christian" ethos), Volutary controlled (LEA funded with governers fom and a partnrship with a specific place of worship) and voluntary aided (LEA funded but staffing & curriculum are under the control of a specific place of worship).
The city acadamies & trust schools are also partially state funded & partially privately and count as state schools because they are free at the point of access and theoretically have open admissions.

The school in this story is state funded. Free transport to state schools is only available to a small minority of pupils, depending on distance travelled and necessity of travelling that distance. There is no free transport available to a private or public (private to Americans) schools, regardless of distance or income.

Hope that clarifies it for Dbackdad:-)

As I see it the problem here is that the council does not regcognise "secular" as a religious choice. Definite double standard going on there I feel!

CyberKitten said...

There speaks the voice of experience as someone who actually has children in the education system. Thanks JM!

dbackdad said...

Thanks to both of you. That does help a bit.

It's ironic that I believe we actually have a bigger problem here with the muddying of church and state and the march toward a theocracy when over there you actually have state-sponsored religious schools and a Church of England. As you have spoken of in the past, it's because of the difference in attitudes. I don't believe your church over there wants to run the government or impose it's will. Over here, that is the obvious goal.

CyberKitten said...

dbackdad said: I don't believe your church over there wants to run the government or impose it's will. Over here, that is the obvious goal.

Been there, done that. All went horribly wrong.. [grin].

Fortunately the era of strong relgious afiliation has passed on these shores so very few people would even consider a Theocracy in their wildest dreams. We may just have learnt the lessons from decades of religious persecution in our past.

Juggling Mother said...

"I don't believe your church over there wants to run the government or impose it's will."

I'm quite sure that they want to, just that as a country we will never (I hope) allow one belief system to oppress all others in th country. As CK said, been there, done that. all went horribly wrong:-)

But I agree we have less of a church/state problem as a theocracy that you do as a secular democracy. It rather goes to show the legal system has nothing to do with freedom doesn't it?