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Race boss puts faith in schools

PUBLISHED: 17:30 26 March 2008 | UPDATED: 09:36 23 August 2010

A RACE worker has backed proposals unveiled by the country s biggest teaching union this week to invite priests from minority faiths into state schools. The National Union of Teachers (NUT) formally adopted proposals to bring in imams, rabbis and priests

A RACE worker has backed proposals unveiled by the country's biggest teaching union this week to invite priests from minority faiths into state schools.

The National Union of Teachers (NUT) formally adopted proposals to bring in imams, rabbis and priests to teach students religion in its annual conference on Monday.

Dev Sharma, director of North West Kent Racial Equality Council, says the measures would help to bring children of different backgrounds together.

He said: "I support the idea, I think it would be good for community cohesion. I am all for schools making provisions for all different faiths.

"At the moment a lot of people from other faiths are having mostly Christian-based education and if they can put up with it then I can't see anything wrong with students from Christian backgrounds learning about other faiths.

"It would give students from other faiths a sense of belonging to the school and to the community."

There is concern, however, that in offering religious instruction in particular faiths in place of the more open-minded approach found in the RE lessons provided in the current curriculum, schools would be stepping outside of their role as educational institutions.

Brian Chadwick, general secretary of Gravesham Teachers Association, said: "As far as I'm concerned there is already provision for children to learn about different religions in the curriculum.

"I suppose the union's view is that the representatives of various faiths who have a certain status in the local community would bring in some authority but there's a very important difference between educating children and instructing them on religion. Certainly instruction should not take place."

The radical plans also include the liberalisation of the traditional Christian-based assembly to include other religions, the serving of meals that meet various religious requirements, such as halal and kosher meats, and the provision of private prayer rooms.

There was also a call for greater flexibility with regards to school uniforms to allow children to wear religious jewellery or headscarves.

Mr Sharma added: "There should be a relaxation of the uniform rules. It doesn't make a Sikh student a lesser student because he wears a turban and it doesn't make a Muslim girl a lesser student for wearing a hijab."

jason.goodyer@archant.co.uk

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