Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Second faith-based Free School proposal in Waltham Forest

We are hearing information about a second bid to open a faith based Free School in Waltham Forest, this time a Muslim Girls’ School to be run by an organisation called Tauheedul Free Schools. Tauheedul describe themselves as a chain of “non-selective Muslim faith-based schools which welcome pupils from all faiths and none. They offer a high-powered academic curriculum and promote progressive Islamic and traditional British values.” The rhetoric very closely mirrors that of Oasis of course, somehow squaring the circle of being faith schools, infused with a particular faith’s ethos and at the same time, welcoming all faiths or none, as in law they must.

Tauheedul schools’ website also contains the statement “In a society where great inequality already exists, Free Schools can be powerful agents of change.” Agents of change maybe, but probably not agents of community cohesion, diversity or equality. The evidence from Sweden and the United States, where Free School models have been extensively used, is that in societies where inequality exists they increase social segregation. Researchers at the Civil Rights Project and a separate study by academics at Arizona State University and University of Colorado who looked at the Charter Schools movement in the USA, which closely mirrors the Free School model, argued that “Charter schools facilitate the re-segregation of our society.” Studies of the Swedish Free schools experiment have reached the same conclusion. Evidence about their academic performance is highly contested but one thing that is incontrovertible is that they have increased social segregation.

More faith-based schools in the borough will suck resources and pupils away from local authority comprehensive schools in Waltham Forest and surrounding boroughs while acting as forces toward ghettoisation. Far better to support the expansion of our existing local authority schools.

Read more about Tauheedul Free Schools here: http://www.tauheedulschools.com/

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