The Guardian is reporting from Walthamstow academy in east London which, judges say, shows how state-funded schools with religious ethos can be true to themselves and serve their communities…
…This is Walthamstow academy in east London, which this week received a prestigious award for inclusivity – the first time it’s been given to a school with a Christian ethos, prompting hopes that other faith schools and those of a religious character could broaden their scope and welcome a wider selection of pupils.
The school, which has 1,000 students and was founded in 2006, is part of the United Learning Trust group of academies and independent schools, a charity founded in 1883 as the Church Schools Company. It identifies itself as a school with a Christian ethos, rather than a faith school. This, says the Accord Coalition, which campaigns for an end to state-funded faith schools, would still enable it to select and employ teachers on faith grounds, or to admit pupils by faith when oversubscribed. It does neither.
Rabbi Jonathan Romain, who chaired the award’s judging panel, says this approach is a rebuff to those faith schools that believe they will sacrifice their religious ethos if they broaden their horizons. “Walthamstow shows how state-funded faith schools and schools with a religious ethos can both be true to themselves and serve the wider community that funds them,” he says.
The Accord Inclusivity Award, which has been made annually since 2010, has previously always gone to community schools. Romain believes Walthamstow’s success is a sign that some schools with a religious ethos are embracing the need to widen their reach. “This is a template,” he says. “Too many are narrow and blinkered and, as a religious person myself, I feel religion shouldn’t be creating environments where there’s an ‘us’ and ‘them’ culture.” At Walthamstow academy, the headteacher, Emma Skae, says she concentrates on providing an environment where different faiths are celebrated and welcomed. “We don’t just tolerate different beliefs here, because that’s a passive response,” she says. “We encourage our pupils to talk about and share aspects of their faith, and we’re very proud to welcome pupils of all faiths and none…”
Welcome signs and a template, as suggested, for others?
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