Conflicts of ethos: issues of equity and diversity in faith-based schools
Faith based schools are on the rise in the UK, apparently boosting educational standards. This study investigates the consequences when school values and those of the state diverge, considering whether giving control of a school’s ethos and philosophy to churches or other organizations can lead to unfair policies and practices, as has been the case in the Republic of Ireland. The vast majority of schools in Ireland are owned and managed by the Catholic Church but funded by the state. State measures to encourage equality and protect minorities such as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LBGT) students are often not transmitted or supported in these schools, and due to legislation loopholes schools can also sack LGBT teachers to protect their ethos. Research reveals that Catholic schools demonstrate a marked unwillingness to address LGBT issues under sex education, flouting national policy. Worse still, teachers’ failure to respond to serious homophobic bullying in schools was commonplace. This research has implications for school teachers in all faith schools , including those in the UK, arguing that it is the responsibility of all those who are identified as leaders within the school community to ensure that practical steps are taken to challenge and respond to homophobic bullying.
The recent rise in the number of faith-based schools in Britain creates some interesting issues. On the one hand it is clear that the government, and certainly former Prime Minister Tony Blair, perceives such schools as contributing not only to choice and diversity but also to the raising of educational standards. This appears to be because of an increasingly influential theory that schools with a strong ‘spiritual capital’ (Caldwell, 2008) can raise student achievement. Spiritual capital is defined by Caldwell (2008: 241) as ‘the strength of moral purpose and the degree of coherence among values, beliefs and attitudes about life and learning’. Faith based schools would appear to fit these criteria.
McNamara, G., & Norman, J. (2010). Conflicts of Ethos: Issues of Equity and Diversity in Faith-based Schools Educational Management Administration & Leadership, 38 (5), 534-546 DOI: 10.1177/1741143210373743