Church schools are among the most popular in the country with parents. Yet some politicians and a number of influential commentators take a very different line, mounting an attack of unusual and sustained ferocity.
Some want to dictate who and what these schools are allowed to teach. Others wish to abolish ‘faith schools’, as they have become known, altogether.
These critical, sometimes angry, views are so widely broadcast that they are now familiar - claims that Church schools create religious ‘ghettos’, for example, that they cause divisions in society or that they ‘indoctrinate’ young minds.
I should say at the outset that I dislike the term ‘faith school’. It is a lazy catch-all that hides a diversity of experiences. I cannot speak with authority about schools established by Jewish, Muslim or Hindu communities. I have never been part of the governing body of a Roman Catholic school.
But I have had plenty of experience of Church of England schools, serving as a governor for two in South London. And I can say with absolute confidence that they cater not for one particular religious grouping but for the whole community. Nor are they unique.
My experience of Anglican schools in London and in Birmingham, where I served as bishop for three years, is very different from the caricatured picture held up by our critics and, in the face of such a co-ordinated and sustained campaign to undermine schools with a religious ethos, I feel it is imperative to speak out.
Read all of Dr. John Sentau's response to British criticism of religious schools here.