Friday, December 03, 2010

Pluralism in education - enter the humanist free school?

In the current issue of New Humanist Francis Beckett - author of The Great City Academy Fraud - suggests "co-operating with an objectionable and reactionary educational policy" and setting up a humanist free school. He suggests that this is "a one-off chance to show that real secular state education works".

It would be broadly tolerant, liberal but firm. The boundaries would be drawn widely, but they would be fixed. Cross that boundary and the sky falls in on you. Our staff would have better things to worry about than the length of their pupils’ hair, and there would be no uniform. But any form of bullying or abuse would not be tolerated. And neither would boring lessons. We can’t divorce ourselves from the target culture, but we can make sure it doesn’t ruin the lives and the learning experience of our pupils.

(It all sounds a bit like the liberal Kunskapskolan schools opening as part of the academies programme.)

The magazine’s website has an online poll on the issue. When I last looked almost three-quarters of those voting said that they would support the establishment of an avowedly atheist and humanist state school.

As someone who works with faith schools and colleges, I hope the humanist free school project gets off the ground. The project will contribute to the diversity and innovation created by academies and free schools.

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