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Faith/Religious Schools

Many parents prefer Faith Schools because of the strong moral compass they provide in a world of distractions, violence, drugs and unruly behaviour. By contrast parent opponents of Faith Schools worry about the possible indoctrination of young minds.

Faith schools offer an education based on one particular religion. In the UK they must teach at least the National Curriculum but they can choose whatever religious studies they teach. The term is most commonly applied to state funded Faith Schools, where it is sometimes contentious. State Faith Schools often produce superior exam performance to regular state schools, which then puts them in great demand, which in turn puts them in conflict with parents who are unable to access that school because they do not follow that particular religion.

There are also many Faith Schools in the private (independent) sector, but they do not attract the same contentious opinions, because private schools can select whichever children they want regardless of faith. However, the vast majority of UK private schools, will describe themselves as based on a religious faith, but in fact practise multi faith admissions,

The main separate religious faiths seen in private schools are:-

  1. Protestant

  2. Church of England (Anglican)

  3. Methodist

  4. Roman Catholic

  5. Jewish

  6. Muslim

  7. Christian science

  8. 7th Day Adventists

  9. Quaker

We would group Catholics, Methodists, Church of England and Protestants under the same heading of Christianity. However, Catholics comprise around 50% of Christians and prefer to be categorised separately. The vast majority of UK private schools would fall into the above 9 categories. Many will have their own church or chapel onsite and in some instances be linked to nearby cathedrals or abbeys.

Protestant, Methodist and CoE schools will mostly practise Christian services, but an increasing majority now describe themselves as non denominational or multi faith accepting children from many other faiths especially Buddhists or Hindus from Asia. Children of other religions are not bound to change faith to fit in, but will generally be expected to respect Christian principles. Most of these schools will have regular meetings to explore other faiths and often invite students to talk to the whole group about life in their own countries and religions. In some cases, these schools may try to find other local churches where students can attend services of their own faith at weekends.

Roman Catholic schools form the next biggest group with lots of Catholic schools spread all over the UK. The majority of UK Catholic private schools actually have less than 40% Catholic pupils. Thus, they have no option but to adopt non denominational admissions principles. However, the main difference is that all Catholic schools will expect all pupils to attend Mass regularly.

A large Catholic day & boarding school in Bath is Prior Park College, whose Headmaster Mr James Murphy-O'Connor has kindly provided us with a statement on their ethos

At the core of a Catholic school’s mission is educating the whole person: intellectually, socially and spiritually. At Prior Park, we celebrate the uniqueness of every child and we recognise the duty to use our talents, developing ourselves to be “the person God wants you to be”.

‘The Prior Way’ is our statement of values and attitudes and is based on The Beatitudes. It is quite simply: Treat others as you would like to be treated; Forgive; Share; Be honest; Listen; Show good manners; Be kind and helpful; Be your best self. We encourage our pupils, whether they are Catholic or not, to continue these values throughout their life.

Ampleforth College
Ampleforth College

There are a small number of Catholic schools where the vast majority of pupils are Catholic – usually over 75%. These include Ampleforth, Stonyhurst and Mount St Mary. Plainly they do accept a modest number of non Catholics but there is usually no flexibility to opt out of school religious services. Ampleforth School is attached to the Ampleforth Abbey. All of its boarding houses have their own small chapel and are looked after by priests as housemasters.

Methodist schools were established by the Methodist Church led by John Wesley promoting the principle “Do all the good you can.”  Methodist schools include the Kent Colleges (both Canterbury and Pembury), Culford School, Kingswood School and Queenswood. It is part of the Methodist ethos to accept all faiths and be non denominational.

There are a modest number of Islamic schools, some with very small pupil groups. The King Fahad Academy is the largest Islamic school in the UK, catering for 500+ pupils of 24 different nationalities at their campus in Acton. It is also the only Islamic school in the UK authorised to offer the International Baccalaureate, where its curriculum transferability to other IB schools makes it very beneficial to families whose jobs necessitate frequent changes of country. I was very impressed on my visit to meet Director General, Dr Abdulghani Alharbi and Director of Studies, Mark Dunning, where they take very seriously their mission to provide an international education with an Islamic ethos. They point out that the IB programmes are strictly international and do not cover individual religions. Their annual achievement of 34 points + in the IBDP is significantly higher than the world wide average for IB schools.

There are 2 other big private Islamic schools in London –  Brondesbury College for boys associated with The Islamiaa Girls School. The two latter schools have favourable OFSTED reports. “British values are promoted. Pupils learn about democracy. They are taught about different faiths and religions and share inter faith events with other schools, including a Jewish School”

All Islamic schools are particularly good value with fees under £7000 per annum. King Fahad Academy are actually as low as £2500 per annum at some younger ages.

There are also a small number of Jewish schools of which the most well known is Immanuel College but Clifton College in Bristol also has a Jewish boarding house. Rabbi Eliezer Zobin, Principal of Immanuel College advises us that it is the largest private Jewish School with 700 pupils from 4 to 18 and is based in Bushey, NW London. It accepts pupils from Jewish families and offers morning & afternoon prayers plus the use of its own Synagogue for festivals and advanced Jewish learning. The school vision and values are based on the 3 pillars of 1. Inspiring Jewish education, 2. Expert pastoral care and 3. Academic excellence. Immanuel College undertakes interfaith activities with a range of other faith schools and also has and extensive range of social action programmes.

There are 9 Quaker schools in the UK, the nearest to London, being Leighton Park, at Reading, which has helpfully given us this background. It was founded 127 years ago on Quaker principles known as “testimonies”. These have evolved into educational principles known as The SPICES standing for Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, Equality and Stewardship. These values are the foundation for Leighton Park Life such as the holistic curriculum and the collective moments of Silence and Morning Collect as students collect their thoughts. Leighton Park use the principles of Quakerism by involving pupils in sustainability and ethical projects.

The remaining religious schools tend to fall under “cult” groups such as Christian Science,  7th Day Adventists and Scientology. Interestingly most of these schools claim they are no longer associated with the cult that set them up, but recent parent feedback indicates otherwise. As a matter of principle, we avoid recommending these schools unless we receive a specific request from the parent that they actually belong to that religion and want that particular school.

Whichever religion a parent prefers, we will try to find them a school matching their principles – just call us on +44 (0) 1622 813870. There are hundreds of private schools categorised by Faith – too numerous to mention – but we can usually find several which meet your requirements.