Religion in schools: protecting or neglecting the faithful?

Religion in schools: protecting or neglecting the faithful?
Contributed By: events coordinator
Organizing Institution: Academy of Ideas
Start Date: April 25, 2024 (19:00)
End Date: April 25, 2024 (20:30 BST)
Cost: £5 - £7
Accent Study Centre – London – United Kingdom


A High Court judgement hangs over Michaela Community School for banning ritual prayer. A Wakefield school suspended pupils for damaging a copy of the Quran. Two recent studies claim that faith schools select against poor and SEN children. Two thirds of the liberal Alliance Party in Northern Ireland want Catholic schools banned. Three years after showing pupils images of the Prophet Muhammad, a teacher in the north of England remains in hiding.

It seems undeniable that schools are a new crucible for religious and social conflict. How do we navigate between tolerance and intolerance in these disputations?

Our next Education Forum event tackles contrasting contemporary notions of pluralism and secularism and considers how they play out in schools.

How does the right of faith communities to exercise their beliefs reconcile with established wider freedoms? Should the right to pray be available to all – even in non-religious schools? Should we defend a parent’s right to send their child to a faith school? Or is that tantamount to a defence of privilege? Have we lost sight of whether faith-based liberties impinge on secular freedoms or vice versa? Who are the liberals and illiberals here?

‘What kind of school environment could so easily be destroyed by one group of students publicly expressing their religion for a mere few minutes a day?’, asks author and teacher Nadeine Asbali. She describes the ban on Muslims praying in school as ‘a dystopian, sinister vision of multiculturalism’. Yet commentator Tim Black thinks, ‘we are witnessing not quiet displays of faith, but loud all-too-visible assertions of Muslim identitarianism … with little to do with Islam’.

Has tolerance become too abstract and impoverished to deal with concrete forms of cultural and religious difference? What do you think: are our schools fighting an age-old battle between sacred and secular visions of society, or are they on the front line of a new culture war?


Khadija Khan journalist and commentator

Gareth Sturdy former teacher and religious affairs journalist


Kevin Rooney teacher and Education Forum convenor

Accent Study Centre
12 Bedford Square
London , Bloomsbury WC1B 3JA United Kingdom
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