Faith Schools – Are they providing a clear picture?

By Jennifer Valentine-Miller

Jennifer at her school’s retreat (1978)

I attended senior school (Comprehensive) during the 1970’s to early 1980’s. Many conversations at school-reunions constantly feedback the same message “our school let us down”, and Faith school students are also saying the same thing.

At school I also obtained attainment/pass certificates in for example Religious Studies and Social Ethics. In the long term those studies were not relevant when applying for jobs – unless I wanted to enter a vocation like social work. There were, to my happiness, theater studies and sports activities which I was encouraged to partake in because it was part of my school’s curriculum. I attended drama classes and obtained O/A level pass rates plus there were netball tournaments and tennis matches – my Head of School would only exclaim that outside activities were a “distraction” and affecting my other exams. Especially Mathematics and biology (so that I could get a job in a bank or as a nurse). Distractions also included my Duke of Edinburgh awards (in Gymnastics)!

That is why I aimed to salvage a BA Hons degree and other Higher Education qualifications as a mature student. However, I always felt a sense of disapproval at interviews. Should I blame my school for my disillusionment?

Campaign groups like “No More Faith School .org uk” are asking for public funding towards religious groups in order for them to evangelize to children who are disillusioned when they leave school having completed their time as Lower 6 or Upper 6 students.

It seems, according to reports, that Faith schools are having a “negative impact on social cohesion, foster segregation of children on social, ethnic and religious lines, and undermine choice and equality” (No-more-faithschools.org). In other words, the report is saying if you attended a faith school it does not look good on your CV to the “outside world”. The anti report goes on to say that, “children living in England deserve the best – the law expects schools to demonstrate that they are encouraging pupils to take a respectful and tolerant stance towards those who hold values different from their own. Ofsted acts robustly and impartially to ensure all children in England receive a good education.”

Following on from ongoing claims of sexual exploitation within schools – leaders “have not ensured that safeguarding procedures have been sufficiently robust to keep pupils safe at all times,” inspectors found.  Also, school’s leaders have not ensured that all staff employed at the school has routinely undergone the necessary vetting checks, which compromises pupils’ welfare.“  (Secularism.org.uk 2019).

The charity Child Net insists that the importance of Faith Schools lies in it being able to opt-out of teaching subjects contrary to their religious beliefs, such as information on homosexuality and contraception. The compulsory parts of sex and relationship education from Year 7 (primary school) teach children about reproduction, sexuality and sexual health – including decisions around abortion.

Campaigners insist that pupils from faith schools fail to develop their own beliefs independently. I have no qualms with that. My argument is to support their pupils with after care, especially those who like religious studies, social ethics, theatre, and… Physical- Sciences or in my era it was called P.E. (physical education).

Today, senior leaders preclude the teaching of certain protected characteristics of students leaving school could be defined in the Equality Act. According to the Equality Act 2010, protected characteristics are aspects of a person’s identity that make them who they are. It’s worth noting, while this legislation doesn’t offer protection for revealing protected characteristic e.g. religious beliefs.  Moreover, it’s  unlawful to treat an employee or apprentice differently if they reveal they attended a Faith school – alas, it still happens.

Jennifer (2nd right) at school with her successful team mates as Essex champions.

Jennifer Valentine – Finding Love at that Perfect Place

by Jennifer Valentine-Miller

I am a woman (not a girl), God made me human (a living being) not a toy. I say this because as a person who has been looking for love for all the right reasons I have had my fair share of heartaches.

At school I was an ordinary child with extraordinary talents; especially when I reflect upon my sporting attributes and performing arts. I loved being at home as well as pursing my interests.  That love was developed in an environment that had loving and understanding parents. However the turning point  for me came when friends were not around to share my interests because they were developing relationships and a love life with their boyfriends.  I have always felt at the back of my mind that my time for love will come when I am at that perfect place.  So where is that place? I know a few cynics who always say don’t let your hear rule your head.  If my heart are my feelings and emotions, then why should it not rule my head? If I am at that place where I display love, affection and loyalty I believe that should be shared with approval of level headed friends. Love is one of those perfect gifts that can be can be bestowed onto anyone.  And because I am a woman, yes, I am entitled to it.  I have put aside my childish ways despite my soft spot for jelly babies. When I look up to the blues skies, is that the perfect place?  Or is it the green country place or financial stability? That perfect place has to be  where I am able to support my love.

Love is unconditional and not just based around Eros (erotica). As one of those who has experienced several failed relations am I trying to say that this perfect place is a place where there is no divorce?  If I am, then I may have to be divided because on one hand the Jewish law (Old Testament) only allows divorce if a man wants it and Christianity (New Testament) says “what God has joined together, man most not separate.”  If I am to be a bride in that perfect place then I will need to seek the groom who will nourish and cherish me as though he was nourishing and cherishing his own body.  I am told that being at that place of “love” is a wonderful experience.  There you will find no confusion over identity, and also there will be no experiences of being misunderstood!  Why do I need a groom within covenant when we all know that men and women are so different?  Hark! From the book of Hosea I hear the perfect groom say “I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. I will betroth you in faithfulness, any you will acknowledge…” Although the Jewish festival Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) is a solemn day, it is also a happy day to cleanse oneself (wear white) and a day to also reach a spiritual high (celebrate).  That is why this time of the year brings out my religious side which allows my actions to sit parallel with the spiritual me.  When I am up there in the heavenly thrones feeling most royal, who do I give thanks to? Where do I go? I do hope that when I am in that eminent place I do not as in the book of Ezekiel “make for myself a high place in every street, with a beauty to be abhorred.”  The correct condition is to see myself as the low person promoted to priestess of high thinking.  Therefore, no one else needs to change their inward projection, but me.

Love is one of the strongest forces in existence.  It can move a woman to rescue her children from a burning building or man to raise a vehicle that has a crushed passenger underneath.  If I am finding it difficult finding love in that perfect place then I need to learn to appreciate God’s blessings. Why? Because he loves me.

An extract from the book “Words Pressed: A Short Biography” (Available on Amazon)